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Alternatives to hysterectomy

MagazineMay 1996 (Vol. 7 Issue 2)Alternatives to hysterectomy

Remember: The only true indications for a hysterectomy are: uncontrolled bleeding, particularly during a cesarean, and endometrial or invasive cancer

Remember: The only true indications for a hysterectomy are: uncontrolled bleeding, particularly during a cesarean, and endometrial or invasive cancer. Many of the conditions which are currently "treated" with hysterectomy can be helped and even c

For all abnormal gynecological conditions polycystic ovaries, too much bleeding, acyclic bleeding, heavy bleeding, endometriosis and fibroids, first. . .

Get your all your female hormone levels checked. This includes estrogen, progesterone, luteinizing hormone, etc, which can be checked by a simple blood test.

Consult a herbalist as the least invasive form of therapy. Agnus castus is a non hormonal herb which acts upon the pituitary gland to regulate female hormone levels naturally. In Alternative columnist Harald Gaier's experience, it has a high success rate in regulating all the above conditions, and there is evidence that it has reduced fibroids.

If you have fibroids, you might also. . .

Watch and wait. Fibroids are estrogen dependent and can stop growing, shrink or disappear altogether after menopause. They can also degenerate when the tumour outgrows its blood supply. Deprived of oxygen, the centre of the fibroid registers this lack of oxygen as pain, in the same way a frost bitten toe does. The pain can be quite severe but is not life threatening. The fibroid may shrink or disappear altogether and over the course of a week the pain should disappear as well.

Watch your diet. Limit your intake of foods which stimulate estrogen production these include dairy products, red meat, chicken and refined sugar. Stay on a low fat, high fibre plan. Dietary supplements of methionine, chorine and inositol (1000mg each per day) and magnesium (up to 800mg per day) and a good B-complex supplement can help to alleviate symptoms.

Rule out cadmium poisoning. Cadmium is found in enameled pans, in cigarette smoke and in heavily

polluted environments and can cause enlarged ovarian and uterine tumours. Hair and mineral analysis can provide your cadmium profile. If levels are high, draining the cadmium homeopathically can reverse tissue growth.

Try other herbs or homeopathy. See our Alternatives column, WDDTY vol 6 no 4 for other suggestions.

If you get no relief, consider surgery for the fibroids alone. This doesn't include cases where the fibroids aren't causing any symptoms; they'll shrink anyway after menopause (Ob Gyn, 1992, 79:481-4). The least invasive surgery is myomectomy the removal of the fibroid leaving the uterus intact though there is a widespread ignorance of this technique, which takes much longer than and requires more surgical finesse than a hysterectomy. If you are pre menopausal, be aware that in around 30 per cent of cases they may grow back.

For general pelvic pain. . .

Is it IBS? Hysterectomy fails to relieve chronic pelvic pain in nearly 22 per cent of cases (Ob Gyn, 1990, 75:676-9). Occasionally, when women complain of abdominal pain, they are not given a proper examination or full medical history. What are believed to be menstrual problems are no such thing. One study revealed that undiagnosed IBS symptoms, which would normally worsen during menstruation, predispose women to unnecessary hysterectomies, with no relief of symptoms (Ob Gyn Survey, 1994; 49: 505-7). The most effective relief for pelvic pain appears to come from a multi dimensional approach involving, among other things, exercise, dietary changes and psychological help (Ob Gyn, 1991; 988-92). Another possible cause is stress.

For heavy periods or endometriosis. . .

Be wary of synthetic hormones. Many women with menstrual complaints are initially put on birth control pills which can give some relief. Those with endometriosis are put temporarily on GnRH agonists such as Danazol, which induce menopause by blocking estrogen production. However these carry risks of a number of female cancers (see WDDTY vol 5 no 10 and vol 5 no 8).

Phytoestrogens are safer. Vegetables which contain high levels of plant estrogen (phytoestrogens), such as rhubarb, alfalfa, ginseng, fennel and celery can help to regulate hormone levels with none of the same health risks associated with other estrogens (J Alt Comp Med, 1993, 11:13-6).

If all else fails, consider less drastic surgery but only with a highly experienced surgeon. In skilled hands, endometrial ablation where the endometrium is burned off with a laser can bring relief. Unfortunately this carries its own risks, including a 1 per cent incidence of perforation of the uterus, and further complications, such as infections causing ovarian and fallopian abscesses, lung or brain swelling (Br Jr Ob Gyn, 1994;101:470-3). Around 10 per cent of women do not get relief from their symptoms, and the procedure can negatively effect future fertility (Br J Ob Gyn, 1994; 101: 470-3).

To help avoid future cancers. . .

Eliminate dairy products. Ovarian cancer is known to be highest in those countries where dairy food consumption is the highest (Sweden, Denmark, Switzerland) and lowest in those countries with low dairy intake (Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore) (Am Jr Ep, 1990; 132:871-6). Galactose a sugar produced during the digestion of dairy products, has been associated with ovarian cancer. Cottage cheese and yoghurt appear to be the worst culprits because the dairy sugars are "pre digested" into galactose as the end product. Women over 35 are especially at risk as this is the age at which gonadatrophin levels rise.

Cut down or cut out animal fat. Ovarian cancer patients consume 7 per cent more animal fat in the form of butter, whole milk and red meat than do healthy controls as well as eating more yoghurt, cottage cheese and ice cream. The higher the socio economic status and the richer the diet, the higher the rate of ovarian cancer (Lancet, 1989; 2: 66-71; Ob Gyn, 1984; 63; 6: 833-8).


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