01.06.2013 Naturopathy

Hormonal Health

While uterine polyps are rarely cancerous, they can cause problems. Naturopath Lyn Craven discusses treatment options

"Polyp" is a general descriptive term for any mass of tissue that projects outward or away from the surface of surrounding tissues. A polyp is grossly visible as a spheroidal or cylindric structure that may be either pedunculated (attached by a slender stalk) or sessile (relatively broad-based). A polyp is not a type of fibroid.

The uterus is mostly composed of muscle with the inside lining made of "fluffy" endometrial tissue that grows and shrinks during the menstrual cycle. When no conception occurs, this lining sheds, causing a menstrual period. After the period, the lining grows rapidly under the influence of hormones especially oestrogen.

Polyps are areas that grow a little too much during this phase and they can fan out and remain attached to a small stalk. The ball-like protrusions are on the end this slim stalk. Imagine the stalk like the trunk of a tree with the larger part of the polyp the branches. They are normally the size of a pencil eraser but can reach the size of an olive. Rarely do they grow as large as most fibroids which can be the size of an orange or even larger. They are fleshy growths on the internal surface of the uterus (endometrium) or cervix.

Polyps may be single or multiple from 1-2mm in diameter to masses that fill or distend from the uterine cavity. Most polyps arise in the fundal region (upper part of uterus) and extend downward. Sometimes an endometrial polyp can project via the external cervical opening and extend to the vaginal opening.

Most polyps are small and rarely cause symptoms. If symptoms do occur, they include:

Excessive bleeding during a menstrual periodBleeding in between periodsSpotting after intercourseAlternatively, brown blood after a normal menstrual period.

Polyps cause these symptoms by dangling from their stalks and irritating surrounding tissue or causing tissue to rub off and expose tiny blood vessels. These blood vessels bleed, creating the spotting and vaginal bleeding. If a polyp interferes with egg and sperm, it can prevent conception. Most gynaecologists will remove polyps, if they are present in women with a history of miscarriage since some polyps may contribute to miscarriage.

Medical Examiation and Treatment:
If you experience spotting between periods or after intercourse, or very heavy bleeding during a menstrual period, the doctor will consider polyps as one of the many possible causes. Diagnosing endometrial polyps involves looking inside the uterine cavity. A regular ultrasound usually does not diagnose polyps due to the pressure inside the uterus flattening the polyps, making them difficult to see. A special ultrasound, known as a son hysterogram (water ultrasound), is used, which gives a clearer picture of any polyps that may be hanging in the uterine cavity.
Otherwise, a hysterosalpingogram (HSG) test is available, which uses dye under pressure to open the uterus and tubes. An x-ray is taken to see if any polyps are in the uterus. Some gynaecologists have become more skilled at using the hysteroscope to look inside the uterus. This is a small, lighted tube that goes into the vagina then the uterus, to look around inside the uterus. Hysteroscopy using small tubes can be performed in the clinic.

Polyps rarely turn cancerous. The risk increases slightly as a woman ages past 50.
Previously, a dilatation and curettage (D&C) was the standard practice for removing polyps. This involves a gentle scraping of the uterine lining. Since the polyp dangles like a little stalk it is often pushed out of the way during the procedure as the scraping instrument passes it and does not grab it. This method has not been that successful unlike hysteroscopes, which enable the doctor to see the polyp and grasp hold of it to cut it away.

After a polyp has been removed, the woman can return to work in a few days. There could be a little spotting for a few days. Only a small percent of polyps come back and months or years after treatment a polyp might recur.

Natural Therapies
Interestingly, I have had a couple of women present to me in the past with uterine polyps and in both cases the polyps were resolved completely with herbal remedies and improving their nutritional and mineral profile. The relevant tests were carried out before and after treatment.

The first woman was terrified of having any surgery and wanted to try natural remedies. She requested four weeks 'waiting' period before consulting the doctor again with regard to removal. It was during this timeframe that herbal remedies were used and it was remarkable to see from a test after the four week period that the polyps had completely gone! The woman was diligent with her remedies taking them three times a day together with an improved diet offering specific nutrition with supporting supplements that were imperative to obtain some positive results.

Obviously, like everything in life, what works for one may not for another. It all depends on how long the woman has had the polyps and underlying hormonal imbalance. Each case presents with its own unique imbalances and therefore individual programs are required.
Homeopathic remedies have also been used quite successfully in resolving polyps.

If the problem is due to hormonal imbalance in the first instance, then remedies are given to help balance the hormones. With holistic therapies we always look to heal the root of the tree not the branch, as branches will always grow back!

What is referred to as 'Stagnant Qi' in Chinese medicine is also relevant here. Herbs are prescribed to free up Qi energy and restore natural blood flow to all the organs, balancing hormones and establishing a healthy uterus and reproductive cycle.

Another point worth noting is that if your mineral profile is out of balance then the endocrine system (glandular/hormonal functions), will not function properly, so no amount of hormones, whether natural or pharmaceutical, will resolve the source of the issue.

Please Note:
A higher incidence of endometrial polyps has been noted in women taking Tamoxifen therapy for breast cancer.

Synthetic or chemical-derived hormonal medications, such as the contraceptive pill or HRT, may contribute to polyps manifesting, since doctors do not appear to know the real cause of why they develop. Anything that interferes with a woman's normal cycle or function of her hormonal system is bound to have some negative impact here.

This would be a situation where you are recommended to seek professional medical and naturopathic health rather than self prescribe.
Sydney-based Lyn Craven is a practitioner of naturopathy, nutrition, medical herbalism, Bowen therapy, Reiki energy healing and meditation, and is a corporate health presenter/consultant with 19 years' experience in natural therapies. Lyn has recently created a Meditation CD for anxiety, stress and self healing.

Lyn Craven

Lyn Craven is a practitioner of Naturopathy, Bowen Therapy, Energy/Reiki therapist, meditation teacher and Corporate Health Consultant. She is also a health researcher/writer and has produced a meditation CD assisting people to manage anxiety and stress. She runs a private practice in Sydney and can be contacted on +61403 231 804