Black History Month: The Period pain issue. (Fibroids and more)

Emilie's picture

Today’s blog is all about heavy and painful periods. Data clearly shows that Black women are often dismissed when they complain about excessive bleeding or pain. However, both complaints can not only be debilitating, they may also be a sign of something more serious like, fibroids, endometriosis or adenomyosis.

If you haven’t already read it, here is the rest of the Black history month series:
#1 B.H.M: The infertility issue

#3 B.H.M: The PCOS issue

#4 B.H.M: The supplement issue



This is arguably the biggest gynecological issue that affects Black women. In fact, according to this study, between 80-90% of Black women will develop fibroids by the age 50! (How about teaching that in high-school health class)

What are fibroids?:

A fibroid, also known as a uterine myoma, is a non-cancerous growth in the uterine wall. You can have one alone, or multiple fibroids. Fibroids can be as small as a grain of sand or can grow to the size of a melon. Symptoms associated with fibroids are often related to their location rather than their size, although growth is related to an increase in symptoms in many cases too.


What are the symptoms?:   
Common symptoms associated with Fibroids are, heavy and/or painful menstruations, pelvic pain and anemia (usually due to excessive bleeding).

Other symptoms include: frequent urination, painful intercourse, a feeling of fullness in the lower abdomen.


You are more likely to have fibroids if:

1. If you are an African-American/Canadian woman

2. Someone in your family has them (You are 3 times more likely to have them if your mother also had or has fibroids)

3. If you are deficient in Vitamin D (which is more prevalent in African Americans/Canadians)

4. If your first period began earlier than age 12

5. If you are overweight or if you have a diet high in red meat and estrogenic foods (like soy).

6. If you chemically straighten or relax your hair regularly. (Relaxer often contain phthalates, which are known hormone disruptors)


What can you do?
An anti-inflammatory diet low in estrogenic foods can be helpful for slowing the growth and recurrence of fibroids. Try to limit your soy intake to less than 1 serving a week and avoid storing warm food or heat foods in plastic containers.  Try adopting a diet with more green leafy vegetables, berries (and other antioxidant rich fruit), healthy oils and wild caught fish; this may not always prevent fibroids from occurring, but it can however, slow the growth and development of the fibroids. (Here’s the Acubalance Wellness Fertility diet which is based on a low glycemic, anti-inflammatory diet)


Omega 3 fish oil with a high EPA ratio. 2000 mg/day

Vit D 3: 2000-4000 iu/day
Click here for more details on important supplements for women of African heritage.

Treatment, aside from pain killers:

Acupuncture and Chinese medicine can be very helpful for menstrual cramping and fibroids. Here is a study and more information on how acupuncture can help.


-Stay warm! Sorry if I sound like your mother here.  Cold has a tendency to constrict and can worsen menstrual cramping, so put on those cozy socks, cover up your mid-drift and bring on the hot tea.

-Consider using hairtreatments or styles that are phthalate free. I hope that with time and an increased demand, more companies will offer phthalate free products. 


Endometriosis and Adenomyosis:

Not all menstrual pain is due to fibroids. It should be noted that historically, African-American women’s complaints of menstrual or pelvic pain were often dismissed as PID (pelvic inflammatory disease) caused by bacteria due to sexually transmitted diseases like gonorrhea and chlamydia travelling through the cervix to the uterus; data was thus skewed, and it was thought that Endometriosis and Adenomyosis were diseases of Caucasian women. This is in fact not true. To prevent this blog from turning into a textbook, here is some information on understanding endometriosis, as well as lifestyle and treatments to help for those who have, or think they may have Endometriosis.



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