Friday, 1 Jul 2022

Clara Amfo health: Strictly star was left ‘sobbing’ due to fibroids – condition explained

Billie Eilish opens up to Clara Amfo about internet trolls

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Having used her BBC radio shows to speak about hard-hitting and important issues such as race and mental health, Amfo has been praised for her recent openness concerning her surgery, which has led to her changing her diet, exercise routine and attitude towards her health. Speaking on yesterday’s Life Hacks show, Amfo said that she was first diagnosed during a routine health checkup, but regretfully didn’t receive treatment until months later.

The NHS explains that fibroids are non-cancerous growths that appear on, in or around the womb. They are made up of muscle and fibrous tissue and can vary in size.

Although non-cancerous, fibroids can cause severe symptoms, with one in three women experiencing the following:

  • Heavy periods or painful periods
  • Tummy (abdominal) pain
  • Lower back pain
  • A frequent need to urinate
  • Constipation
  • Bloating
  • Pain or discomfort during sex.

In some care cases, complications with fibroids can affect pregnancy and cause infertility. However, in most cases, fibroids do not cause symptoms and are only diagnosed by chance during a routine gynaecological examination, test or scan.

Speaking about her own experience with fibroids, Amfo said: “I developed anaemia because of my period pain, my periods were so heavy I was losing so much blood because of them [fibroids].

“They can make your womb engorge. There are just a plethora of problems that can come from having them and I still don’t feel from my research and speaking to people who have wombs that there is enough information out there about the condition.

“US and UK data shows that around one in three women have them and two out of three of these women are black women.”

Currently, the exact cause of fibroids is still unknown, but the NHS explains that the development of the condition has been linked to the hormone oestrogen – the hormone produced by the ovaries in the female reproductive system.

Oestrogen is one of the hormones (along with progesterone) that stimulates the development of the uterine lining during each menstrual cycle. But it is during this time, when the body prepares for pregnancy, that the growth of fibroids is promoted.

More evidence to suggest a link between fibroids and oestrogen, is that most women who develop the condition are in their reproductive years- when oestrogen levels are at their highest. Fibroids tend to shrink when oestrogen levels are low, such as after the menopause when a woman’s monthly periods stop.

Other causal factors could include:

  • Genetic changes – many fibroids contain changes in genes that differ from those in typical uterine muscle cells.
  • Substances that help the body maintain tissues, such as insulin-like growth factor, may affect fibroid growth.
  • Extracellular matrix (ECM). ECM is the material that makes cells stick together cement between bricks. ECM is increased in fibroids and makes them fibrous. ECM also stores growth factors and causes biologic changes in the cells themselves.

As previously mentioned, fibroids can vary in size, with some the size of a pea and the others a size of a melon. For Amfo, surgery removed six of her fibroids, but she still has two little ones remaining.

There are also slightly different types of fibroids, some of which can be attached to the womb with a narrow stalk of tissue. The three main types of fibroids include:

  1. Intramural fibroids – the most common type of fibroid, which develop in the muscle wall of the womb
  2. Subserosal fibroids – fibroids that develop outside the wall of the womb into the pelvis and can become very large
  3. Submucosal fibroids – fibroids that develop in the muscle layer beneath the womb’s inner lining and grow into the cavity of the womb.

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A post shared by Clara Amfo(@claraamfo)

Treatment for fibroids can either involve “active surveillance,” as for some individuals fibroids will shrink and disappear without treatment. But for others, medications, surgery or other, less invasive procedures may be recommended to help shrink the growths.

Although having experienced symptoms before treatment, Amfo went on to say that it was following her surgery, and “tough” recovery that she found tricky. She said that she could “barely bend over,” making the time after her operation extremely tricky.

“I couldn’t do anything. I remember waking up in the hospital. I just started sobbing immediately because I was so disoriented and in so much pain. The next day I needed a shower so I messaged my friend Mel, so everyday she was coming to my house to clean me.”

Going on to explain how her health ordeal has changed her outlook, both mentally and physically, the radio DJ went on to say: “I have had to literally change my diet. I love a slice of cake and have a massive sweet tooth, but I just can’t eat the stuff I used to eat anymore.

“I have had to cut out a lot of sugar from my diet, a lot of red meat, soy and dairy because they are essentially, fibroid feeders. I am still eating fun foods. It is just a different kind of fun.

“It has also changed my approach to health. You cannot take your body for granted. It is truly precious. If something doesn’t feel right, you know yourself and you know your body, there is no harm asking for a second or third opinion.”

Although there is little evidence to suggest that fibroids can be prevented, the Fibroid Treatment Collective explains that some research states that altering the food you eat may help slow fibroid growth.

In particular, dietary changes that help to lower oestrogen levels are the best to help lessen symptoms and slow fibroid growth. With this in mind, the foods that increase oestrogen, and should therefore be avoided include:

  • Red meat
  • Alcohol
  • Animal fats
  • Cheese
  • Cream
  • Butter
  • Ice cream
  • Chocolate
  • Soy and soy products.

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