Polycystic ovary syndrome is a disease that affects the endocrine system of roughly 6-20% women worldwide. It affects how a woman’s ovaries function. In some cases, the ovaries become enlarged with fluid filled sacs (not actually cysts as the name implies) which surround the eggs. As a result it can impede the release of an egg at ovulation, causing irregular cycles.
Women with PCOS may also have higher levels of androgens which show up as physical symptoms such as increased body hair, thinning hair on the head, weight gain, acne, and insulin resistance.
Although the exact cause of PCOS is unknown, recent studies have shown a link between the gut microbiome and development of PCOS. Women with PCOS have more “bad” bacteria in their gut than “good”. What is unclear is whether this imbalance is due to the disease and excess androgens, or whether the affected microbiome is the cause of PCOS.
The gut microbiome is very complex and affects virtually all bodily processes. When it’s healthy balance is upset, problems like leaky gut and gut permeability can arise which allow toxins and bad bacteria in the body. The body is then forced to work overtime to fight off these invaders which spikes cortisol levels, histamine, and increases inflammation in the body. This inflammation is what leads to other autoimmune diseases and cancers.
Too much bad bacteria can also lead to insulin resistance. Insulin is released whenever we consume food. It signals to the cells to open up and take up the glucose that our foods are broken down to. If the body becomes resistant to insulin, the cells don’t open up and the glucose is stored as fat instead. This is why women with PCOS have a harder time losing weight and why in order to do so, the diet must be free of added sugars, along with being rich in fiber and protein, and why supplements for gut health are crucial.
Gut health is paramount for weight loss but especially for those women suffering from PCOS. In order to repair and maintain a healthy gut microbiome, several steps must take place.
First, you must adopt an anti-inflammatory diet, foods like gluten, dairy, high fructose corn syrup and artificial sugars made in laboratories, processed oils, and soy products. This also includes avoiding any anti-inflammatory drugs and over the counter pills like ibuprofen and antibiotics, as they will kill off bad and good bacteria.
Second, add in resistant starches as these have been shown to help with insulin sensitivity. Examples include, sweet potatoes, parsnips, rice, and potatoes. Eaten raw these are considered resistance starches. Cooking them makes them taste better but they become non resistant starches and not good for digestion. So letting them cool first and eating cold potatoes and cold rice will return them back to resistant starches and suitable for digestion and a happy gut.
Lastly, supplement with a probiotic and include fiber rich foods. A great place to start is a probiotic supplement like the one in Protea’s GI Assist. It contains lactobacillus rhamnosus which is the most common and most studied probiotic. In fact this product also contains L -glutamine which is known to help improve gut permeability. As well as betaine hydrochloride to aid in the break-down of foods and digestion. All of the ingredients in GI Assist promote healthy gut functions while assisting in the detoxification of metabolic by-products. It also contains 5G of added fiber from acacia fiber which is easily digested and broken down in the body.
While there is no “cure” for PCOS, steps can be taken to manage symptoms and weight gain by promoting and preserving a healthy gut microbiome.