fibroid symptoms milk dairy fibroids

Uterine Fibroid Symptoms: Is Dairy Friend or Foe?

There is a list of lifestyle do’s and don’ts for women who either already suffer from uncomfortable uterine fibroid symptoms or wish to reduce their risks as much as possible. Perhaps you’ve started following a few of them, such as loading up on fresh fruits and vegetables rather than a diet of processed foods, limiting stress, working out more, and avoiding vices like smoking, alcohol, and too much caffeine. Most of these suggestions are easy to follow until you get to the part about avoiding dairy. Some of us enjoy cheese, milk, and yogurt just a little too much, and it can be a real downer to hear the link between dairy and uterine fibroids isn’t too positive historically. But does dairy really contribute to fibroid growth and worsen corresponding symptoms?

While the answer largely depends on who you ask, recent studies suggest long-standing beliefs that dairy intake (because of the hormones and steroids in yogurt, cheese, milk, etc.) causes fibroid growth are inconclusive. In fact, they go so far as to say now that high dairy intake—particularly for Black women—is inversely related to fibroids.

National Dairy Month in June is a relevant time to bring to light that consuming more dairy can improve Vitamin D deficiencies in Black women, helping to reduce fibroid symptoms.

Imagine Living a Life Free from These Uterine Fibroid Symptoms

  • Painful periods, debilitating cramps, pelvic pain, and pressure
  • Heavy or abnormal menstrual bleeding
  • Painful intercourse
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Bloating or swelling in the lower abdomen
  • Back or leg pain
  • An urge to urinate
  • Difficult or painful bowel movements

Do you have questions about fibroid diagnosis or treatment options?

Schedule a consult with Fibroid Institute, national advocates for treatment without fibroid surgery.

Uterine Fibroids and the Impact on Black Women

Before we move forward, it’s important to point out that fibroids still affect 70-80% of all women during childbearing years and disproportionately impact women of color. In fact, 80% of Black women will develop fibroids by the time they are 50, compared to 70% of white women. On top of that, almost $8 billion is spent on obstetric outcomes attributed to fibroids each year. Uterine fibroids cost women in the U.S. more than $17 billion annually through absenteeism and short-term disability.

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Here are a few more interesting facts about fibroids, fibroid symptoms, and Black women:

  • Black women are diagnosed at a younger age (between 29 and 39)
  • More often, patients have larger and multiple fibroids
  • Their fibroids display faster growth
  • Their fibroids shrink slower after pregnancy (fibroids in white women shrink faster)
  • They feel more severe fibroid symptoms (heavy bleeding, prolonged periods, cramping, etc.)
  • More Black women have surgery at an earlier age (many times during childbearing years)
  • They experience more complications during surgery
  • Black women are 2.4 times more likely to undergo hysterectomy

The Positive Link Between Dairy and Fibroid Symptoms

Interestingly, one of the most well-established fibroid risk factors we know besides being a Black woman is Vitamin D deficiency. Being Vitamin D deficient is not life-threatening, but it is linked to fibroids, so much so that women with sufficient Vitamin D levels had an estimated 32% lower odds of fibroids  compared with those with Vitamin D insufficiency.

These numbers are consistent for women of all races, though studies show that African Americans in general are one of the racial groups that display higher lactose intolerance rates. According to Boston Children’s Hospital, 80 percent of all African Americans and Native Americans are lactose intolerant. Why? The reason most commonly cited among recent published reports is genetics and geography. According to Cornell University, many adults whose ancestors lived in climates that couldn’t support dairy herding or were high in deadly cattle diseases (such as in Africa and many parts of Asia) didn’t routinely digest milk after infancy. As a result, they may experience nausea, cramps, bloating, gas, and diarrhea within 30 minutes to two hours after eating or drinking foods containing dairy.

The article also states that “… most people—about 60 percent and primarily those of Asian and African descent—stop producing lactase, the enzyme required to digest milk, as they mature. Conversely, people of northern European descent tend to retain the ability to produce the enzyme and drink milk throughout life.”

If we apply this to today’s world, it’s reasonable to suggest that Black women rarely have enough nutrient-rich dairy foods in their diets and may avoid them altogether due to long-standing cultural differences. As the amount of dairy in their diet lessens, the higher the chance of fibroid growth and fibroid symptoms.

In recent years, the National Library of Medicine published a study that showed that a higher intake of yogurt and calcium from foods may reduce the risks of uterine fibroids and fibroid symptoms. The study used data collected from 81,590 premenopausal women from 1991 to 2009 as part of the Nurses’ Health Study II cohort. Per the results of that study, 8,142 cases of ultrasound or hysterectomy-confirmed uterine fibroids were diagnosed over an 18-year period. When compared to participants who consumed two servings a week of total dairy foods, participants who consumed four or more servings had a borderline significant 8% reduced risk of uterine fibroids.

When the association between specific dairy foods and fibroids was examined, the relation between dairy-food intake and uterine fibroids appeared to be driven primarily by yogurt consumption. Of the nutrients examined, the association was strongest for calcium-rich foods.

fibroid symptoms woman eating fruits with yogurt

What does this all mean for diary and fibroid symptoms? While every woman’s uterine fibroid journey is different, new evidence supports that dairy is no longer a concern for fibroid growth. In many cases, a diet high in dairy can reduce fibroid risks. That said, it’s important that women work with their doctors to ensure they follow a plan that addresses their unique dietary and lifestyle needs. When necessary, fibroid treatment could be the next logical step.

How Can I Address My Fibroid Symptoms?

It’s important to know that you have options. Once you have a diagnosis, your doctor may recommend the following fibroid removal or fibroid treatment options:

  • Acessa — A small probe is placed into a fibroid and heated. By heating the fibroid, it is ultimately destroyed. Acessa works even if you have several uterine fibroids. But there are limitations. For example, if you have multiple large fibroids (melon or grapefruit size) or fibroids that are hard to get to, Acessa is not a good choice.
  • Endometrial Ablation — Removes the uterine lining by placing a thin instrument into the uterus through the cervix and using heat, laser, electricity, microwaves, or freezing. The downside to endometrial ablation is that it is not safe to get pregnant after you’ve had it. In addition, it is most effective with only small fibroids.
  • Hysterectomy — This popular form of fibroid removal is still widely used today. It is also highly effective, though many women hope to avoid it due to its invasive nature. A hysterectomy removes all or part of a woman’s uterus. In some cases, her fallopian tubes and ovaries are removed, too. It’s important to note that it takes longer to heal from a hysterectomy, and your body will never be the same again.
  • Myomectomy — Myomectomy preserves the uterus while removing the fibroids. As a result, it is the procedure of choice for women who want to get pregnant. However, it eliminates the ability to have a vaginal birth in the future. Like hysterectomy, is a surgical precures that recovery downtime and weeks of recovery.  The size and location of the fibroids determine how this surgery is performed.
  • Sonata System — This incision-less fibroid treatment works well when the patient has one or several fibroids. Using an intrauterine ultrasound device, radiofrequency energy is delivered to the fibroid to shrink the fibroid. As the fibroid shrinks, the patient can see a reduction in painful symptoms.
  • Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE) — UFE is a minimally-invasive procedure that, rather than removing fibroids with numerous incisions, cuts off blood flow to all fibroids—causing them to shrink and die. UFE is low risk, has no incision, is faster than other options, and is a safe and highly successful alternative to surgery.

Wondering “is UFE right for me?”

Download a free checklist to see if you are a candidate for fibroid treatment without surgery.

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Our Experts Are Here To Answer Your Fibroid Treatment Questions

Know you have options when it comes to treating your symptomatic uterine fibroids. At Fibroid Institute, you can feel comfortable asking whatever questions you may have about your diagnosis, treatment options, and the process involved. Far too many patients get concerned about having a medical procedure and shy away before giving their doctor a chance to answer questions and ease concerns. We are here to help you reclaim your life and ensure you feel confident about your choice.

Thousands of women visit Fibroid Institute year-round to find relief from their fibroid pain. We are happy to cater to those needs and offer a nonsurgical solution: uterine fibroid embolization. UFE is the gold standard in non-surgical fibroid treatment. At Fibroid Institute’s multiple locations in Houston and Dallas, we help thousands of women avoid fibroid surgery and find relief from their fibroid symptoms. Meet some of these women here:

Our fibroid doctors are board-certified interventional radiologists and experts who are passionate about helping women become #FibroidFree. Because experience matters, our physicians have completed more than 40,000 interventional radiology cases over the course of a combined 55 years of experience.

Most major medical insurance providers cover the cost of UFE. Get started now with Fibroid Institute Dallas at 214-838-6440 or with Fibroid Institute Houston at 713-903-3733 or complete the form below.

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This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Prior to starting any new treatment or if you have questions regarding a medical condition, always seek the advice of your doctor or other qualified health provider.

Fibroid Institute Texas serves the Dallas and Houston areas including Addison, Carrollton, Plano, Frisco, Craig Ranch, McKinney, Allen, Fort Worth, Grand Prairie, HEB, Arlington, Hutchins, Irving, Duncanville, DeSoto, Cedar Hill, Lancaster, Cockrell Hill, Highland Park, University Park, Park Cities, Garland, Mesquite, Richardson, Dallas, Sherman, Houston, Sugar Land, Katy, Webster, Clear Lake, The Woodlands, Universal City, Spring, Kingwood, Stafford, Conroe, Texas City, Cypress, League City, Bellaire, and more.

*Patient stories are true. Names and/or photos may be changed to protect patient confidentiality.

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