Fibroids: A Serious Issue for Black Women

by Joi Thomas, L.Ac., Dipl.O.M.

fibroidsFibroids Especially Troubling Amongst Black Women

Fibroids are a health issue that is very near and dear to my heart, partially because they are so common, but also because they can be treated so effectively by Chinese medicine.  Do you know what fibroids are?  You should!  They are non cancerous tumors which grow in and attached to the uterus.  Some of the issues that they can cause are heavier, prolonged and crampy periods, discomfort during sex, uncomfortable pressure on the bladder and challenges with fertility.  Due to the heavier bleeding, they can also result in anemia.
According to research, fibroids affect 40% of the general population of women and up to 80% of all Black women.  That means 8 out of 10 African American women deal with this issue.  Most of the symptoms of fibroids are more severe and they seem to affect black women when they are younger which can negatively impact their ability to have a baby. 

 From a western perspective, no one knows what causes fibroids, and the treatment is usually centered around surgery, hormonal medications and in some cases hysterectomy.    Estrogen seems to make fibroids grow, so long term treatment is often focused upon decreasing estrogen levels after the fibroids are removed.
 Chinese medicine can be very effective at treating fibroids.  From controlling and decreasing the heavy bleeding and cramping to decreasing the size of the fibroids, Chinese herbs really make a great difference.  I personally have been amazed at how effective the herbs have been in clinic.  Our goal is to find the root factor not just treat the symptoms, so that the fibroids and their side effects can be controlled permanently.
 At Red Cricket, diet is an extremely important factor in treatment.  In some cases, a weak digestion is key to the formation of fibroids, and in many cases we will encourage a rich, varied diet to help the body build blood.  We will also look at decreasing sugar and other foods that can increase estrogen levels an weaken our digestion.
 An additional factor is that our internal emotional state can contribute to the formation of fibroids.  Long term feelings of frustration and anger – especially when they are repressed can cause fibroids to form.  We are taught that anger is a strong emotion for a reason – it exists to help us to understand when we are feeling oppressed or wronged.  It’s our body’s way of saying, “Hey, that’s not okay!”, and it gives us a nice burst of energy to figure out what needs to be fixed, and then fix it.
      But what if “it” can’t be fixed?
The strong feelings that occur when we are wronged can do a lot of damage to our body if we hold it or squish it down.  Especially if this is happening over and over.  Over time these hurts can consolidate into something physical from the emotional.  For some, daily frustrations will become fibroids, in others they could cause migraines and still others IBS – and the list can go on and on.  In all of these cases, herbs and acupuncture can be very helpful to bring the body back to health, but they will do little for the long term unless a more supportive lifestyle can be adopted, which includes listening to our anger to see what it has to say.
 I know this is an entry about fibroid which may seem like a only “medical” issue, but as a woman of color writing this, it is so much more.  The fact that 8 out of 10 of my sisters suffer with this issue is so upsetting.  There conceivably could be many causes, but the elephant in the room is racism, and all of the many ways that it impacts black women everyday, regardless of age, socioeconomic status, job title or neighborhood.  How can people be healthy if they are blocked from living a full life?  Why wouldn’t daily micro-aggressions and frustrations result in physical illness?
 So this blog post starts with women’s health and ends with a plea to connect and support each other. I want to say to my black sisters that it is vitally important to take care of your heart and body.  Please listen to your feelings and get support if you need it if you are dealing with situations that make you angry or frustrated and stuck.  All women, whether you deal with fibroids or not, remember that we all deserve safe space to live the life we were put on this earth to live.  Being able to follow the sacred path that you were sent here to follow is an essential part of health – and any society which prevents that will cause great harm to it’s people and to itself.  You owe it to yourself to fight for that right.
 The longer I practice the more I see that we are all connected, and that truly no one in our society is healthy until we make space for everyone to thrive.