Avoiding Hysterectomy

 Image: M.Parke Studio

Image: M.Parke Studio

A hysterectomy is the surgical removal of the uterus. The procedure can be done for many different reasons, which vary from person to person. The most common reason is the presence of fibroid tumors (also called myomas), which are benign growths in the uterus that are often associated with other health problems. An astonishing 30-50% of American women have them, and heavy menstrual bleeding is one of their most common symptoms. They’re caused by an imbalance between the hormones estrogen and progesterone, specifically a deficiency in progesterone compared to estrogen. Other conditions for which hysterectomies are performed include endometriosis and prolapse of the uterus.

The symptoms that lead women to consider hysterectomy are varied but include the following: a constant heavy and bloated feeling; urinary tract problems or incontinence; unusually long and heavy menstrual periods; unusual swelling in the abdominal region (due to fibroid tumors); infertility (due to fibroid tumors and endometriosis); complications of childbirth; cancer; and intolerance to drug therapy usually prescribed for endometriosis.

While these are serious issues, it’s best to address them to the best of our ability before considering a hysterectomy. Many of these health problems can be healed through holistic care, eliminating the need to make such a monumental decision as the removal of an organ. Hysterectomies are often recommended to women in their midlife unnecessarily, with dangerous and highly unfortunate consequences.

Women who get hysterectomies often experience devastating side effects. Since the uterus is an important organ in female reproduction and sexuality, its removal can cause widespread effects to our life force and sense of ourselves as women. Women who have undergone hysterectomies often complain of a loss of energy and stamina, reduced physical and sexual sensations, pain during sex, mood swings (due to the fact that hysterectomies essentially put you into surgical menopause), diminished maternal feelings, loss of bladder support (due to concurrent removal of the cervix), difficulties with urination and bowel movements, pelvic prolapse (sagging of the pelvic organs into the vagina), depression due to lack of sex drive, accelerated bone loss (if the ovaries are also removed), and the acceleration of dementia. The surgery itself includes risks such as damage to the bowel or bladder, as well as the consequences of anesthesia which include overall stress on the body, liver damage, and a negative impact on cognitive functioning.

Due to these enormous drawbacks and enduring downsides, hysterectomies should be avoided at all costs unless completely necessary. They should ideally be considered only in severe cases that cannot be solved by natural means. If they are absolutely necessary, however, there is certainly a time and place for hysterectomies. They can improve women’s quality of life and reduce excessive pelvic pain. It’s essential to tune into your body and to make the decision that is best for your unique body, health issues, and circumstances.


For women who have some of the health issues for which hysterectomies are often recommended or who suffer from hormonal imbalances (which generally exacerbate any of the issues above), preventive steps can be taken to both reduce and reverse the need for a hysterectomy. Focus on whole body healing by addressing the following important aspects of overall health and wellbeing:

Nutrition

Hypoglycemic Diet

This diet consists of foods high in fiber and good sources of protein, including vegetables, whole grains, fruits, small fish (which have less toxic accumulation of dangerous heavy metals such as mercury), skinless organic turkey and chicken breast, and probiotic-rich foods such as kefir. Starchy vegetables such as potatoes, corn, and squash should only be consumed in moderation. Refined sugar, white flour, alcohol, processed foods (including meats), conventional dairy, and foods containing additives and preservatives should be avoided completely as they increase inflammation in the body, promoting the development and growth of uterine fibroids.

 

High-Fiber Foods

A diet high in fiber helps to decrease circulating estrogens, androgen concentrations, and sex hormone binding globulin concentrations in the body. It also adds bulk to stool and aids in digestion and excretion. If overall fiber intake is low, excess estrogens will not be excreted properly which can have a biological effect and can trigger the growth of endometriosis implants.

Great high-fiber foods include: Avocados, Asian pears, berries, coconut, figs, artichokes, peas, okra, acorn squash, Brussels sprouts, turnips, black beans, chickpeas, lima beans, split peas, lentils, nuts, flax seeds, chia seeds, and quinoa.

 

Green Leafy Vegetables

These vegetables have a strong anti-inflammatory effect on the body that discourages the growth of uterine fibroids. Moreover, they contain high amounts of vitamin K, which is responsible for blood clotting. Adequate levels of vitamin K help to control menstrual bleeding, which as mentioned above is a common reason that doctors recommend hysterectomies.

 

Cruciferous Vegetables

Vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage support liver detoxification pathways and the balancing of estrogen levels, since estrogen is metabolized in the liver. Cruciferous vegetables also contain high amounts of antioxidants and fiber, which are essential in protecting against uterine fibroids.

 

Sea Vegetables

Sea greens such as wakame, nori, and kombu contain many essential nutrients including high levels of iodine, which is especially beneficial in the treatment of uterine fibroids. Add sea vegetables to your diet by adding them to soups and stews, or by making delicious nori rolls filled with wild-caught salmon, cucumber, avocado, and sprouts.

 

Vitamin C-Rich Foods
Foods rich in vitamin C are high in antioxidants and help to shrink the growth of uterine fibroids. Load up on orange fruits and vegetables (such as oranges, orange peppers, sweet potatoes, and cantaloupe - all of which are also high in vitamin A), citrus fruits (including lemons, limes, and grapefruit), bell peppers, strawberries, and kiwis.

 

Reduce Caffeine Intake

Too much caffeine is taxing on the entire body, especially the liver. The liver is the main organ that regulates which hormones stay in the body and which are excreted, and this functioning is compromised when the liver is overburdened. The less caffeine is consumed, the easier it will be for the liver to detoxify the body and to regulate the proper balance of hormones, which will discourage the development and growth of fibroids and endometrial tissue.


Supplements

Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs)

Omega-3 fatty acids help the body to manufacture estrogen and are anti-inflammatory. They provide protection against hormone imbalance-based conditions and uterine fibroids.

 

Garlic

Consistent use of garlic may inhibit tumor growth, so supplementation is wise if you suffer from fibroids. Garlic is beneficial for overall health as it contains powerful antioxidants and supports the immune system.

 

Vitamin B Complex

The B vitamins are needed for optimal nervous system functioning, can reduce stress, and help to regulate estrogen levels. They should always be supplemented together in a complex, rather than individually.

 

Vitamin E

Important for estrogen production and elimination, vitamin E is an antioxidant that can help to relieve symptoms that are associated with excessive amounts of estrogen in the body.

 

Melatonin

This hormone stimulates the immune system and is important in the production of estrogen, testosterone, and possibly other hormones. It also regulates our circadian rhythm, helping us to get more restful and restorative sleep.


Herbs

 

Vitex (Chaste berry)
This herb promotes the production of progesterone, which helps to naturally reduce estrogen levels by promoting a balance of the two hormones. Vitex is available in tincture and capsule form and should be taken for at least 6 months in order to notice the benefits.

 

Ashwagandha
This adaptogenic herb is mainly beneficial in balancing hormones. It scavenges for free radicals that cause cellular damage, thereby protecting thyroid functioning which can be directly affected by imbalances in estrogen. Ashwagandha also helps the body to overcome the adrenal fatigue that can develop due to emotional, mental, and physical long-term stress. Assisting proper adrenal function leads to balancing of the production and secretion of hormones, such as adrenaline, cortisol, and progesterone.

Herbs that are natural estrogen promoters include: anise, Dong Quai, fennel, fenugreek, ginseng, licorice, red clover, sage, suma, and wild yam.

 

Herbs that alleviate symptoms of ovarian cysts and uterine fibroids include: black cohosh, black haw, blue cohosh, dandelion root, lady’s mantle (yarrow), milk thistle, and Pau D’Arco.

 

All of the herbs listed above can be made into teas and consumed regularly. Before using these herbs, contact your health care practitioner to determine if they’re safe to use considering your current health state and goals.


Lifestyle

 

Yoni Steaming

Yoni is the Sanskrit word for the vagina or uterus. A yoni steam is an ancient practice that has been used for hundreds of years by traditional healers. The main goal is to cleanse and revitalize the uterus. This helps to heal various gynecological issues, including uterine fibroids.

 

How to do a yoni steam: Acquire a classic ritual chair by either making one by cutting a hole (at least 10 inches in diameter) in the center of an existing metal or wicker lawn chair, or by purchasing a pre-made chair. If making your own, ensure your vagina is at least 12 inches above the steam bowl. Choose three to five herbs from the list below to use. Add 2-3 cups of herbs into a large pot of boiling water, cover with a lid, and let simmer for about 5-10 minutes. Keeping the lid on, remove from heat and let steep for an additional 5 minutes. Undress from the waist down, sit on the yoni steam chair, and place a large blanket over your thighs so that it dangles down to reach the floor. Place the pot directly under the hole of the chair. Lift the lid and let the steam rise. You should be able to feel the warm steam without it being uncomfortable. Steam for about 20 minutes.

 

Herbs that can be used in a yoni steam:

Yarrow: Blood purifying, pelvic tonic

Holy Basil: Menstruation balm and tonic

Rose petals: Womb healing

Wormwood: Womb cleansing and awakening

Raspberry leaf: Nutritive and protective

Lavender: Balancing

 

This ritual is beneficial because vaginal tissues are absorbent and porous, making them able to absorb the herbal components from the steam. The rising of the steam is able to reach the uterus, where the healing properties of the herbs can go to work. Yoni steaming also increases overall circulation, cleanses the entire body, eliminates harmful toxins, and enhances uterine tone.

 

Castor Oil Packs

Applying a castor oil pack to your abdomen increases circulation in the lymphatic and cardiovascular systems. Castor oil packs also increase the production of lymphocytes, also known as white blood cells, which are responsible for eliminating disease-causing toxins from the body. The accumulation of toxins contributes to the development of uterine fibroids. Fibroids are also associated with increased inflammation, and castor oil contains an anti-inflammatory compound called ricinoleic acid.  

 

How to do castor oil packs: Simply apply castor oil directly onto bare skin in the abdominal region and on top of where the reproductive organs lie. Cover this oil with a towel or rag that you don’t mind getting dirty, and then apply a heat source (such as a hot water bottle or heating pad) directly on top. This will help the castor oil to be deeply absorbed into the skin. Rest and let it sink it for at least an hour. When the time is up, the oil will have likely completely absorbed, but if there is residue on the skin you can remove it using soap and water or a bit of baking soda.

 

Reduce Exposure to Environmental Toxins

Chemicals that disrupt hormonal health and balance include pesticides, herbicides, synthetic fertilizers, bleach and conventional cleaning products, food preservatives, and food dyes. These should all be avoided as much as possible. To do this, make your own homemade cleaning products (using white vinegar, lemon, and essential oils), buy organic produce and foods, eliminate processed foods from your diet, use unbleached feminine care products or menstrual cups, and choose (or DIY) body care and makeup products that are chemical-free. Plastics should also be avoided as they contain xenoestrogens, as should hormonal forms of birth control such as the birth control pill, patches, and many types of IUDs.

 

Exercise

Regular exercise is one of the main ways to prevent and slow the development of uterine fibroids. The amount a woman exercises is directly correlated with fibroid development. Exercise reduces systemic inflammation, controls blood pressure, improves insulin sensitivity, helps to maintain a healthy weight, and contributes to hormonal balance.

 

Sleep
A lack of high-quality sleep disturbs the body’s natural circadian rhythm, which disrupts the body’s hormonal balance. Hormones work on a set schedule. Melatonin is released around 10pm to induce sleep, which reduces cortisol, and cortisol is released around 6am to help wake the body up. If your sleep schedule does not match this natural schedule of the body, cortisol is never reduced and the sympathetic fight or flight response never stops. This will also have an effect on other hormones, leading to widespread imbalances.

 

With proper diet, lifestyle modifications, and supportive herbs and supplements, many of the issues and imbalances that cause the need for a hysterectomy can be healed and eliminated naturally. It’s always best to look at the root cause and to try and promote whole body healing before removing a part of the body, as the removal of an organ causes an enormous shock to the body and can have lasting negative effects.