Healing ovarian cysts: my personal journey
In April 2010, a lovely lady called Valery sent me an e-mail asking me if I knew of any natural ways to heal ovarian cysts. As luck would have it, at the time, I was a year into my own journey of healing my ovarian cysts and fibroids. Talk about synchronicity.
Anyway, I was very happy to share with her the ways I had been successfully treating my own ovarian cysts. But it also got me thinking that it might be worthy of a post so that more people could benefit.
You can read this entire article if you have the time, but you can also read my original e-mail reply to Valery, which is the short version.
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I am not a doctor or a nurse. I’m just a regular person who happens to be very interested in my own health. The following is a retelling of my own journey, thoughts and experiences. If you have a serious medical condition, you should consult with a doctor.
For about a year, I had been on a journey to fix some niggling health issues, the most pressing of which was polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). One of the most important lessons I’ve learnt is this—just because something is hereditary DOES NOT mean it’s written in stone.
My mother passed away from complications arising from ovarian cancer when I was five years old. When I hit puberty and started having painful periods each month, I truly believed I would follow in her footsteps. How could I not? All the literature I read about uterine issues (painful periods, fibroids and endometriosis) told me that my condition was hereditary. It was in my DNA.
It’s only now that I realise how very powerful and damaging that belief was. It made me accept my condition and believe there was no way out. So I suffered from tremendous pain for a few days each month my period came. During that time, I would be completely dependent on painkillers just to function. And by function, I mean to walk and to stand upright. To go to school. And eventually to go to work. I thought it would be like that always, until menopause would relieve me.
I was wrong.
It’s been nearly a year now since I started making changes to my life. It wasn’t always easy. But right at around the 3rd or 4th month into it, I noticed something remarkable. My period was becoming less painful than usual. Instead of three painkillers, I only needed two of those powerful little blue pills.
The next month, when my period rolled around again, I couldn’t believe it. The pain, debilitating as it has always been, had dulled from a painful roar to a dull discomfort. I still wasn’t feeling my best, but I could function. And so it progressed. With each cycle, the pain was less. Now I was excited. The progress I was making not only made all my healthy choices easier but also opened my mind to what else was possible.
The first month that I was able to completely go without my little blue pills, I couldn’t believe it. I remember waiting for the pain to come that day. I kept waiting because I didn’t dare let myself believe it. But the pain never came. As I’m writing this now, I still get a little emotional. If you’ve lived with debilitating pain for years (in my case, 15 years), you’d know how incredibly humbling and quieting it is to realise that recovery is possible.
Okay, enough jibber jabber. This is what I did.
The first thing I did was start reading up on alkaline diets.
I must have read hundreds of articles on the importance of maintaining an alkaline blood pH (which is the body’s natural, healthy state). Alkaline-causing foods are mainly of the plant variety. Not being a big fan of salads, I started eating fresh fruit and drinking fresh fruit and vegetable juices every day. Not a difficult thing to do for me because they were always delicious!
I later bought my own juicer so I could have them anytime. By the way, when I say ‘fresh fruit juice’, I mean the kind that’s made from a juicer and whole fruits. Pre-packaged juices are a completely different animal and can actually have the opposite effect. Instead of boosting alkalinity, they are usually acid-causing because of all the added sugar, flavoring, chemicals and preservatives. Check the back of a fruit juice box. Do you see an entire paragraph of ingredients? Not a good sign.
I wanted to attain a healthy, alkaline state for one reason — to give my body the optimal environment it needed to heal itself.
I didn’t just load up on fruits, vegetables and other alkaline-causing food, I also learnt which foods were bad and acid-causing so I could avoid them (see a chart of alkaline and acidic causing foods). Acid-causing food are mainly things like fast food and packaged/processed foods. I also cut down on my dairy and red meat consumption (down to almost nothing) and opted for fish over chicken whenever possible.
I wasn’t perfect all the time. There were days when I succumbed to a sudden craving for a cheeseburger and fries, or a cup of strong coffee. But after I strayed, I just went back on the path.
Speaking of which, when it comes to something as personal as changing our diets, I think it really doesn’t do any good to demand perfection from ourselves. When was the last time you met a perfect person, anyway? Or had a perfect day? To expect something impossible is cruel. If you wouldn’t ask it of your best friend or loved one, why demand it from yourself?
So if you’ve decided to make a change to your diet, I hope you’ll remember to be kind to yourself. The point is to improve from where you started. Not to achieve perfection. With time and patience, you’ll get there, and when you do, you’ll realise that those few weak moments didn’t really matter anyway.
I also paid mind to my emotional life because I learnt that emotions and habitual thought patterns also have a powerful effect on our bodies’ pH. Learning this was amazing in of itself.
For example, fear and stress are acid-producing emotional states. Perhaps because of the hormones adrenaline and cortisol that are released in response to those feelings, but there could be other reasons too.
In contrast, feelings of love, gratitude and happiness are alkaline-producing states, which promotes healing in our bodies. Modern science is only just starting to uncover this. One example is oxytocin (a hormone produced during meditative states, and when we feel happiness or love), which has been proven to accelerate wound healing and new cell growth.
But while science and scientific studies are great, sometimes the best truth is already right in front of us. When I look at my friends and the faces of the people I know, I cannot help but notice that the ones who are joyful and have a radiant, inner calm also have the most youthful faces and are in the best health, while the “frowniest”, the most anxious or fearful, and the ones who complain the most have faces that look aged beyond their years and the most health issues.
Since it didn’t make sense to have the fruits of my labor be erased by my emotions, I worked on easing my daily stresses and changing my thought patterns. I started meditating, practising mindfulness and increasing my self-awareness. Slowly but surely, I started to see life differently. As my view of the world changed, so did my life and my habitual thought patterns. I got angry less often, I relaxed more, I spent more time doing absolutely nothing and loving it.
If this interests you, here’s a primer—just something to get you started.
When people hear the word detox, they usually think of going on a detox diet like the Master Cleanse. But detoxing for me was much less glamorous. My main purpose of detoxing was to aid my body in healing. Simply put, by detoxing from as many harmful chemicals as I could, I was getting the road blocks out of the way to let my body do its job.
I actually didn’t need to do much in the way of my diet because an alkaline diet of more raw fruits and vegetables was already detoxing me slowly. Instead, I focused on minimising my exposure to harmful chemicals by switching to all-natural soaps, shampoos and deodorant.
I avoided drinking out of plastic bottles and switched to aluminium tumblers (because of the chemical leech when water is kept in plastic too long).
I stopped using perfume and anti-perspirants, opting instead for baking soda, which worked better than any brand of deodorant I had ever used (almost all commercial perfumes/deodorants are chock full of synthetic chemicals and xenoestrogens. The latter is especially bad for women with ovarian cysts and fibroids as they would already be oestrogen dominant. I wrote a little about oestrogen dominance in this article).
I started using an all-natural DIY toothpaste because of the fluoride in commercial toothpastes. In my case, this was sea salt. My teeth have never looked better and my breath stays clean and fresh longer (in contrast, the sugar in commercial toothpastes actually feeds mouth bacteria).
I changed from commercial liquid soaps and shampoos (which are full of chemicals) to natural hard soaps and a DIY shampoo.
These might seem like a lot because you’re reading them all at once, but I actually made each change one at a time and very slowly. Small changes led to big ones over time.
I’ve always been a fan of taking herbal remedies such as garlic whenever I feel under the weather, so when I learnt that ginger and turmeric were useful for healing uterine issues, I jumped right on board.
In vitro tests show that ginger kills ovarian cancer cells. Turmeric, which is also a root in the ginger family, has also been shown to have a positive effect on ovarian cancer cells.
Ginger Tea recipe (delicious!): As many fresh ginger slices as I can manage in a cup of hot water with a little bit of brown sugar to taste. Leave to steep for 15-20 minutes in a covered cup and top off with freshly-squeezed lemon juice (from half a lemon). This was delicious and became an almost daily drink for me.
A second method is by juicing. If you have a juicer, you can also extract fresh ginger juice. To save time, I like to make a big batch at once and freeze the ginger juice in ice cube trays. I then store these in a container in the freezer and pop in a few cubes in my drink whenever I want. It tastes really good in chilled lemon juice with a bit of sugar. Be warned though — this makes for a much more spicy drink than the hot tea method above.
Turmeric concoction (much less tasty): To change up the routine a bit, some days I would also take a half teaspoon of turmeric powder in a little hot water with a pinch of sea salt for taste. This didn’t taste good so I only have it occasionally. It wasn’t too unpleasant, just a little bitter and chalky. This is the kind of drink to take quickly, and I downed it like a shot.
Interestingly, once I started drinking turmeric, I noticed that when I started feeling a little under the weather, I would start craving a turmeric drink. As oddly tasting as it was, my body wanted it. And it worked too. I rarely get sick, but I remember being hit by a particularly bad flu that was going around once, and it was because of turmeric that my symptoms were much less severe than what others around me seemed to be experiencing.
I love castor oil. It’s great stuff. Also called the palm of Christ, castor oil has been used for centuries for many ailments. One of its most important properties—especially in the treatment of uterine problems—is that castor oil can penetrate more deeply than any other oil.
This one was simple to do and it felt good. A few days before my period, I would put a castor oil pack on my lower abdomen each night before I went to bed. A castor oil pack is really just a way to put castor oil on a part of your body and wrap it up so that it stays there for longer.
What I did was rub a generous amount of castor oil over my lower abdomen (I wiped the excess on my lower back). Then I would place a castor-oil soaked cotton cloth over my abdomen and wrap it all up using some cling film. This keeps the oil in place on my body and from staining my clothes and bedding. Some people use heat on top of the pack (such as a hot water bottle), but most of the time I didn’t because it was a hassle. But if you’re more enterprising, using external heat would help the castor oil penetrate more deeply and this is always a good thing.
So that’s it—these are the things I did over the course of one year that eventually took away my pain and changed my life (it really did!).
p.s: Why Your DNA Isn’t Your Destiny makes for interesting reading. This TIME article talks about epigenomes, which sits on top of our genomes. These tell our genes to switch on or off — to speak loudly or whisper. It is through epigenomes that environmental factors like diet and stress can make an imprint. Proof of this at work can be clearly seen in the faces of older, identical twins (opens a NYTimes.com slideshow).
Further along on my journey in November 2010, I also started supplementing with iodine (plus iodide) and magnesium chloride. Deficiencies of both are very common.
In women, sustained iodine deficiency can lead to a host of uterine, thyroid and hormonal issues—including breast and ovarian cysts as well as fibroids. I took iodine supplements in the form of Iodoral and also painted iodine tincture on my skin to supplement.
I went through an uncomfortable detox period during the first month on iodine because I took high doses, but those detox symptoms petered out eventually. Taking high doses of Vitamin C was very helpful for this as it not only minimised my detox symptoms, but also cleared my intestinal receptors so that the iodine can be absorbed more readily. By the way, if your gut isn’t in the best shape, it’s a good idea to fix that first as otherwise the iodine may be poorly absorbed (a waste!).
Magnesium chloride (which I ingest and apply transdermally on my skin) and magnesium citrate have proven to be a great nerve soother and relaxer. More importantly, magnesium is antagonistic to calcium. Thus, it helps dissolve the calcium deposits in ovarian cysts.
A wonderful side effect for me has been a drastic improvement in the texture of my breast tissue. Not only has the general “lumpiness” disappeared, but a hard, benign lump that I have had for many years softened and shrank drastically thanks to iodine and magnesium chloride. I’m positive it will disappear completely over time. (If your breasts get sore/swollen during or before menstruation, try painting them with iodine tincture. I got almost instant relief when I painted my breasts the first time. And the brown stain disappeared very quickly, a sign that my poor breasts were sucking up the iodine. )
I strongly recommend reading more about iodine and magnesium. Here are a few great articles to get you started.
Iodine – The universal medicine. “In the case of polycystic ovary syndrome, the starvation of the ovaries causes them to become cystic, swollen…. The greater the iodine deficiency, the greater the number of cysts in the ovaries.”
A 2004 Taiwanese study on magnesium and calcium in drinking water and risk of death from ovarian cancer. The results of the present study show that drinking magnesium-rich water on a regular basis may exert a protective effect on the risk of death from ovarian cancer. Future studies of magnesium intake and ovarian cancer should include estimates of magnesium intake from drinking water as well as from diet and supplements.
Magnesium — The Neglected Mineral We Cannot Live Without (download pdf). This article will be an eye-opener for most people and for that, I’m labeling it a must-read. You’ve heard about calcium through the powerful milk/dairy lobby and endless milk commercials, but it’s actually magnesium that’s crucial for strong bones. Would it surprise you that two of the strongest animals on earth—elephants and oxen—don’t sit around guzzling milk all day? Of course not. They eat plants, which are chock full of magnesium.
There’s so much knowledge out there that most doctors won’t even tell us about. The default mode when treating women today is by pushing us drugs and pharmaceuticals (all of which have serious health side effects and are liver-toxic).
Meanwhile, simple treatments that can result in true and complete healing are ignored or ridiculed as “alternative” or “new age”. But if we take a step back and just observe our lives today, it’ll become clear that most drug advertising only seek to “manage” diseases and pains, instead of providing a cure or healing.
And a long list of serious health side effects including death are almost a given with pharmaceuticals. This type of thinking has been prevalent for so long that most people just accept these lousy terms as normal and the “proper” way of doing things. But to people living just a hundred years ago, trading a symptom for serious risks such as heart disease and diabetes would be sheer madness, not progress.
It’s not hard to understand why this has become the way of our world—in the end, it’s all about money. What big pharma wants, big pharma gets. And when big pharma spends millions each year in campaign donations and lobbying our government and health officials, what do you think would happen? And has already happened?
The good news is that we always have the power to learn and to re-educate ourselves. With knowledge, we can make the changes that will put us back on the path of true healing.
P.S: As an aside, I believe that cysts and fibroids aren’t the problem. I think they’re actually our bodies’ ingenious ways of trying to help us stay alive. When our diet and health are suffering, when we assault our bodies with strange chemicals and toxins, our bodies will create “pockets of diseases” such as cysts and fibroids to contain the problem so that we may continue to live. Our bodies love us so much that it can suffer our abuse and do this for years and years. But if we fail to listen to the signs that are there, eventually these “pockets of diseases” will cause us pain, illness and problems. So I say, let’s do our part—let’s start listening to our beautiful, intelligent and loving bodies.
Valery’s original e-mail followed by my response
Hello, your website was very informative, very clear, simple, no nonsense, genuine information. I have been researching the internet for info lately and am tired of made up/copied/misinformed/unproven methods websites. I was wondering who are these people who have time to set up sites like those.
By any chance, do you have any information regarding ovarian cyst and how to treat it (dissolve it) naturally. So far, I have found info on the internet regarding apple cider vinegar then blackstrap molasses and a few others. I am not completely sure if they are efficient or just promotion on webpages.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Subject: Re: any tip to treat ovarian cyst
Date: Fri, 23 Apr 2010 21:54:03 +0800
Thanks for your email and comments about my website.
I was actually a little taken aback at first when I read your question, because believe it or not, I’ve been on a journey to heal my own ovarian cysts (and fibroids) as well for the past year.
I started out thinking that my problems will be a part of me forever (my mother passed away from ovarian cancer), but after a year of much learning and experimenting, I’m very much humbled by how much I didn’t know then.
This is what I’ve learned and what has worked (and is continuing to work) for me:
- First thing is to do no more harm. Avoid foods that are known to make ovarian cysts worse, eg coffee. Also avoid those that mimic female hormones, eg soy. Even common chemicals such as those in perfumes and air fresheners are oestrogenic. Our skin absorbs these chemicals readily, so go as natural and chemical-free as you can.
- Read up on a pH balancing diet. The aim is to get your diet/lifestyle alkaline – which is the natural, healthy state of the body. Healing will happen then (and your body will do a much better job of dealing with the cysts if it is in a healthy, alkaline state). This should be a lifetime journey, so do not rush or stress about being perfect. Read as much as you can first and make small changes that are comfortable for you.
- Incorporate ginger and turmeric in your diet. These are in the same family (rhizomes) and both are especially helpful in dealing with uterine problems. Ginger has been shown to kill ovarian cancer cells. Try to drink ginger tea every day. Ginger slices (as many as you can tolerate) steeped in hot water, some honey and lemon is a delicious drink and will slowly shrink your cysts.
- Do hot castor oil packs on your lower abdomen. This will promote healing and reduce inflammation. Castor oil is so good at helping uterine problems that it’s not unusual to feel some light “fluttering” in the left or right ovaries when the pack is on. I hope this helps you and I wish you all the best in your journey.