Fibroids are more common in African-American women than in women of other racial groups. One study showed that fibroids are three times more common in African-American women than in Caucasian women. Additionally, fibroids tend to be larger and occur at an earlier age in African-Americans (The Philadelphia Black Women’s Health Project).
Instances of fibroids are of epidemic proportions among Black women and yet we are not hearing about this issue in our magazines, television shows or on our blogs. If left untreated or diagnosed too late fibroids can cause heavy and painful menstruation, painful sexual intercourse, urinary frequency, hinder pregnancy and may even lead to a hysterectomy. Black women develop fibroids earlier than their white counterparts and have more sever symptoms. While many feminist groups cry out for reproductive health this issue is ignored, could it be because it affects Black women at disproportionate rates? Like most of America the healthcare system is infected with racism, which means that conditions that affect the Black community are ignored and so like so many issues we have to take matters into our own hands.
What many Black women do not know is that fibroids can be caused by the food we eat and even the hair products we use! But by making healthier eating and product choices many sisters have been able to decrease the size and severity of their fibroids and many have seen them dissipate. The good news is dark leafy greens such as grandma’s collard greens have nutrients that can aid in easing fibroid and PMS symptoms. Other greens such as kale and mustard greens are great choices as well. Exercise and stress management are also key in easing the pain of fibroids and PMS. Many sisters are taking their health into their own hands by seeking out natural remedies, holistic health coaching and turning to spiritual practices to manage stress (which can further aggravate fibroids). This medical epidemic is a justice issue as well because lack of access to healthy foods in our communities, medical racism — where sisters with fibroids are given hysterectomies at higher rates than White women — and sexism in the health profession all collide to cause conditions that leave Black women more vulnerable to developing fibroids.
Here are some practical steps you can take to care for your health:
1. Find a gynecologist you can trust — don’t be shy about asking for a woman, an African-American or both. Find another doctor if you are not comfortable with your current one.
2. Make sure you have an annual visit to a GYN for a Pap Smear.
3. Try to limit processed foods (especially white sugar, flour and white bread).
4. Exercise at least three times a week.This can include dancing, walking or even stepping with your sorors!
5. Deal with stress, and do not suffer in silence. Journaling, meditation and counseling are all great ways to manage stress.
Remember Life is for Living & LOVE is a Choice!
Onleilove Alston, M.Div,MSW is a Community Organizer, Writer and Social Work living in Harlem. Her writing has been featured in Sojourners Magazine and Huffington Post, Your Black World among other online and print publications. She blogs about faithful justice, holistic health, thrifting and art at her personal blog: http://www.wholeness4all.wordpress.com. She tweets @Wholeness4ALL and Instagrams @WholeLUV8