What Causes Fibroids: Signs and Symptoms

By: Michael Lam, MD, MPH

What are Uterine Fibroids?

What causes fibroidsAt one time or another, many women will develop uterine fibroids, which is a common condition that usually takes place over a period of several years. Fibroid formation may develop quickly, in some individuals, while others will have uterine fibroids but they won’t grow, and some women may never have them. Leading researchers to ask, what causes fibroids?

A fibroid is essentially a benign tumor that is composed of fibrous tissues. For these tissues to grow, a series of mechanisms must first be activated. Initially, the fibroid will be only about the size of a pea. In the most severe cases, the fibroid can grow to become quite massive, even up to the size of a grapefruit. Estrogen is the primary factor that contributes to what causes fibroids to develop.

Symptoms of the Condition

Various symptoms indicate the presence of uterine fibroids in the body. Many women will experience constipation, leg or back pain, difficulty urinating, frequent urination, heavy menstrual bleeding, prolonged menstrual bleeding (that lasts a week or more), and pelvic pressure or pain. Any of these symptoms could suggest the existence of uterine fibroids.

Several different kinds of fibroids exist, which may indicate what causes fibroids may differ. Submucosal fibroids can sometimes be a problem for women trying to get pregnant, as they grow in the inner cavity of the uterus. These fibroids generally lead to heavy and/or a long period of menstrual bleeding. Subserosal fibroids grow on the outside of the uterus and may press on the bladder or rectum, causing urinary symptoms or back pain. Intramural fibroids develop in the muscular uterine wall and can produce pain, pressure, and prolonged or heavy menstrual bleeding.

What Causes Fibroids

What causes fibroids exactly is unclear, but contributing factors have been identified, with the most obvious being their connection with hormones. Genetics may also be important, as fibroids seem to be present in women who are related.

When a woman’s body produces too much estrogen or when the estrogen level is high relative to progesterone, this condition is called estrogen dominance, which can occur in several different ways. It can result from food laced with hormones or birth control pills containing estrogen. Estrogen dominance can also occur if someone does not have a sufficient amount of progesterone, which works by counteracting the estrogen. This also applies if the woman has sensitive receptor sites. Those who are relatively skinny are most vulnerable. Fat tissues as well as stress, which will affect the adrenal system, can also lead to excess estrogen because adipose tissue contributes to estrogen production. Finally, compounds such as plastic contain estrogen-like molecules called xenoestrogens which can mimic estrogen once inside the body.

What causes fibroids and hormonal dysfunctionA variety of symptoms may indicate estrogen dominance, including breast disease, fibrocystic breast disease, fibroids, extreme ovulation pain, irregular periods, and heavy periods. Sometimes, estrogen dominance can even lead to cancer, but this only occurs in certain extreme situations. Although fibroids specifically are benign in nature, they are a red flag indicating estrogen imbalance.

When structural issues are present, such as compression of the urinary tract or severe bleeding, surgical intervention may be necessary. Women who are near menopause should generally avoid aggressive intervention and instead try to “buy time,” as estrogen dominance often lessens in severity with menopause when accompanied by proper natural therapeutics.

Adrenal Fatigue and Hormonal Levels

It is especially important to recognize and understand that estrogen dominance is commonly associated with adrenal fatigue. When a woman’s body experiences adrenal fatigue, high estrogen levels can also occur, as the adrenal system is directly involved in hormone production. Chronic stress can lead to adrenal fatigue, and adrenal fatigue can result in a decrease of progesterone. This can lead to an imbalance in the estrogen and progesterone ratio, favoring a state of estrogen dominance.

If adrenal fatigue goes unnoticed, the issue could be handled incorrectly. The solution for dealing with excessive estrogen is often a hysterectomy, but this procedure may not be the proper course of action, especially if adrenal fatigue is involved. Hysterectomies can unnaturally force a woman’s body into early menopause, and this type of surgery is sometimes called “surgical menopause.” If structural problems or compression is present, however, then surgery may be necessary. Otherwise, attempts to reduce the estrogen load can be considered, and surgical intervention can be avoided.

It should be noted that if the level of estrogen is not reduced during surgical intervention, long-term estrogen reduction may not occur. Excessive adipose tissue or stress, for example, needs to be handled properly, as both conditions increase the estrogen load in the body. Accordingly, a hysterectomy is not the universal answer to fibroids.

Finding the Root Cause of Uterine Fibroids

Fact and fiction - What causes fibroidsUnfortunately, many women often feel terrible after a hysterectomy, even though excessive bleeding is controlled, and have to undergo hormone replacement therapy. Remember that even if the ovarian estrogen source is cut off an imbalance in hormones still exists in other parts of the body. Since estrogen also comes from the environment, food, and stress and even without considering adrenal dysfunction, the problem is not being handled properly. The root issue is left neglected, which could lead to later health issues.

Fibroids should first be recognized as a medical issue, but it is vital to consider adrenal fatigue, if present, as second in importance. Adrenal fatigue and fibroids are frequently seen together, so it is prudent to keep this fact in mind so that the right solution can be pinpointed. When the adrenal glands begin to heal, many women experience a decrease in their estrogen load, which naturally leads to fewer symptoms related to estrogen dominance. Even fibroids are often reported to stop growing or shrink as the adrenal system begins to heal and improve. When the real underlying cause is identified and corrected, women have a much better chance to recover and be healthy.

This information can be used to better understand fibroid physiology as well as its connection with adrenal fatigue. The article “Estrogen Dominance” and the book Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome contain additional details about this important subject.

© Copyright 2016 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.

What causes fibroids

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I have recently started self treating using your recommendations for reducing estrogen levels (I have been under acute stress and have a recurrence of fibroids - which I got under control naturally last time as well) I am doing extremely well. Thank you for your wonderful site, as a professional health therapist I have found the information to be exactly what I am looking for and I really appreciate your help in spreading a responsible and natural understanding and protocols for regaining and maintaining health.