Natural Remedies to Treat Pelvic Organ Prolapse. Herbal Supplements to the Rescue.
Pelvic organ prolapse is a common women’s health issue that affects about a third of women in general and approximately half of women who have had children. Fortunately, only about 20 percent of those women will be troubled by symptoms, which can range from mild discomfort to serious problems capable of impairing health and quality of life. While severe prolapse may require surgical correction, in the majority of women who suffer the effects of POP, natural remedies can effectively manage or improve their symptoms.
Symptoms and Natural Treatments
Pelvic organ prolapse is the term used to describe the dropping of organs, such as the bladder, uterus, small intestine and rectum, from their proper position in the pelvic cavity. It occurs when the pelvic floor had been weakened or stretched, rendering it unable to provide adequate support to those organs, and may affect just one organ or several. Common symptoms caused by prolapse include pressure of pain in the pelvis, urinary or fecal incontinence, inability to empty the bladder or bowels efficiently, vaginal bleeding and pain during sex. Natural remedies that have proven effective in the treatment of those symptoms include:
- Physical therapy
Using pelvic strengthening techniques, physical therapy helps patients rebuild strength and tone in the pelvic floor muscles and tissues to increase pelvic support and relieve symptoms. Physical therapy has been shown to decrease the degree of prolapse in mild to moderate cases of POP, although this treatment requires patience, since results may take weeks or even months to become noticeable.
- Lifestyle and dietary changes
In women that are overweight or obese, weight-loss can lessen pelvic floor strain and improve symptoms. Avoiding food and beverages that irritate the bladder, such as caffeinated drinks and spicy or fatty foods, can help control incontinence, and adding plenty of fiber-rich foods to the diet can ease chronic constipation.
A pessary is a small, removable medical device that is inserted into the vagina to aid in the support of prolapsed organs and weakened vaginal walls. Pessaries must be properly fitted by a doctor to be effective, and women may have to try several styles and sizes before finding one that provides optimal support.
- Herbal Supplements to the Rescue
Raspberry leaf, comfrey and especially horsetail (equisetum) are all good choices for rebuilding connective tissue. These can be taken in tea or tablet form. Gotu kola helps to increase blood flow to ligaments to maintain their integrity. If you experience incontinence because of ligament weakness, try couch grass to strengthen your bladder sphincter.
Ask your doctor about taking estrogenic herbs–herbal supplements that act like the hormone estrogen–if you have already reached menopause. According to MayoClinic.com, estrogen contributes to strong pelvic muscles, which in turn can keep your bladder from falling. The March-April 2002 issue of the journal Menopause reports that black cohosh and ginseng are among the herbs that reduce menopause symptoms due to their estrogen-like properties. These herbs may be helpful in overcoming problems associated with pelvic prolapse.
Along with Kegel exercises and taking herbal supplements, certain vitamin and mineral supplements may help prevent and/or alleviate pelvic prolapse.
Vitamin D: Vitamin D plays an important role in promoting bone health by helping the body absorb calcium and phosphorus more efficiently. A study published in the April 2010 edition of the “Obstetrics and Gynecology” states that one in four women in the United States have some form of pelvic floor disorder, and higher levels of vitamin D may reduce the risk of conditions such as pelvic organ prolapse and urinary incontinence.
Vitamin C: Vitamin C plays a crucial role in the synthesis of collagen which is an essential component of the ligaments that hold the pelvic floor and pelvic organs.
Calcium: Calcium helps strengthen teeth and bone, including pelvic bones.
Symptoms that cannot be relieved with non-invasive natural remedies may require surgical intervention. However, women considering surgery
for the repair of pelvic organ prolapse should study their options carefully. Procedures that use transvaginal mesh products to reinforce damaged pelvic tissues have caused serious complications in thousands of women, often leading to painful and debilitating symptoms. Mesh erosion is the most common problem seen with these devices, which can lead to mesh protrusion through pelvic tissues, organ perforation and chronic infection.
Many of these women must have revision surgeries to remove the mesh and correct damage caused by these devices. These problems have led to several transvaginal mesh products being pulled from the market in a transvaginal mesh product recall, including mesh products made by C.R. Bard, Boston Scientific and Johnson & Johnson. Non-mesh surgeries are effective in treating most cases of POP and involve a lower risk of complications.
If you have had children or are overweight or aging, you should begin a regimen of exercise to strengthen your pelvic floor and connective tissues, including Kegel exercises. Kegels consist of contracting the vaginal and anal muscles (as if you are stopping urine in mid-flow), up to 100 times per day. In conjunction with exercise, you may want to add herbs to your daily diet that are believed to strengthen ligaments and aid female reproductive health.
Cautions: DO NOT TAKE ASPIRIN, Coumadin, Heparin, Motrin®; Advil®, ibuprofen, Aleve®; glucosamine; vitamins A, C, D, and E; garlic; Echinacea; and omega-3 fatty acids for 1 week prior to surgery. If necessary you can safely take Tylenol® for headaches or pain. Any other medication such as antibiotics, high blood pressure pills, and heart medications should be continued unless otherwise specified. Discuss any concerns about stopping these medications with your family doctor.
Elizabeth Carrollton writes to inform the general public about defective medical devices and dangerous drugs for Drugwatch.com.
FDA: Medical Devices: Implants and Prosthetics: Pelvic Organ Prolapse: http://www.fda.gov/MedicalDevices/ProductsandMedicalProcedures/ImplantsandProsthetics/UroGynSurgicalMesh/ucm262299.htm
University of Maryland Medical Center: Uterine Prolapse: p://www.umm.edu/ency/article/001508trt.htm
National Association for Continence: Pelvic Organ Prolapse: http://www.nafc.org/prolapse/
Harvard Medical School: What to do About Pelvic Organ Prolapse: http://www.health.harvard.edu/fhg/updates/update0805c.shtml