Shelby's Guide Blog

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A Choice that Profoundly Changed My Eating Habits

I asked my Ob/Gyn if there was anything I could do to stop the growth and expansion of the fibroids. She assured me that, “Fibroids are very common. You shouldn’t worry. We’ll continue to monitor them. Once you hit menopause they’ll shrink.” The watchful waiting approach was her recommendation. I asked if a change in my diet could play any role in preventing fibroids. Her response was to “Just eat a well-rounded diet. There’s really not much you can do to avoid them since they are so common.” At this point I began to feel that if I wanted to learn more about fibroids it was up to me to do my own research and not rely solely on what the doctor told me. Becoming my own health advocate was pivotal in starting my journey towards optimal health.

The above quote is from a previous post,  "What Motivates You?", where I discuss my concern of dealing with increasing fibroid growths that were a source of intense lower back pain. Their size and multitudes caused a painful pressure. My Ob/Gyn at the time could not offer much of a remedy other than the watchful waiting approach, and the recommendation to eat a well-rounded diet.

Back in 2009, I thought my diet was well rounded. But I had an inkling that I needed to evaluate all the foods I ate and see if there was any link to causing fibroids. Were there dietary changes I could make to stop the continued growth of the fibroids, and push away the underlying fear of a need for a hysterectomy? It was still quite a while until I would be menopausal, (I am still not there yet) which would be the magic trigger to start shrinking the fibroids. I didn’t realize at the time that I would uncover startling information based on scientific research that would cause me to profoundly change my eating habits.

The following is a brief list of what I learned. As I write this I had to do a retrospective search on information that would have been available at the time I started looking back in 2009. My sources are provided.  The evidence is out there, and easily found through Internet searches. It is overwhelming to revisit what I initially learned, it still amazes me how much information is not widely known.  The following does not take into account the knowledge I gained by reading books, watching videos and attending lectures. Below this post are a few links to those books, and videos. I hope that by writing this I can help others in their quest to be healthy.

From a study published in Obstetrics & Gynecology, 1999 “Diet and Uterine Myomas (Fibroids)

  • Fibroid growth is associated with beef and ham consumption.
  • The hormone estrogen may increase the risk of fibroid growth.
  • Diet is associated with estrogen levels.
  • Increased vegetable and fruit intake may play a role in preventing fibroids, as well as breast and endometrial cancers.

From a study published in Best Practice & Research Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, “Endocrine disrupters and female reproductive health”, March 2006 

  • There are estrogenic contaminants in the environment causing abnormal growth; seals (marine mammals) in contaminated waters have been found with an excess of uterine fibroids. The same chemicals that affect wildlife could have a role in uterine diseases such as fibroids and endometriosis.

From a study published in Journal of Animal Science, "Biological responses to estrogen additives in meat producing cattle and lambs." 1975

  • Estrogen, a steroid hormone, is administered to cattle to fatten them up before slaughter, allowing a higher price since they are sold by weight.

From a study published in Journal of Chromatography, “Quantitative measurement of endogenous estrogen metabolites, risk-factors for development of breast cancer, in commercial milk products by LC-MS/MS”, May 2009

  • Estrogen metabolites are associated with cancers of the reproductive system. These metabolites can affect cellular proliferation such that cells grow rapidly and aberrantly which can lead to cancer growth.

From Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine website. http://www.pcrm.org/health/diets/vegdiets/health-concerns-about-dairy-products

  • Consumption of milk and dairy products contributes to the majority (60-70 percent) of estrogen intake in the human diet.

Based on what I learned could I really stop eating meat and dairy products? I usually ate yogurt for breakfast, had milk in my coffee, had slices of cheese on my lunch sandwiches or ate a slice of pizza. For dinner, sour cream or butter on potatoes, cheese on pasta, ricotta cheese with ziti. This was not the menu every day but I had a lot of dairy product in my diet. As for meat, we had cold cuts and kielbasa, which we were beginning to cut back on due to the high sodium levels. Occasionally I ate a steak, and more frequently had ground beef in a burger, meatloaf or meatballs.

The studies recommended eating more vegetables and fruits and little or no meat and dairy. I decided that if I really wanted the potential to experience a dramatic change in my health I had to make a choice between my future health and well being or continue indulging in harmful foods. I did not go cold turkey. Instead I looked at what I could eat to replace the meat and dairy and started to make changes.

I started with breakfast and reduced my daily cup of yogurt to 1 tablespoon in a cup of oatmeal. I grew to really love oatmeal for breakfast without yogurt, adding nuts, seeds and fruits instead. It wasn’t until this past year that I grew to like almond milk in my coffee instead of milk.

We stopped buying cheese on a regular basis because the low sodium options are limited. I found other creamy foods that I’ve always enjoyed but now I eat more frequently like hummus and beans, and nut butters. I’ve also learned to make wonderful creamy sauces using cashew meal and soy or almond milk.

Vegetables feature prominently in our meals as a big salad, soup, stew or several types of steamed or roasted vegetables with a side of fish or chicken. We eat red meat on average once a season and rarely eat pork.  I have acquired more vegetarian cookbooks, and I scour the web for cuisine inspiration.

The good news for me is that since 2009 I have had three ultrasounds and the latest in July of 2012 reported, “overall the uterine fibroids are either stable or decreased in size.”  There’s been no need for further ultrasounds, thank goodness, and I no longer experience lower back pain. I am convinced that my food choices played a major role in fighting back the fibroid growth.

Shelby’s Guidelines:

  • Reduce or eliminate dairy products and meat from your diet.
  • Increase vegetable intake, raw and cooked.
  • Consume more beans, seeds, and nuts.
  • Eat more fresh fruit.
  • Don't expect instant results to reverse a condition that took years to flourish.
  • Give your body time to heal itself.