It is January, and if you are anything like us you are probably feeling guilty that you ate a few too many holiday cookies this year. Honestly, after 2020 we deserved them! But now it is January and here we are, thinking about our diets again. But here is the thing – if you have symptomatic fibroids you are probably always thinking about your diet and how it affects the growth and symptoms of fibroids. So, let’s take a look at what we really know about the connection between fibroids and diet.
What is the connection between fibroids and diet?
More than a decade ago, researchers identified a connection between a meat-heavy diet and uterine fibroids. The same study produced evidence that diets heavy in green vegetables reduced the risk of developing fibroids.1 Since that time, numerous studies have sought to further explain the connection between diet and fibroid risk. Unfortunately, that research has yielded few answers, and the connection remains largely misunderstood and widely debated.
Foods Impacting Fibroid Growth
Even though the connection between diet and fibroids is still misunderstood, there is a clear theme that has been emerging from the studies. Some research has linked the increased consumption of fruit, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products with lower risk of developing fibroids.1,2 Here we will take a deeper dive into the foods that have been studied and the results researchers have found. (Warning – you may get hungry, so grab a healthy snack before you dive in!)
- Dairy -A study published in 2010 in the American Journal of Epidemiology followed trends in the dietary intake of more than 22,000 premenopausal black women from the US Black Women’s Health Study over a 10-year period. The women reported their intake of dairy foods– including milk, cheese, yogurt, and ice cream – and nutritional components of dairy – like calcium, vitamin D, and butyric acid. The collected data revealed a connection between higher dairy consumption and a lowered risk of uterine fibroids. The researchers theorize that calcium and butyric acid (present in milk fat) inhibit the growth of cells that would otherwise form fibroids.2 Can we get a low-fat milkshake please?
- Fruit + Vegetables – In a separate effort, researchers used the diet questionnaires collected from women in the Black Women’s Health Study to gather evidence regarding the link between fibroid risk and the consumption of fruits, vegetables, and carotenoids (a healthy chemical found in plant cells.) What they found was a reduced risk of uterine fibroids among the women with higher levels of fruit and retinol in their diets.3 These findings build upon those reported more than a decade ago by researchers who determined that a high intake of green vegetables has a protective effect against fibroids.1
- Meat- While research has drawn attention to the protective effects of foods like dairy consumption and green vegetables, it has also revealed a heightened risk of fibroids associated with the consumption of meat Women whose daily diets include meats like beef and ham are – according to the research – more likely to develop fibroids than women who consume a strictly vegetarian diet.1
- Caffeine and Alcohol- Some researchers believe that fibroid growth is fueled by estrogen.4 Since alcohol and caffeine can affect the levels of hormones in your body, some physicians recommend that women with fibroids limit their intake on both. But don’t panic yet, research conducted in nearly 22,000 women concluded that caffeine consumption was unrelated to a higher risk of fibroids.5 (Thank the iced-coffee gods.) However, they did find that alcohol, particularly beer, was positively associated with fibroids.5 Good thing mocktails are so popular!
- Vitamin D– The role of vitamin D in affecting fibroid growth has been a subject of recent interest. A study published in 2011 reported that vitamin D inhibits the production of cells involved in uterine fibroid growth. The data produced by the study suggested that low levels of vitamin D may be a risk factor for their developing fibroids.6 So go ahead girl, put on that sunblock and go get your tan on. Although you should probably wait until after January.
Diet Modification: Does it work?
Though the connection between diet and fibroid growth may seem clear, the implications of using food to treat existing fibroids certainly aren’t. If you think you may have fibroids you should seek the advice of a medical professional. Only you and your physician can determine the best way to treat your fibroids.
Based on what we know (and what we don’t know) about the fibroids-diet connection, it’s unrealistic to expect that dietary changes alone can eliminate or prevent fibroids. However, simply understanding the impact – direct or indirect – that food has on fibroid growth can enable you to make better dietary choices, and we all know eating a balanced diet is important for your overall health. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that you will probably wind up looking good and feeling great if you do it!
- Chiaffarino et al. “Diet and uterine myomas”, Obstetrics & Gynecology. 1999; 94(3): 395-398
- Wise, et al. “A prospective study of dairy intake and risk of uterine leiomyomata”, American Journal of Epidemiology. 2010; 171(2): 221-232, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2800240/
- Lauren A Wise, Rose G Radin, Julie R Palmer, Shiriki K Kumanyika, Deborah A Boggs, Lynn Rosenberg, Intake of fruit, vegetables, and carotenoids in relation to risk of uterine leiomyomata, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 94, Issue 6, December 2011, Pages 1620–1631, https://doi.org/10.3945/ajcn.111.016600
- Uterine Fibroids: Mayo Clinic https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/uterine-fibroids/symptoms-causes/syc-20354288
- Wise, et al. “Risk of uterine Leiomyomata in relation to tobacco, alcohol, and caffeine consumption in the Black Women’s Health Study”, Hum Reprod. 2004 Aug, 19(8): 1746-1754, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1876785/
- Sharan, Chakradhari et al. “Vitamin D inhibits proliferation of human uterine leiomyoma cells via catechol-O-methyltransferase”, Fertility and Sterility, Volume 95, Issue 1, 247 – 253
WEB-00189 Rev 001©2021 Hologic, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Hologic, Acessa ProVu, The Science of Sure and associated logos are trademarks and/or registered trademarks of Hologic, Inc. and/or its subsidiaries in the United States and/or other countries.
IMPORTANT SAFETY INFORMATION The Acessa ProVu system is indicated for use in percutaneous, laparoscopic coagulation and ablation of soft tissue, including treatment of symptomatic uterine fibroids under laparoscopic ultrasound guidance. The Acessa ProVu system is contraindicated for patients who are not candidates for laparoscopic surgery and/or patients with a uterus adherent to pelvic tissue or viscera. The Acessa ProVu system’s guidance system is not intended for diagnostic use. Please read all instructions for use of the Acessa ProVu system prior to its use. Safe and effective electrosurgery is dependent not only on equipment design but also on factors under control of the operator. Rare but serious risks include, but are not limited to, skin burns, mild inter-operative bleeding, post-procedural discomfort (cramping, pelvic pain), infection, vaginal bleeding, blood loss and complications related to laparoscopy and or general anesthesia. If you or someone you know has possibly experienced a side effect when using our product please contact your physician. Insufficient data exists on which to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of the Acessa ProVu system in women who plan future pregnancy, therefore the Acessa ProVu system is not recommended for women who are planning future pregnancy.