It’s a fairly common question: Can fibroids make you gain weight? Since uterine fibroids affect between 20 to 80 percent of women by the time they reach their 50s, one would think this topic would be more often talked about. But we’re going to talk about the odd relationship between fibroids and weight gain, when these growths can be so large that they affect weight and, lastly, whether weight and diet can help prevent or manage them.
Facts About Fibroids
First off, let’s start with a quick refresher on what uterine fibroids are and how they affect the daily lives of many women. They are muscular tumors growing in the wall of the uterus that are usually benign.
They are typically more common in women in their 30s or older. They are also more common among African American women. Fibroids can happen alongside or be confused for endometriosis. Also, fibroids frequently cause anemia for women who experience heavy bleeding as a side effect, as well as general lethargy. Lastly, there is less-than 1 out of 1,000 chance of a fibroid being leiomyosarcoma, or cancerous. (Having fibroids does not increase your chances of having leiomyosarcoma.)
Common Symptoms of Uterine Fibroids:
• Heavy periods
• Menstrual periods that last more than a week
• Painful or excessive cramping
• Lower back pain
• Leg pain
• Difficulty emptying the bladder
• Frequent urination
As one can see from our list of fibroids symptoms, weight gain is not typically listed among them; however, this symptom can happen as a result of fibroids.
Do fibroids cause weight gain?
Often, they can. Fibroids cause weight gain in the abdomen when the fibroids themselves grow large in size. Very large uterine fibroids can weigh several pounds or even push on other organs. Often, women experience more than one fibroid. In severe cases, a woman may even appear pregnant because of the excess weight in the area. Many women may experience more than one type of fibroid. Sudden changes in hormones like estrogen can lead to this sudden growth.
A large fibroid cluster can measure to more than eight inches in diameter or larger, which is about the size of a small watermelon. Fibroids of this size can directly impact a woman’s weight. Beyond about four inches in diameter, or the size of a grapefruit, a doctor needs to be consulted, as this can impact other organs such as the bladder and the lungs. There is also an increased risk of blood clots or ruptures. Of course, in extreme circumstances they have been known to grow even larger. In one very extreme case in Singapore, one woman had a 61-pound fibroid removed.
Women should definitely contact their doctor if they are experiencing a bulge that resembles but isn’t pregnancy. Generally feeling or appearing bloated can be accompanied by extra weight.
Many women experience fibroids that are less than a pound altogether. A fibroid may not be the only explanation of weight gain. It depends on where it’s located, how many of them are and how they are progressing.
Types of Uterine Fibroid
- Subserosal: The fibroid grows outside of the uterus and can, when large, push on nearby organs.
- Submucsal: The fibroid grows just underneath the uterine lining.
- Intramural: The fibroid grows inside of the wall of the uterus. This type is the most common.
- Pedunculated: This type of fibroid grows on stalks that are connected to the inside or outside of the uterus.
Can you lose weight while you have fibroids?
Yes, uterine fibroid patients are encouraged to lose weight, but it can be somewhat difficult for a few reasons. For some women, simply having fibroids may lead to more weight just as a symptom of a growth getting larger. But more commonly it also can impact weight in secondary ways, like as a result of overeating.
Overeating happens when a patient feels anemic as a result of the heavy bleeding; they’re trying to make up for what feels like a loss of calories. Women also may feel like reducing their normal exercise, as the iron deficiency can make women feel frighteningly lightheaded, which can make exercise a far more worrisome experience. All of this complicates the question of, “Do fibroids make you gain weight?” Women can gain weight because they’re trying to manage their other symptoms. But it is definitely possible, if not encouraged, to lose weight while having fibroids!
Does losing weight help prevent fibroids?
It’s commonly recommended to fibroid patients to try to lose weight because it can help to prevent further fibroid growth. Fat cells make more estrogen, and sudden changes in hormones can lead to fibroid growth. Having a healthy weight, good diet and regular exercise routine can help prevent them. In addition, avoiding chemicals that can affect hormones, such as pesticides and paints, can help.
While fibroids and weight loss might not seem to go hand in hand, it is possible and helpful to reduce one’s weight.
These are some basic tips for dealing with this combo:
- Be aware of the iron deficiency and use vitamins or diet to correct it.
- Eat brightly colored fruits and vegetables.
- Eat foods high in fiber, such as cruciferous vegetables or oats.
- Get enough vitamin D, which can lower your risk of uterine fibroids by 32 percent.
- Avoid foods that affect estrogen, like soy, tofu and red meat.
- Avoid sugary foods and refined carbs.
When you have fibroids, weight gain is not an inevitability!
If your symptoms are affecting your daily life or if you’re observing a bulge in your lower abdomen, it’s best to check in with a doctor to check on the growth. Fibroids have symptoms in common with more serious diseases, so it’s best to keep a close and careful eye while attempting to lose weight.