Natural health: Fibroids and gynaecomastia

Q. My gynaecologist discovered a fibroid at my last check-up. Is there anything I can do to help while I am waiting for surgery?

A. Uterine fibroids are more common than most of us realise, with around 25% of all women being diagnosed with these benign tumours, and almost half are women aged over 40.

Most are very small growths, about the size of a walnut, but in rare cases a fibroid will grow to be larger.

Occurring anywhere within the pelvic cavity, uterine fibroids are essentially an abnormal muscle cell response to oestrogen. 

In most cases fibroids will shrink considerably (or disappear altogether) of their own accord following menopause due to the drop in oestrogen production, which is why the fibroid is usually monitored rather than being immediately removed.

During peri-menopause, oestrogen levels can often rise and trigger fibroid growth before menstruation ceases, hence the higher incidence of uterine fibroids found in women over the age of 40. 

Pregnancy is another trigger for fibroid growth, and researchers are looking at whether or not this is linked to an increase in progesterone production while the woman is pregnant.

In most cases a fibroid or fibroids will not cause any symptoms, but some women will experience heavier menstrual periods, anaemia, urinary incontinence, and pain during sexual intercourse.

Exercise is thought to help reduce the size of fibroids.

You can also balance your hormones through your diet. Cutting back on animal fats, and increasing your intake of oily fish will help. If seafood isn’t your thing, then supplement with unpolluted fish oils ( www.healthyandessential.ie ; 045-892267). 

The hormone balancing herb, Agnus castus (also known as chasteberry), can actually stop fibroid growth by raising progesterone levels. Bioforce make an Agnus castus tincture, which costs €9.75 for 50ml; take 20 drops daily in water.

Surgical treatment for uterine fibroids has come a long way since the days of total hysterectomy. As an alternative to removing the uterus, surgeons are now able to perform a more localised approach, such as hysteroscopic resection, uterine embolisation, myomectomy, and supracervical hysterectomy.

It is certainly worth discussing these options with your gynaecologist, if you haven’t already.

Q. I have developed tissue on my chest to the point where it resembles female breasts. I am a 56-year-old male and am too embarrassed to talk about this with my doctor.

What you describe is known as gynaecomastia, where the mammary glands (present in both men and women) grow to an abnormal size. Hormones, genetic factors, and dietary choices can all be factored in when it comes to gynaecomastia.

A. Of these three things, diet is the one that we have the most control over. 

In some men, this is a simple case of over-eating, particularly consuming highly-processed foods. Excess weight is distributed differently between individuals, so this is where genetic factors are a consideration.

Eating a plant-based diet is reported to help reduce the appearance of so-called “man boobs”, however you must make sure that you avoid soya-based products. Soya beans contain high levels of phytoestrogens, which mimic the female hormone oestrogen in the body and can cause glandular change in males and females.

You might want to consider taking herbs that are reputed to increase testosterone production — such as Tribulus terrestris and Horny Goat Weed (Epimedium saggitatum).

I appreciate this is a very personal issue for you to discuss with anybody, which makes it difficult to take steps in terms of dealing with the issue. 

It is a good idea to test for any underlying metabolic disorders or diseases that may be triggering this tissue growth, so sharing this with your doctor is definitely worth the potential embarrassment.


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