After an emotional year like 2020, many of us are looking forward to making merry during the holiday season. Although we may not be able to gather in traditional ways, we nonetheless have the option to fill our homes with delicious and comforting holiday feasts and treats.
However, if you suffer from uterine fibroids, you may want to avoid going overboard on your usual holiday indulgences. Unfortunately, the reality is that some types of foods and drinks can impact fibroid growth and contribute to painful, uncomfortable, and inconvenient symptoms.
Below, we’ve gathered recommendations from fibroid experts on which foods and drinks are best to avoid or limit during the holidays. With a little planning and some creativity, there’s no doubt that you’ll still find plenty of ways to celebrate the end of this challenging year.
What Are Uterine Fibroids?
Uterine fibroids are non-cancerous growths that commonly develop in or on the uterus, often during the fertile years. By age 50, an estimated 70 to 80 percent of women are affected. You may be at increased risk for fibroids if you are:
- Overweight or obese
- Affected by high blood pressure
- Deficient in certain nutrients
Although some fibroids do not cause any issues at all, others can lead to a range of undesirable symptoms. These include:
- Heavy and prolonged menstruation between or during your periods
- Anemia, which can lead to fatigue
- Pain during intercourse
- Frequent urination
- Constipation and/or bloating
- Pain in your pelvis or lower back
- Increased menstrual cramping
- Stomach swelling
When fibroid symptoms affect areas of your life like your career and your self-esteem, it is generally advised to seek treatment. The good news is that both surgical and non-surgical treatment methods are available.
Food and Drinks to Avoid During the Holidays
To help keep your spirits bright this season, here are foods and drinks to avoid if you have uterine fibroids:
Red, High-Fat, and Processed Meats
If your mouth waters at the thought of prime rib at the center of your holiday table, we are sorry to be the bearers of bad news. Unfortunately, eating red, high-fat, or processed meats can raise your risks of developing fibroids. These foods can also cause your current fibroids to grow larger and ultimately wreak havoc on your symptoms. If you have fibroids, we suggest opting for roast turkey breast or another lean, minimally-processed protein on the big day.
Along with putting your salt shaker away, you’ll want to be on the lookout for other sources of sodium. For example, ham tends to be packed with it and should be avoided when possible. Many other traditional holiday dishes involve a sprinkle here or a dash there, which can really add up. Daily nutrient guidelines suggest keeping your sodium intake to less than 2,300mg per day. This is only about one teaspoon of salt!
Although we all love holiday pies, cakes, and cookies, you should be aware that added sugar (in all forms) is another key item to avoid if you have fibroids. Sugary foods and other simple carbohydrates can spike blood sugar levels, cause inflammation, and result in weight gain. Although being overweight or obese is dangerous for many health reasons, it is also a contributor to fibroid growth. Keep in mind that baked goods are not the only place where you’ll run into added sugars. Read your labels for hidden sources. If you’re craving something sweet, consider making a colorful fruit salad.
If you opt to drink alcohol this holiday season, try to do so in moderation. Excess alcohol intake can impact hormones, lead to inflammation, and reduce your body’s natural immune response. Plus, traditional holiday cocktails like eggnog, mulled wine, and hot buttered rum are packed with sugar and calories. If you’re considering a mocktail instead, you’ll want to avoid soda and fruit-like beverages. Do you think you’re safe with a rich cup of joe? Possibly, but ask your doctor about appropriate daily caffeine limits. For a satisfying green-light beverage, reach for sparkling water with frozen fruit slices, served in a wine glass.
For the sake of convenience, many of us use non-perishable items to recreate some of our favorite holiday dishes –- but this may not be what’s best for fibroids. Whether it’s packaged stuffing, canned corn, or boxed mashed potatoes, take care to check your labels for sodium content, added sugars, and other unhealthy and unwelcome ingredients. Look for reduced sodium or no sugar added alternatives. Better yet, explore ways to prepare your holiday feast from scratch. Generally speaking, the closer the food is to its natural form, the better it is for your fibroid health.
Let’s be honest –– there really can be too much of a good thing! Even if you’re making healthy food and drink choices during the holidays, overeating is common and easy to do when there are so many delicious foods around. If you have fibroids, eating too much can worsen symptoms like abdominal bloating or digestive issues. Of course, all those excess calories can also cause you to gain weight, which puts you at higher risk for developing additional fibroids. Before piling up your plate or helping yourself to seconds, consider measured portions and smaller meals throughout the day instead.
Healthy Behaviors for Fibroid Health
Along with avoiding the above food and drinks, here are several other tips that may help you better manage your fibroids during the holidays. We recommend that you:
- Eat five or more servings of fruits and vegetables each day
- Aim for at least an hour of daily physical activity
- Get eight hours of sleep every night
- Manage your blood pressure
- Don’t smoke
- Maintain a healthy Body Mass Index (BMI)
Whichever foods and drinks you ultimately decide to prepare, we wish you all a healthy and happy holiday season!