Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome or commonly known as PCOS affects about 6% to 20% of women of reproductive age. Other than period dates being jinxed up, or excessive weight gain, have you ever wondered what could be the underlying reason for you to develop this?
We all are aware that PCOS is a hormonal disorder characterized by chronic inflammation, high risk of infertility, obesity, and insulin resistance.
So how can a good or bad gut health effect the hormones?
Well, a relatively new and presently being discovered theory states that an imbalance of microbes in the gut can trigger the development of PCOS.. “NEWSFLASH!!”
The fast life that we live now a days, with no time to cook proper meals, relying on fast foods that are highly processed with negligible fiber, and not to forget the night’s socializing with booze- all of these creates an unfavorable environment for our guts good bacteria.
The highly acidic Ph of your gut along with easy to digest sugars give rise to the excessive reproduction of bad bacteria’s.. !
This imbalance between good and bad bacteria within the gut can potentially affect the exacerbation, and possibly the development, of PCOS in a number of different ways. Bad bacteria contain lipopolysaccharide (LPS), a known stimulant of inflammation. Inflammation in the GI tract is able to increase the permeability of the GI tract walls (i.e. create micro holes in your gut lining) via compromising the integrity of the tight junction proteins that keep the wall cells tightly bound. Inflammation promoting factors are then released in the blood stream.
These factors have been associated with the inactivation of insulin receptors on our cells, preventing insulin from binding its respective receptor; thereby preventing glucose from entering a cell to be used as fuel (in lay mans terms- causes insulin resistance).
An increase in blood insulin levels, as well as the increase in certain inflammatory factors, trigger a rise in androgen production (male sex hormones) from the theca cells of the ovaries. High levels of blood insulin also reduces the Sex Hormone Binding Globilin (SHBG) released from the liver which allows more free, bioavailable, testosterone to exist throughout the body. Prolonged inflammation further weakens tight junctions creating a positive feed-back loop.
And that my friends is how a dysbiosis of the gut has the potential to make serious contributions to the development and aggravation of PCOS.
Many studies have found a correction between gut microbiota and metabolic dysfunction, one such study found that women with PCOS had higher levels of certain bad bacterial strains in their stool sample than non-PCOS women; this demonstrated a positive correlation with BMI and testosterone in women with PCOS. Additionally, low levels of the leptin hormone may be associated with a reduction of good bacteria in the GI tract. Leptin functions to regulate appetite.
Take away notes:
There are a number of treatments offered to women with PCOS that range from invasive to non-invasive; one non-invasive and the best practice is to control the condition through diet and exercise. Diet is especially important if the aim is to bring balance to one’s gut microbiota. While little or no studies have been conducted to examine probiotics as a treatment for PCOS, adjusting the balance between good and bad bacteria has been shown to improve inflammation and insulin sensitivity in general.
Key points to make your guts good bacteria thrive:
• A healthy high fiber diet (i.e. Prebiotics)
• Add probiotics (e.g. Curd/fermented foods)
• Avoid processed foods
• Limit alcohol intake
• Optional- Add a probiotic, prebiotic and synbiotic supplement
Credits: Balveen Kohli, Bushra Qureshi
Yurtdaş G, Akdevelioğlu Y. A New Approach to Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: The Gut Microbiota. J Am Coll Nutr. 2020 May-Jun;39(4):371-382. doi: 10.1080/07315724.2019.1657515. Epub 2019 Sep 12. PMID: 31513473.