Natural Alternatives to Hysterectomy
Alexander Mostovoy, H.D., D.H.M.S.,BCCT
Uterine fibroids are one of the most common reasons for performing hysterectomies. Fibroids are benign muscular growths or thickenings of the uterine muscle wall. Forty percent of women will develop fibroids by the age of 40. Some patients are told that a small number of uterine fibroids can become malignant. The actual rate of malignancy is actually less than one in one thousand. In some cases, fibroids become enlarged and may cause severe hemorrhage. In some circumstances a hysterectomy may be well indicated, including women that have invasive cancer, uncontrollable hemorrhage leading to anemia and possible shock or intense pain with chronic pelvic inflammation and severe endometriosis. There are always exceptions of course; however these numbers will not come close to the 600,000 hysterectomies being performed each year. Despite repeated warnings against unnecessary hysterectomies and despite medical advances that now enable some patients to avoid the surgical removal of their uteruses, the operation is still being performed at a rate that alarms some women's groups and perplexes many of us.
I'd like to illustrate what is possible with the story of Mrs. K:
A 49-year-old pre-menopausal woman came to consult with me recently, complaining of heavy menstrual flow and painful periods. She had been scheduled for a total hysterectomy and removal of her ovaries because of a large uterine fibroid. Mrs. K decided to postpone her surgery hoping to consult with me and discuss alternatives.
During our first meeting, we discussed her diet, exercise program and useful stress management techniques. I also put her on a program of homeopathic and herbal remedies. First, I suggested that she reduce meat and dairy products in her diet and avoid coffee and alcohol. She was also advised to supplement with essential fatty acids, acidophilus and bioflavonoids which act as weak natural estrogens and have the ability to block stronger estrogens. I also suggested that she take Aurum Muriaticum Natronatum, a homeopathic medication that is often very helpful in these conditions. The herbal remedy Agnus Castus was prescribed to help with the natural production of her own progesterone, which would in turn counterbalance, her own estrogens and decrease menstrual bleeding. Other homeopathic medications prescribed were Belladonna, Magnesium Phosphate and Pulsatilla to be used for menstrual cramping as needed.
Mrs. K. returned in three months and told me that she had cancelled her surgery. She had more energy, her menstrual cramps where almost gone, and she had two normal cycles since her last visit. She had started regularly playing tennis, something she used to do when she was younger. She felt confident that she would not require hysterectomy.
Without a doubt, not every case will be so easily resolved, a lot can be said about patient's compliance and Mrs. K. was very good at that. However, her story reveals that a patient who becomes proactive in her health management is much more likely to avoid surgery.
I feel that in the process of trying to help women with their complaints some healthcare providers are not very sensitive in truly understanding that reproductive organs mean a great deal more to women than just reproduction. I have been told numerous times by women that their essence of being a woman is being shattered by the mere suggestion of hysterectomy. It is not uncommon to hear stories of women being told that given their age they will not require their reproductive organs anymore. In my view, a hysterectomy performed for the removal of a benign uterine fibroid or an ovarian cyst is archaic.
There are less invasive medical options such as myomectomy that may be helpful in severe cases. This procedure removes only the fibroid and leaves the uterus intact. Other options may include laser surgery and embolization which involves blocking the artery feeding the fibroid thus causing the fibroid to shrink. According to Dr. A. Pettle, MD, a well renowned expert on women's health and natural hormones "although these procedures still present the risks of surgery, they are less dangerous than a complete hysterectomy".
Before choosing hysterectomy you should carefully explore hysterectomy alternatives that may be available to you so that you make an informed decision about what is best for you. Many times, conditions for which your healthcare provider suggests hysterectomy are successfully treated with alternatives to hysterectomy that include less invasive surgeries, pharmacological treatments, and observation.