More women than ever are starting to understand that hormones dictate almost all of the systems in our bodies. And it’s not just in the holistic niche: Well + Good named hormone health one of the top 14 wellness trends of 2019. Practitioners such as Dr. Sturm have long known the importance of maintaining balanced hormone levels, so we’re glad to see that the general public is taking note as well.
When most of us think hormones, we think symptoms of PMS. But our hormones are at work far more than just during our “time of the month.” Hormones are chemical signals that keep our bodies functioning normally and efficiently, dictating everything from metabolism to mood. They are produced and regulated by the endocrine system, which includes the ovaries or testes, thyroid, adrenal glands, pituitary gland, and pancreas. This system has such a strong influence on the body that the pituitary gland—which sits in the middle of the brain and is the head of the hormone show—is often referred to as the “master gland.”
When our endocrine system is disrupted, whether by medication or environmental factors, all of our systems are at risk. This includes the reproductive system. One such symptom may be muscular growths called fibroids.
Fibroids are benign muscular tumors that appear on the uterus. Some are so small they are invisible to the naked eye; women with fibroids this small rarely experience symptoms or even know they have them. In other cases, however, fibroids can grow quite large and grow in clusters. Although they are almost always non-cancerous, these growths can cause a host of problems, including pain and bleeding.
The exact cause of fibroids is not known, but they are thought to appear due to changes in hormones. Estrogen and progesterone, the two hormones that regulate menstruation, seem to contribute to the growth of fibroids. Because of this, women who start menstruating at an early age and those who use oral birth control may be at higher risk of developing fibroid tumors. Genetics is thought to play a role as well: if women in your family have had fibroids, it is likely you may experience them as well. Other contributing factors include obesity, vitamin D deficiency, and an unbalanced diet or lifestyle.
Once fibroids develop, the symptoms they cause are dependent on the size, kind, and location of the growth. Heavy menstrual bleeding is common, as is bleeding lasting more than a week. As a result of heavy blood loss, women may become anemic and experience symptoms related to blood loss, including fatiguing easily,
Some women with fibroids find themselves urinating more frequently or having trouble emptying their bladder completely. Pelvic pain is also common, and some women describe a feeling of fullness or swelling in their lower abdomen. Still others experience constipation. If fibroids are putting undue pressure on the spinal cord or nerves, women can experience backaches or leg pain as well.
Fibroids do not appear to pose any risk to getting pregnant, but can cause issues during the pregnancy itself. Submucosal fibroids, which bulge into the uterine cavity, occupy space that would otherwise be available to a fetus. This can put strain on the baby, restricting its growth and compromising the pregnancy. Fibroids may also increase the risk of complications such as placental abruption—when a placenta detaches from the uterus—and preterm delivery.
Western medicine offers women with fibroids hormone treatment and/or surgery to have them removed. In some cases, surgery may be necessary, but it is important that women realize those are not the only two options. Natural treatment modalities offer alternatives to surgery and pharmaceuticals while addressing the root cause of the problem.
At Denver Holistic Medicine, we seek to understand how your body is functioning as a whole. In order to address an issue such as fibroids, we specifically want to understand how your hormones are functioning. We utilize functional tests including hormone panels to identify imbalances in your body. Based on this information, we can recommend appropriate treatment. For example, women with low levels of progesterone, DHEA, testosterone, or estrogen may benefit from Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy. Some women may need to avoid phytoestrogens while it may be beneficial for others to increase consumption.
Treatment is entirely customized to each individual patient, but always includes consultation on diet, exercise, stress management, and lifestyle. Dr. Sturm may also prescribe herbs, supplements, and treatments such as acupuncture.
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms above or would like more information on treatment options, contact Denver Holistic Medicine. We look forward to guiding you towards your healthiest self!