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Are PCOS And Gut Issues Connected?

Written by: Vivienne Wang, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

 
Executive Contributor Vivienne Wang

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is increasingly common and is estimated to affect one in ten women of childbearing age. It is characterized by imbalances in hormones, which lead to irregular periods and the formation of small cysts on the ovaries.

Woman hands touching virtual uterus, female reproductive syste

While these symptoms are well-known, what many people don't realize is that there may be a connection between PCOS and gut health.


Recent research suggests that gut health plays a significant role in managing PCOS symptoms.


Understanding PCOS


Before getting into the link between PCOS and gut health, it's essential to understand what PCOS is. Generally, this condition is caused by an imbalance in reproductive hormones, leading to problems in the ovaries. The ovaries often fail to release eggs regularly or produce too much insulin or male hormones.


Women with PCOS often experience weight gain, fatigue, unwanted hair growth, acne, mood changes, and fertility problems. However, these are not the only issues they face; many also suffer from various digestive problems such as bloating, constipation, or diarrhea – symptoms indicative of poor gut health.


The connection between PCOS and gut health


The human gut is home to trillions of bacteria known as the gut microbiome. These "good" bacteria play a crucial role in our overall health by aiding digestion, producing vitamins, fighting off harmful microorganisms, and even regulating our immune system and mood.


In recent years, researchers have discovered that an imbalance in these bacteria – known as dysbiosis – is linked to various health issues, including obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and potentially even PCOS.


Studies have shown that women with PCOS often have less diverse gut bacteria compared to those without the condition. This lack of diversity can lead to inflammation and insulin resistance – two key factors involved in PCOS.


Inflammation occurs when your body's immune system responds to harmful stimuli. Chronic inflammation, as seen in women with PCOS, can disrupt normal hormonal function and lead to an increase in male hormones.


Insulin resistance, on the other hand, is a condition where the body's cells become resistant to the effects of insulin – the hormone that allows your body to use the sugar you consume and balance your blood sugar levels. When your body can't use insulin, it results in higher levels, which can cause the ovaries to produce more male hormones.


Improving gut health to manage PCOS


Given the connection between PCOS and gut health, it's clear that improving gut health could be a potential strategy for managing PCOS symptoms.


One way to improve gut health is through diet. Eating plenty of fiber in the form of fruits and vegetables, as well as whole grains and legumes, can help promote a healthy gut microbiome.


Probiotic foods like yogurt, kefir, and fermented foods also increase the number of "good" or beneficial bacteria in your gut.


Regular exercise is another way to improve gut health. Studies have shown that physical activity alters the composition of your gut bacteria for the better.


Lastly, stress management techniques such as meditation or yoga can also help improve your gut health. Chronic stress has been linked with dysbiosis, so finding ways to manage stress could potentially benefit both your gut and PCOS symptoms.


Caring for your gut to improve PCOS symptoms


While more research is needed to understand the connection between PCOS and gut health fully, current evidence suggests that maintaining a healthy gut could play a role in managing PCOS symptoms.


By focusing on diet, exercise, and stress management, you may not only improve your digestive health but also better manage the hormonal imbalances associated with PCOS.


Remember: if you're struggling with symptoms of PCOS or digestive issues, working with a PCOS dietitian can help you feed those good bacteria in your gut, balance your hormones, and create lifestyle changes that will impact not only your gut but your entire body and mind.


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Vivienne Wang Brainz Magazine
 

Vivienne Wang, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Vivienne Wang is an Accredited Practicing Dietitian (APD) specializing in PCOS, fertility, pregnancy, and eating disorders. Based in Melbourne, Australia, Vivienne works with clients worldwide via Telehealth. She is registered with Dietitian Australia, a Certified Fertility and Prenatal Dietitian through the Early Life Nutrition Alliance, and credentialed by the Australia and New Zealand Academy for Eating Disorders. Her own experience with irregular periods, weight gain, and an eventual PCOS diagnosis as a teen led her to learn to manage her symptoms with lifestyle changes and nutrition. Her experiences are the driving force behind her desire to educate and help women with similar backgrounds. You can learn more about Vivienne’s custom nutritional approach and connect with her directly as your potential Pregnancy Nutritionist & Fertility Dietitian on her website.


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