Last year I noticed that during my period I had heavier than normal flow. I had to change my pad every 1-2 hours. Even then I still leaked and soaked my panties and pants with blood.
Then sometime in the beginning of this year, my period started to last 2 weeks, 2 full weeks of heavy flow. I also started to fill a large bump in my lower pelvic area. In March, my doctors told me that it was “probably” a fibroid of the size of 8.9 cm. So not huge, but still big. They said this explained why I had heavy period and also prolonged period.
Since it was not really bothering me that much except my period (I didn’t experience more than normal pain, no urination problem, no bowel movement problems), my doctor told me that I don’t really need to do anything to it or remove it. But I was tested to be anemic. So heavy period took a toll (took a toll on my bed sheets, pants, cost of pads, washing of period-proof panties, time, etc.).
Heavy flow during menstrual period
Period lasting more than 1 week
So, I as a scientist, went into scientific literature to find out what can be done to reduce the fibroid size. There is one proven method, but only one study on a limited population: drink green tea. Another method was proven on mice, but not on people: take vitamin D. Both were able to reduce the size of the fibroid.
Besides the science, there are also other people doing other things, still questionable effectiveness. For example, castor oil packing every other day (except during menstruation). Eat a lot of organic vegetables (kale, broccoli, spinach, chickpeas, beet). Vitamin B. Milk thistle. Enzymes (specifically protease). Dandelion roots. Ginger. Turmeric. Sweet potatoes. Chinese medicine said drinking brewed tea with 黃耆 (/huangˊ chiˊ/ or /huang2 qi2/) and 茯苓 (/fuˊ lingˊ/ or /fu2 ling2/) would help during the first 5 days of period, 5 days after period, and 5 days before period. Also no sugar and salt. So that is what I did. On top of being a vegan already for more than 10 years.
Since there are so many women who have fibroid (more than 50% women affected in their lifetime), but really very little research out there focused on prevention or reduction of fibroid without the need for surgery or medication, I began to experiment on myself.
Things that might help (but lacking science-backed evidence)?
It is odd that I have a fibroid because the people who are most at risk are African American women (I am not), people who eat a lot of red meat (I have been a vegan for more than 10 years, and 14 years of lacto-vegetarian before that), and people who eat a lot of sugar and salt (I don’t eat a lot of either). So this is a new territory.
First Five Months
I started eating only leafy greens and seaweeds, without salt and sugar, with turmeric, milk thistle, and dandelion roots since March. For breakfast, I had oatmeal with sesame seeds, walnuts, raisins, chia seeds, and soy milk. I also drink about half a cup of green tea in the morning, eat my vitamins B and D. Drink my 黃耆 /huangˊ chiˊ/ with jujubes and goji berries. Also castor oil packing every other day.
Then a week went by, I had my period. The joyful thing was that I didn’t have much cramp. The not so joyful thing was that the flow was still heavy and it lasted 2 weeks again. But I keep drinking my 黃耆 /huangˊ chiˊ/ with jujubes and goji berries.
So I started to doubt if anything was working.
I continued with my diet. My period came at the time I predicted it. So no irregularities there. But the times I had to go to the bathroom to change out my soaking wet pad reduced. Every month after my menstruation, my fibroid mass would feel softer and smaller; and every month before my menstruation, my fibroid would feel harder and bigger.
My period came during the sixth month. After a couple of days of menstruation, I suddenly was in severe, excruciating pain for two days. I thought it was gastrointestinal, but it didn’t go away, and I didn’t have diarrhea. It didn’t feel like cramps either. It was a general pain in my lower pelvic area that would come and go. I finally went to the emergency room on the second day, when the doctor asked about the pain on a pain scale, I rated it 8 to 9 out of 10 because I thought if it gets worse, it would be 10. The doctors gave me pain relief, told me to take Tylenol or Motrin. The gynecologist in the ER said I might have had contractions due to the size of the fibroid, they did both the CT and the ultrasound to confirm, my fibroid was 10 cm.
So I went home, took Tylenol when needed.
Two weeks went by. The bleeding from my menstruation subsided as usual, but the color of the blood changed to brownish clear discharge. I just though maybe it is just because it was at the end of the period. But it did not stop. It kept coming out. And finally a couple of days after two weeks, there were large tissue pieces coming out with the discharge. It was not like I have not seen menstruation blood clogs before, but this time it was different. It was different in that the tissue itself could not be simply wiped off, it sometimes would be caught in between my vaginal canal and would take time to be “discharged”. It also gave off an odor like rotting meat. The fibroid felt like it was not really “soft and smaller”, it felt like a lump that did not have any flexibility, just a mass that was stuck in my belly.
The tissue discharge continued. I was very concerned about the odor as well. My gynecologist didn’t know what makes it smell, so he gave me antibiotic without doing a swab (later I learned that fibroid discharge would smell, but necrotic or degenerating fibroid could also be infected, but I didn’t know which was happening, and my doctor did not take a swab sample to find out). I took the antibiotic, the odor went away, but the tissue pieces were still being discharged.
Right before my menstruation came, I again had a really bad pain episode, this time it was more like cramps and sharp pain. This time if I apply pressure to my lower pelvic region on top of my fibroid, it would feel discomfort. I went to the ER again, CT and ultrasound again. It was a 8.2 cm fibroid. The doctors told me I had a necrotic fibroid (that explains why there was a lump that felt like an object stuck in my belly), and that was likely a submucosal fibroid. My gynecologist recommended hysterectomy. I asked him to explore other options. He referred me to an oncologist. I was prescribed with pain medication (Naproxen and gabapentin). I was told to take it to anticipate the pain (didn’t work, by the way, and if I took the medications even during an episode, the pain still would not subside for another 2 hours). Moreover, those medications made my blood pressure rise (I usually had high 80s over high 50s, being a long-time vegan, taking the medication made my blood pressure go up to high 90s over mid 60s with faster heart beats). They also made my memory very fuzzy. Since my pain was not being controlled by the pain medication anyway, I stopped taking them after a week.
[On a side note, when I had the pain in the ER, they told me to stop taking the antibiotic because the doctor did not do a swab to confirm whether I had vaginal infection or not. But they found a high count of white blood cell in my urine, so they put me on another antibiotic. Two days later, I was at the ER again, and they still found higher white blood cell count in my urine. But when the results came back two days later, the lab said I did not have urinary tract infection. The month before my white blood cell count in my blood was higher, and during this month my white blood cell count in urine was normal, meaning the high white blood cells probably were from inflammation, not from infection.]
When I had bowel movement, also I could not apply too much force with my belly because it would set off a 2- to 3-hour pain episode. The pain and discomfort went on for a week. During this time, the tissue discharge increased. I had really large tissue discharge. I kept mentioning this to my doctors, none of them wanted to explain it to me or do more tests on the tissue discharge. This discomfort went on for about a week. After the week, there was subtle discomfort of cramps, still lasting 2 to 3 hours, but only 2-3 days after that.
Debilitating pain during period
Tissue discharge and odor
Discomfort when pressing on the fibroid on the belly
Right after the second week, my doctor ordered an MRI. The results showed that I had a 5.8 cm fibroid.
Finally I realized why I had tissue discharge, even though the doctors didn’t acknowledge or explain this phenomenon to me, my fibroid was shedding off tissue. Large tissue pieces were associated with excruciating pain. Smaller tissue pieces were associated with moderate cramping pain (still debilitating enough). My fibroid at this time cannot be felt from my belly by hand now, and it does not feel discomfort anymore if I pressed on it. At its largest, it probably occupied a volume of about 500 mL. Now with the new size, it is about 100 mL. My period only lasted about 11-12 days instead of a full 14+ days.
The oncologist I was referred to has not yet reached out to me.
This is still a developing story, but I would like to share it. The scientific study on how green tea may reduce fibroid does not mention how the fibroid felt when it was reduced in size. I can tell you, in my case, it felt painful. No pain mediation helped except when I went to the ER and got injections of toradol (ketorolac), and you can only get that if you have not taken naproxen and ibuprofen (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory that thin your blood) and are not preganant. Without medication, the only other thing that helped me was meditation. When I relaxed all parts of my body and focused on my breathing, the fibroid irritated my uterus less, and then the pain would subside.
I don’t know if my diet, taking the supplements, or green tea helped, but during this time I realized a couple things:
- You need to push the doctors to acknowledge and address your concerns even if they seem to listen. Press them to address issues.
- IF ANY ANTIBIOTIC WAS PRESCRIBED, make sure you demand your doctor to do a vaginal swab or a urine test to CONFIRM infection.
- Many women, I realized, got a hysterectomy because of the fibroid. And more than 50% of the woman get fibroid (a benign tumor) sometime in their life. Yet, there are so many research studies focused on erectile dysfunction and its remedy. Medicine and health care are still very gendered and sexist. Many gynecologists would recommend hysterectomy because of the pain and it is the easiest option. A lot more research and funding should go into this area instead of into only male-focused reproductive issues.
Because my fibroid reduced in size and I was initially at a really low risk of having fibroid (vegan, not overweight, low salt and sugar intake), I would recommend anyone who’s suffering from fibroid-related issues to follow the diet/supplement before considering hysterectomy, but I am only one datum. I would also caution that large fibroid (submucosal in my case) could be painful if it starts to degenerate. If you follow similar diet/supplement regiment, please let me know how you are doing and if it worked for you. Mine is at least 6 months of development with diet and supplement.