Many women are looking for natural ways to eliminate ovarian cysts. Most can find relief in nutrition and holistic approaches.

A woman’s ovaries are responsible for producing the sex hormones estrogen and progesterone. Ovarian cysts occur when fluid-filled sacs form in or on the surface of an ovary. The primary types of cysts are functional and abnormal.

Functional cysts are related to variations during normal ovulation and usually develop in reproductive-aged women (puberty to menopause). A pelvic ultrasound exam is frequently helpful in diagnosis. Treatment mostly depends on the size and type of cyst and the severity of symptoms. They rarely last more than two to three menstrual cycles and are often imperceptible, resolving spontaneously. Most cause no symptoms. If symptoms occur, they may include fullness or heaviness in the abdomen, menstrual irregularities, dull pelvic pain during intercourse or around menstruation, nausea and vomiting and changes in bladder or bowel function.

The less common abnormal cysts are associated with abnormal cell growth and tend to cause symptoms related to hormonal imbalances. These cysts are generally larger and warrant further investigation.

We don’t know of a single, definitive cause for ovarian cysts. However, theories include hormonal imbalance, inadequate nutrition, inherited susceptibility, smoking and emotional stress.

Feed the Body, Starve a Cyst

Cultural and clinical studies have consistently linked poor diets to deficiencies and toxicities known to contribute to illness. A plant-based diet high in whole foods that are minimally processed, with a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables, can positively impact hormone balance and possibly prevent cyst formation. Eat vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, whole grains and fruits that are free of pesticides, preservatives and additives. Meat and poultry should be minimized or eliminated; however, antibiotic and hormone-free fish may be included once or twice weekly. The best sources include salmon, mackerel, herring and tuna. Consuming protein, carbohydrates and fats at the same time can further improve nutrient absorption and maintain stable blood sugar levels.

Particular attention should be made to increase dietary phytoestrogens (plant compounds). Isoflavones, coumestans and lignans are three of the most important sub-groups of phytoestrogens. These compounds undergo metabolic conversions in the gut that can favorably alter the body’s hormonal activity. High amounts of bio-available isoflavones can be found in soybean products like miso, tempeh and natto. Other sources are chickpeas, lentils, grams and kidney beans.

Rich sources of coumestans include alfalfa sprouts, mung bean sprouts and clover, clover seeds, sprouts and leaves. Flax seed, rye, buckwheat, millet, oats, barley, corn, rice and wheat berries are an abundant source of lignans in food.

Dairy, dairy products, sugar and refined carbohydrates (including rice cakes, dried fruits and carrot juice) are notorious for increasing symptoms of hormonal imbalance such as pain and inflammation. Other substances best to minimize or avoid include caffeinated drinks, high-phosphorus- containing beverages and alcohol.

Saturated fatty acids (from animal fats) and trans-fatty acids (found in partially-hydrogenated vegetable oils, margarine, cakes, cookies, candies and some breads) can also disrupt the menstrual cycle. However, the health benefits of essential fatty acids cannot be underestimated. In particular, as little as six grams a day of the omega-3 oil found in flax seed and cold-water fish has been researched to promote healthy menstrual cycles, support normal ovulation and improve ovarian health.

Supplementary Remedies

Castor oil packs applied three to five times a week may promote hormonal balance by improving lymphatic flow, increasing circulation and reducing inflammation and toxins. The packs are generally available at most health food stores with instructions for use.

The Turska Formula is a prescribed tincture containing a concentrated combination of the herbs pokeroot, monkshood, yellow jasmine and bryony. The formula is observed to help prevent rupture of the cyst and assist its reabsorption. Some naturopathic physicians also recommend chaste tree berry as tincture (50 to 60 drops) to help shrink small cysts.

Natural progesterone supplementation can help regulate periods and reduce hormonal symptoms by balancing the effects of excess estrogen in the body. Additionally, natural progesterone applied topically in the amount of 20 to 30 mg (one quarter to one half teaspoon twice daily) before ovulation has been clinically used to decrease ovarian stimulation and dissolve ovarian cysts.

Ovarian cysts have been observed to respond rapidly to the right homeopathic medicine. Classical homeopathy has a long tradition of use for employing single remedies (constitutional care) to improve mental, emotional, and physical imbalances. Combination remedies may also offer symptomatic relief from cystic activity; ones to consider include Lachesis, Apis, Lodum and Colocynthis.

Smoking cessation and physical activity is vital in ensuring ovarian health. Thirty minutes of daily exercise, such as brisk walking, has been shown to promote circulation, support detoxification, improve lymph flow and reduce stress-induced tension and anxiety.

Cyst-ematic Absorption

Digestive enzymes are highly recommended to maximize digestion, absorption and assimilation of protein, carbohydrates and fats. Supplement with the full variety that includes pancreatin, bromelain, papain, amylase, cellulase, diastase and lipase.

The liver is responsible for processing hormones and toxins and is integral to health. Key nutrients to strengthen and detoxify the liver include B-complex vitamins (25 to 50 milligrams [mg] of each), vitamin B6 (50 to 200 mg), choline, inositol, methionine, beet leaf, Oregon grape, dandelion, milk thistle, vitamin E (400 to 800 international units [IU]), bioflavonoids (500 micrograms [meg]), beta-carotene (25,000 meg) and vitamin C (one to five grams).

Vitamins and minerals are best taken in divided amounts with food or shortly after eating.

About the Author

Tasnim Adatya is a licensed primary health care practitioner in Oregon.