How Does Gut Health Impact PCOS?Wednesday Nov 23, 2022
The sharp stabbing pain in your lower back or belly from PCOS has been driving you insane lately. So much so that sometimes it leaves you hunched over in pain. And other times, it’s more of a slow, dull ache. But it just never goes away, like an itch you just can’t seem to scratch.
If you have PCOS, then outside of the pain described above, you’re unfortunately probably all too familiar with a lot more issues. You might find it harder to control your weight, experience hair loss, excessive hair growth (hirsutism), or have issues with your skin.
Did you know that PCOS indicates a hormonal imbalance? And that the key to relief might just be found in the health of your gut?
So in this post, we explore the link between PCOS and gut health, plus we have 5 tips for you on how to effectively manage your PCOS.
What Is PCOS?
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS for short) is a common disorder of the endocrine system that impacts between 6% and 20% of women during their reproductive years. PCOS is one of the main reasons women experience infertility, as it negatively disrupts ovulation.
Aside from infertility, other symptoms of PCOS include:
- Infrequent menstrual cycles or none at all
- More androgens (aka male hormones) that can result in symptoms such as skin acne, hair loss, or excessive hair growth
- Insulin resistance
- Weight gain
- High cholesterol
- Steady low-grade inflammation
How Gut Health Affects PCOS
1. Gut dysbiosis
Gut dysbiosis is basically an imbalance of the microbes in the gut. It occurs when the balance of good bacteria and bad bacteria gets thrown off, and it can lead to a variety of different GI symptoms and health conditions, including:
- Bowel problems like abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhea, and bloating
- IBS and SIBO
- Ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease
- Leaky gut
- Hormone imbalances
- Issues with your skin like acne, rosacea, and psoriasis
What does the research say about dysbiosis when it comes to PCOS and gut health?
Research shows a lower diversity of gut bacteria (an indicator of dysbiosis) in women with PCOS and that elevated androgen levels (as is often the case in those who have developed PCOS) mean a less diverse gut for women.
Also, if you ever experience candida overgrowth in the gut, it can impact how well your body responds to insulin, which is one of the primary symptoms of PCOS.
2. Increased intestinal permeability (aka leaky gut)
Intestinal permeability, more commonly known as leaky gut, is another key link between PCOS and gut health. It has to do with how secure the lining of your gut is. A healthy gut won’t have many gaps or much space in its lining. Sometimes, however, cracks or holes can develop in the lining of your gut when it’s inflamed.
This allows all the contents of your gut to flow out into the bloodstream and causes an inflammatory response throughout the body. Constant low-grade inflammation is a well-noted symptom of PCOS and can make dealing with it worse.
On top of gut dysbiosis and increased intestinal permeability, another thing to consider for balancing out your hormones is birth control, which is typically a go-treatment for women suffering from PCOS. Research shows oral contraceptives can increase both inflammation and intestinal permeability.
How to Improve Gut Health and PCOS — 5 Tips
Scared you’ve done irreversible damage when it comes to gut health and PCOS? Not sure how to improve your PCOS? Rest assured, you haven’t done any permanent damage! Use the 5 tips below to restore balance to your gut, improve intestinal permeability, and heal from your PCOS.
- Eat more fiber: In our unofficial PCOS diet, fiber would definitely be at the top of the food list. Fiber has many essential health benefits and your bowels will thank you, considering foods high in fiber like beans, oats, and quinoa are natural stool softeners and prevent constipation.
- Eat more plant-based foods: The American Gut Project, which is the largest study to date on the gut microbiome, determined the #1 indicator of a healthy gut is having a wide range of plant-based foods in your diet. 30+ per week is optimal.
- Cut back on added sugar: Sugar is the main fuel source for candida, which if left untreated, can result in candida overgrowth and have a whole host of adverse consequences for your health. Instead, opt for foods high in antioxidants to fight inflammation, such as berries, dark chocolate (it’s yummy and good for your gut!), and pecans.
- Catch your Z’s: Lack of sleep has been linked to less diversity in your gut’s bacteria. Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep each night. If you struggle falling asleep at night, limit screen time a few hours before bed (the blue light emitted from our screens disrupts the sleep-wake cycle).
- Manage stress: Chronic stress has been shown to increase intestinal permeability. So finding ways to manage your stress, such as meditation, journaling, or yoga is extremely important.
Can Probiotics Help PCOS?
Amid the PCOS and gut health discussion, you might be wondering if probiotics can help. They definitely can! Probiotics address gut dysbiosis and leaky gut issues by helping you produce more good bacteria for your gut and fostering an environment for that healthy bacteria to thrive.
Foods like kombucha, kefir, and sauerkraut come high in probiotics. There are also probiotic supplements as a convenient alternative. One large review of several studies noted that for women with PCOS, probiotic supplements were beneficial for many hormonal and inflammatory indicators. Some of the best probiotics for PCOS (and really, just gut health in general) come from the Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium bacterial families. They’re essentially A+ when it comes to bacterial strains.
Floré Personalized Probiotics are designed to increase the number of good bacteria in your gut and reduce inflammation while helping with conditions like leaky gut. Why personalized probiotics? Because your gut is unique and there’s no guarantee that a generic product off the shelf can get the job done when it comes to helping you improve your gut health. Rather, we analyze the trillions of microbes inhabiting your gut to come up with a custom solution tailored to your specific health needs!
About the Author
Chad Richardson is a freelance writer from Cincinnati, OH who also enjoys going to the gym and doing his best Arnold Schwarzenegger impersonation, scrolling through Netflix trying to find a new binge-worthy show, and catching a game to root on his hometown sports teams.