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Ovarian Cysts

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Many women develop ovarian cysts. These fluid-filled sacs can be as unassuming as a pea or as large as a grapefruit. Most of the time, these cysts remain harmless, create no discomfort and even go unnoticed.

Many women develop ovarian cysts. These fluid-filled sacs can be as unassuming as a pea or as large as a grapefruit.

Most of the time, these cysts remain harmless, create no discomfort and even go unnoticed. Occasionally, a functional cyst or benign cystic tumour - the least problematic of all cyst types - may swell large enough to cause pain during intercourse or pressure on the bladder.

In some cases, a cyst can rupture, resulting in acute pain, and although rare, larger cysts can strangulate (stopping blood supply), and cause nausea, fever, and severe abdominal pain. While most cysts are benign, approximately 15 per 100,000 become malignant.

Ovarian cysts are usually discovered during routine pelvic examinations. A follow-up ultrasound will determine the type, size, and location of the cyst. Unless it looks suspicious, it is standard to wait a few months to see if the cyst shrinks on its own.

If this does not happen, a doctor may suggest surgery to remove the cyst or a blood test to assess for ovarian cancer. Premenstrual girls and post-menopausal women with ovarian cysts are considered to be at the greatest risk of developing ovarian cancer. In cases of cancer, surgery and follow-up treatments are necessary.

While conventional treatments may help relieve the symptoms of ovarian cysts, the underlying problems must be addressed.

What Causes Ovarian Cysts?

Some research highlights that women with ovarian cysts frequently suffer from hypothyroidism, while traditional Chinese medicine cites liver congestion as a cause of cysts, particularly endometriomas.

Environmental influences such as pesticides, herbicides and manufacturing by-products can cause hormonal imbalances, namely estrogen dominance, leading to an increased risk of endometriosis, breast cancer, miscarriage, infertility, fibroids, and ovarian problems. Cigarette smoking has also been shown to cause functional ovarian cysts.

Complementary medicine has long maintained that cysts are a result of the body trying to rid itself of toxins. Given this, we can choose to lessen the toxic load on our body by making healthy lifestyle choices.

Treatment and Prevention

Dietary and lifestyle factors along with basic natural treatments can help prevent hormonal imbalances that lead to ovarian cysts.

  • Buy organic fruits and vegetables, and hormone-free meats, eggs, and dairy products. Try to minimize your dairy intake.
  • Eliminate sugar and decrease the amount of refined carbohydrates in your diet.
  • Use ground flaxseed or take a combined omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids supplement.
  • Consider undertaking a basic cleansing program once or twice a year.
  • Increase the intake of iodine-rich food such as seaweed and other natural thyroid herbal formulas to protect your thyroid gland.
  • Antioxidants such as vitamin E (800 IU daily), vitamin C (2,000 mg daily), beta carotene (50,000 IU daily) and selenium (200 mcg daily) may encourage small cysts to disappear faster.
  • Castor oil packs placed over your lower abdomen may shrink cysts smaller than five centimetres and relieve pain. To make the pack, soak a cotton flannel four layers thick in castor oil and place it directly on the skin over the lower abdomen. Cover with a plastic bag and then place a hot water bottle or heating pad on the area and keep it there for one hour once or twice a day. Once the symptoms have improved, reduce the pack use to once per week until the cysts disappear.
  • Take a botanical liver support remedy such as a dandelion and milk thistle formula. Drink fresh lemon squeezed into a glass of water in the morning to prevent liver congestion and maintain hormonal balance.
  • Eat cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower, and consider supplementing with indole-3-carbinol for symptoms of estrogen dominance.

Types of Ovarian Cysts

Functional cysts - These are non-malignant and very common, and usually only occur during ovulation, disappearing again during menstruation. A study published in Obstetrics and Gynecology in 1994 found that women who take oral contraceptives have an increased risk of developing functional ovarian cysts. A study published in the same journal in 2003 found women who had a tubal ligation were also at greater risk.

Endometriomas - These are solid or blood-filled cysts that develop in women who have endometriosis.

Benign cystic tumours (cystadenomas) - Developing from the cells on the outer surface of the ovaries, these cysts are filled with fatty fluid.

Dermoid cysts - A rare form of cystadenoma, these cysts are lined with structures such as hair or pieces of bone.

Multiple cysts - These are usually caused by a disorder called polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).

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