PCOS is one of the most common underlying causes of infertility in women of childbearing age. This condition not only interferes with a woman’s ability to release an egg (ovulation), but it also increases the risk of other health complications. Some of these include:
- Irregular or Absent Menstrual Cycles
- Elevated Androgen (male hormone) Levels
- Male Pattern Hair Loss
- Insulin Resistance
- Elevated Triglyceride and Cholesterol Levels
- High Blood Pressure
- Gestational Diabetes
- Chronic systemic inflammation
Although the etiology of PCOS is unknown, emerging research has begun to investigate the link between gut microbiome and a range of metabolic conditions, including PCOS.
The gut microbiome is a term that describes the population of bacteria, fungi, and viruses that reside in the gastrointestinal system. The bacteria that live in the large intestine make up most of the human gut microbiome.
The microbiome serves a variety of functions in the body, such as:
- Nutrient Digestion and Absorption
- Immune System Regulation
- Inflammation Management
- Vitamin Production
- Hormone Balance (including Insulin)
- Neurotransmitter Production
Dysbiosis refers to an imbalanced ratio of beneficial and pathogenic bacteria, which increases the risk of a number of health issues. Women with PCOS have been shown to suffer from dysbiosis, with a less diverse gut microbiome than women without PCOS. According to studies, gut dysbiosis could be a contributing factor to both PCOS-related symptoms and disease progression.
Studies show that as the level of androgens present in women with PCOS increases, the diversity in gut microbiome decreases. Furthermore, PCOS-related complications such as obesity, insulin resistance, and diabetes may worsen dysbiosis, which can further exacerbate the condition.
The term intestinal permeability refers to how well the gut barrier lining is functioning. Our bodies are protected from harmful pathogens and toxins via a healthy, intact gut lining. If the gut lining becomes “permeable,” it allows these toxins to enter the system. As a result, experts indicate intestinal permeability may be a contributing factor to the pathophysiology of inflammatory conditions. This is significant as chronic low-grade inflammation is thought to be a driving force in PCOS.
Studies show that PCOS increases a woman’s risk of suffering from gut dysbiosis and intestinal permeability. While many believe that an imbalanced gut is only associated with constipation, diarrhea, and bloating, there are more symptoms that may be present. Some of which include:
- Skin Conditions (Acne, Eczema, Rosacea)
- Food Sensitivities and Intolerances
- Nutrient Deficiencies
- Mood Disorders (Depression, Anxiety)
There are several things you can do to support a healthy, balanced gut microbiome and intestinal permeability that may ultimately help you better manage PCOS.
Increase Fiber Intake
A fiber-rich diet is important to support the growth of beneficial gut bacteria. The recommended daily intake of fiber for women of childbearing age is 25 grams. This amount can be achieved by incorporating fiber-dense foods like whole grains (quinoa and oats), beans, nuts, fruits, lentils, and seeds into a balanced diet.
Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that can help restore the gut microbiome’s balance and composition, as well as treat or prevent dysbiosis. Probiotics support optimal nutrient digestion and absorption and a healthy functioning immune system. They may also decrease the risk of intestinal inflammation. Foods that are naturally high in beneficial probiotics include yogurt (live and active cultures), kefir, kombucha, and fermented vegetables (kimchi, miso, pickles, sauerkraut).
You can also supplement with a high-quality probiotic like Biomegil by Vitagenis. Biomegil’s formula delivers 75 billion CFU of probiotics per serving. This includes Lactobacillus Crispatus, a bacterial strain that supports reproductive, vaginal, and GI tract health. Benefits of Biomegil:
- Fortified with 10 proven strains that promote acidic vaginal PH
- Supports fertility by maintaining probiotic colonies in the reproductive system
- Supports immune system and urinary tract health
Increase Antioxidant and Anti-Inflammatory Food Intake
An unhealthy gut is linked to elevated levels of inflammation and the bacteria in the gut microbiome are essential in regulating inflammation. As PCOS is linked to chronic low-grade inflammation, adding antioxidant-rich and anti-inflammatory foods to daily intake may be highly beneficial. Some of these foods include turmeric, berries, green tea, red grapes, tomatoes, cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, and brussels sprouts), and omega-3 fatty acids (fatty fish such as salmon, sardines, and tuna).
Limit Intake of Added Sugars
Research shows that excessive levels of added sugars in the diet not only contributes to chronic low-grade inflammation, but also gut dysbiosis. Added sugars are often hidden in foods like condiments, pastries, and prepackaged bars, as well as beverages like soda, sports drinks, and bottled coffee and tea drinks.
Because PCOS is connected to an imbalanced gut flora, gut health is a critical component of PCOS management. The suggestions above are a good place to start, but many people may require more specialized help and testing to uncover imbalances and support the development of a personalized recovery program.
You are not alone in this journey. Share your story and find support.