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PCOS and Inflammation

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I recently came across a piece of research that both scared me and made me determined. Researchers have suggested that nearly 50% of women with PCOS will develop Type 2 Diabetes before they are 40 (1). WHAT?! That is a huge statistic! It’s a statistic that scares the heck out me but it is also one that I am determined not to be a part of.

PCOS and Inflammation

PCOS-and-Inflammation-painThe same researchers suggest that there is a link between inflammation and Type 2 diabetes. Now, women with PCOS struggle with chronic inflammation anyway. What this means is that our immune systems have been alerted to a possible threat and it triggered an immune response to fight it (2). The only thing is that there is no apparent threat but our immune systems are still on alert and the inflammation is causing havoc with our bodies.

This chronic low grade inflammation has also been linked to insulin resistance. Remember that if your insulin levels are higher than they should be, your ovaries and adrenals are producing too much testosterone, which is making your PCOS even worse.

So, what can you do about it. Here are the top ways to fight inflammation in your body.

Exercise

There is some evidence that suggests that exercise and a good level of fitness helps to combat low grade chronic inflammation (3). It is also helpful in combating insulin resistance which will go a long way in improving our PCOS symptoms.

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Go Gluten Free

I have always recommended avoiding gluten as part of your PCOS diet. One of the reasons is that gluten tends to stimulate the inflammatory process in our bodies (4).   Many women that I have worked with in both my Monthly Membership and From The Inside Out Course have reported that they feel less bloated, lose some weight and feel less sluggish when giving up gluten.

Avoid refined sugars

PCOS-and-Inflammation-sugarRefined sugars tend to have a high glycemic load as well as an inflammatory effect (5).   The higher the glycemic load of a food, the more insulin you will need to move the sugar from your blood into the muscles and cells of your body. The more insulin you need, the more testosterone your body is likely to produce, making your symptoms worse.

Include anti-inflammatory foods in your diet

As we’ve already discussed, foods can either stimulate the inflammatory pathway, or they can calm it. Here are 7 foods that you should include in your diet to help calm inflammation and manage your PCOS (6) :

 

  • Leafy greens – Dark leafy greens like kale, chard, spinach and collard greens have loads of anti-oxidants to help fight inflammation
  • Blueberries – Blueberries are also rich in antioxidants and have a relatively low sugar content so are a good choice for your PCOS. Remember that they are part of the dirty dozen so try to get organic ones when you can
  • Fermented vegetables and cultured foods – I’ve written before about the importance of looking after your gut bacteria (you can see that article here) and incorporating fermented foods will also help you to tackle inflammation.
  • Omega 3’s – Oily fish like Salmon are a great source of Omega 3’s. Wild salmon has a much higher Omega 3 content than farmed salmon so I always try and buy Wild Alaskan salmon.

Supplement with Omega 3

PCOS-and-Inflammation-salmonOmega 3 is crucial to managing your PCOS. I aim to have salmon at least once every week, if not more. But, I also take an Omega 3 fish oil supplement. Not only do Omega 3’s help to fight inflammtion in your body, they also help to lower testosterone levels in women with PCOS (7).

So, to summarise, women with PCOS have are at risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes and researchers suggest that inflammation is the underlying cause. There are some things that you can do to fight this inflammatory process:

 

  • Exercise
  • Go gluten free
  • Avoid refined sugars
  • Include anti-inflammatory foods in your diet
  • Take an Omega 3 supplement

I also just want to encourage you. You don’t have to be that statistic! I know of women who have been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes and have reversed it by following a healthy PCOS diet and changing their lifestyles.

I would love to hear from you! What has been your experience of inflammation or Type 2 Diabetes with PCOS? Leave me a comment below…

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Tarryn Poulton

Tarryn Poulton

Tarryn Poulton is a PN1 Certified Nutrition Coach and PCOS expert who has been a leader in the online PCOS space for over 8 years. Tarryn has the support of leading clinicians from around the world who support her scientific approach to understanding and talking about PCOS this includes all medical journals and ongoing research. You can read more about Tarryn and the team here.

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22 Responses

22 Responses

  1. I am 42 but have had extreme PCOS symptoms since 16. Acne (the worst). Unpredictable periods. Terrible PMS. Glucose intolerance. I want to tell those who are struggling handling this naturally that it does not make you weak to turn to traditional medicine for symptom control. I was on birth control for a long time to control symptoms. I went off it 8 months ago to see if I could manage. I could not as 3 our 4 weeks of every month I was a slave to my symptoms and unable to be an effective mom, employee and functioning person.

    I eat an extraordinarily healthy and varied whole foods diet and have for years. I am thin. I take many PCOS friendly supplements including zinc, Omega 3, magnesium, pre and probiotics and a daily multi. (And more) Despite this, my body is out of control and there is little more I can do naturally. I am going back on birth control and am also on spironolactone. It has saved my face from painful cystic breakouts (though acne returned when I stopped birth control). As a combo, sprio+birth control does the trick.

    I applaud women who have been able to exercise, eat and supplement their way to reversing their conditions. I just want to put it out there that it doesn’t work for everyone and some of us need medical intervention to lead even a reasonably normal daily life, despite our frustration that medical treatments don’t address the often mysterious underlying causes of PCOS.

    Be kind to yourself. You are doing the best you can, PCOS Pals. xoxo

  2. I have just been diagnosed with PCOS, mainly because I lost my period for 10 years. I’ve had it irregularly now for nearly 2 years, all the while eating well (gf, df, no processed foods or sugar), I have been experiencing very low energy levels, constant illness and flu- like symptoms, as well as chronic inflammation (eyes and skin). I’m normally very fit & active, but for the past couple of months finding it hard to even get through the day!!

    I’ve had blood tested, with no abnormal blood sugar levels, hormones, thyroid issues, or deficiencies. I’m wondering if anyone else has had similar symptoms, if this related to PCOS, and what you did to overcome it?

    It’s great to find a resource like this when even medical specialists cannot adequately explain what it is and how to treat it….

  3. I was Diagnosed with PCOS when I was 21. Id come off my contracpetive to try to conceive and at the time was a healthy 10st. Over the next coming months the weight piled on me out of no-where. I wasnt eating different and i was exercising just as much, after year of ttc and a somewhat 2 stone heavier I went to the Docs, eventually I was diagnosed. It wasnt something Id heard of at the time and Doctors gave me very little information. I was trying to conceive and was told to lose weight. Ok, so telling someone they have PCOS and to lose weight (with no guidance) is like telling a fish to live out of water. So off I went and joined weight watchers and kept going strong at the gym. The weight didnt seem to come off and my periods had became few and far between. So when I was given Chlomid to take with my period I had to weight 4 long agonising months for my period to come so I could take it. I did fall pregnant but we lost our first 3 babies, I kept blaming myself for being over weight and having PCOS, I felt worthless, un-womanly and like a failure. Then came our miracle baby Olivia, who is now 5. After this pregnancy I went hard at losing my weight so I could be fit and healthy for my daughter. I joined weight watchers again with a friend, each week she would lose 2-3lbs and Id lose 0.5-1lb. We always ate the same stuff and our food diaries were identical. By this time I was sick as a chip, my friend who weighed more than me to start had hit her goal weight and I wasnt even half way there, why why why?!?! I started heavily researching PCOS and went to the Doctors again who gave me Metformin. I was sick, tired, shakey and always on the loo. I gave it up! My husband was doing a personal training course and got some info off his trainer, so I followed a low carb diet and was beginning to see results, but still not as quick. Anyway, we were desperate for another child and the doctors refused to help me with chlomid because of my weight, which was at this point 13 stone. I felt hard done by because having PCOS means you have a very hard battle with weight. I bought chlomid privately and immediatley fell pregnant and successfully had our 2nd daughter Esmae who is now 20 months. Again I hit hard at the diet and exercise. Yet I kept plateuing. I eventually broke down, my eating was well and I was exercisimg 5-7 times a week and I am fitter than any of my “skinny” friends. I was getting very depressed and felt that i was doomed to be this size forever, so again I began researching over and over. I came across this site and have taken alot of valuable tips which has helped a great deal wuthin just 2 weeks. I have now discovered that removing dairy from my diet, fuelling up on greens drinks and sticking to low carb is the answer. I also use Inositol in my morning greens drink which helps with anxiety ALOT aswell as many of the other PCOS symptoms. Family and friends are now seeing the difference. I jnow now that some day in the near future I will be the girl I once was before PCOS took over my life, but bow Im taking over PCOS!!! THIS WOMAN CAN xxx

    1. So I read your post what greens where you drinking to help? Can you give and example of what you ate and kind of work out you did?

  4. Hey everyone! I’m 28 and was diagnosed with PCOS at 17. I have always struggled with my weight as a young child, but have always maintained a healthy lifestyle for majority of the days and have been active since a kid. In college, I saw a PCOS specialist that put me on a diet that restricted carbs and I saw the weight come off easily. Since then, I haven’t been able to find that diet but continued to eat healthy.

    Over the past year, I’ve tried certain programs like the 21 day fix and just counting calories while eating very well. The weight came off slightly with the 21 day fix, but not as much as I would have liked (my friends were losing much better than me). I continued to workout 4-5 days a week.

    These past few months, I continued to eat healthy doing my own thing by watching carbs and eating well. I noticed I was gaining weight and fluctuating like crazy. I finally stumbled across this website and saw that gluten and dairy were bad for woman with PCOS. I’ve never heard of that before in all of my research over the years.

    Finally went Gf/Df about 18 days ago. And the weight literally has been falling off. I’ve lost over 5 pounds. This has been a record weight loss for me and I continue to stick with this as long as I can! I’m a huge believer in keeping your meals interesting and changing them up to keep yourself motivated!

  5. Even though I was diagnosed 4 years ago. I believe I should have been checked when I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism. I think it would have helped me with my drastic weight gain. Now being 35 i am now learning the truth about my PCOS and wish my doctor had this info to give me from the beginning. I have been Checked for diabetes and passed each time, but lately I feel I am getting closer to get type 2. I had a hysterectomy a few years ago and since then my health has gotten worse. Diets are hard to stick to and pain around my ovaries make it hard to exercise. Seriously wishing i had more support to keep me on track.

    1. I feel the same way. Hang in there, though. There’s always hope. At least now we are getting the information we need to manage all of this.

  6. I’m 30, I decided to go off all medication beginning of this year. I’ve changed my diet, gluten free diet, increase my diet in fermented foods and my cycles are on the dot every single month.
    For the first time in my life.
    Was diagnosed when I was 17 years old, was I was overweight.

    Now I’m struggling with really big acne, especially around my forehead.
    It never seems to go away.
    I’ve decided to call the naturopath.
    They said to go get a blood test on the 21st day of my cycle.
    So will be getting that tested and then seeing a naturopath.
    I’II order some fish oil tablets next week.
    After I get my blood test done.

    Fingers crossed, these acne on my face is making me feel so insecure and ugly and not confident.
    Make it go away…..
    =(

    1. Hi Mouy,
      I just joined and am new to everything on here but before finding anything out about PCOS, I was treating all of my symptoms. I have been able to manage this one (acne). I hope you don’t mind me commenting. Feel free to not respond.

      What is your beauty routine? Face wash, moisturizer?

      One thing that I think may help is taking zinc. The one I take is from Garden of Life called “RAW Zinc”. It also has probiotics which was a plus for me with my digestive issues. Worth a shot maybe?

    2. My dermatologist prescribed me differin for acne and it’s the only thing that’s helped me since I was a preteen with bad acne (now 38). It comes in generic now too. Aczone is another prescription that is good for those big cyst like acnes.

  7. Hi,i was diagnosed as 27 and I’m now 38.I’ve been dairy and gluten free for 7 years,cycle to work most days and eat anti inflammatory, Plus take some vitamins and minerals, now on my third pregnancy. Go natural ladies, it’s the only way. Dr’s tried to give me chlomid but I opted for acupuncture instead! Good luck!

  8. I am 51 and diagnosed with pcos when i was 21 after my first child. I am sure it is linked to me being put on the progesterone only pill when I was breastfeeding my baby. i had a really painful huge cyst and was rushed to check for ectopic pregnancy.
    I managed to get pregnant 7 times out of which I have 3 children. The last miscarriage being last year shock! I have always exercised and eaten a healthy diet finding that low carbs has the best result. Have been a size 10/12 most of my life only having a period of time when I was a size 16 oin my 40s. It is possible with self discipline to be slim and have children. i am now prediabetic so I will try going gluten free as suggested to see if that helps in any way.

  9. When I was diagnosed with PCOS at age 24, 6 years ago I was also told I was prediabetic and put on metformin. It was a struggle but right then I decided to cut down on my consumption of sugary foods. I never lost any weight, which was frustrating. But 2 years ago at a check up my Dr. Told me that my Blood sugar levels were now within normal range. Yahoo! For the past 2 years I’ve been able to keep my blood sugar levels down and recently started following the meal plans and the weight is starting to come off….finally! It’s been a hard and long road, but definitely worth it!

  10. I am 54 and am now menopausal. I was diagnosed with PCOS when I was 18, 36 years ago. Back the it was call Stein-Leventhall syndrome. There was absolutely no treatment or even recognition that treatment was needed. After years of suffering I have noe been diagnosed with Hashimotos Thyroiditis, leaky gut and adrenal gland fatigue. I have been told that I was borderline prediabetic. Even with all of that, the PCOS link has been ignored. There are very few, if any studies about how PCOS affects menopause. Even this website seems to ignore the struggles of women who are old enough to be the bloggers mother. It seems as if, since I can no longer have children, then there must be no disease. Please recognize that this is a lifetime disease and at least acknowledge those of us who have suffered for years.
    I have changed my diet, no dairy, no soy, no guten, or grains. Yet, relief is fleeting. After a lifetime of struggling with depression, weight and being hairy, I really wish there were some answers.

    1. Hello Diane, I wish I had answers for your valid concerns but I do totally feel your frustration as I too age. I’m going to be 50. My PCOS has been so severe that I was told I could never have children & if by some chance I did conceive that my long list of health issues (caused by the insulin resistance) would likely cause both me & my unborn child to die. So no children. To help with some of the PCOS symptoms I’ve had a Merina IUD in place since 2007. The true blessing of it is virtually no menstrual cycles. Some light spotting for a day, 1-2x a year. My plan is to continue having it in place until menopause is complete. I suffered for decades with severe dysfunctional & heavy bleeding. At least that is one PCOS & even menopausal symptom I don’t plan on suffering ever again. Of course the insulin resistance does & will continue to reek havoc in my body & life. I hope you find a little relief where ever you can. God Bless. Jeannette C.

    2. I totally agree with this post. I am 53, diagnosed at 19. I would love to see more research done for those of us no longer concerned with fertility issues. I just went thru a cancer scare because of irregular periods. Since they are not regular, I’m not producing enough progesterone. I then have too much estrogen being stored in fat layers and nothing to balance it out. I have precancer of the endometrial layer of the uterus. I am currently looking for a more natural progesterone vs Provera (pill). And I am facing a hysterectomy in the next several months if this doesn’t work out. I would love more info on progesterone and how hysterectomy affects our bodies with PCOS.
      This is a life long condition and battle for our health.

  11. I’m only 25 but diabetes runs thick on both sides of my family, which doesn’t help my chances of ending up as this statistic (which I had no idea was so high – 50% WOW). This has definitely upped my game in getting my PCOS sorted out. Thanks for this information! =]

  12. Im 26 and was diagnosed with PCOS at 24.
    My biggest struggle was developing hypertension (high blood pressure) at age 22 and went through all the tests with no clear result. I’ve changed the way I eat, reduce salt exercise and nothing.
    Losing weight is a struggle and I train 5-6hours a week til I pour sweat. Over the year I only lost 2kgs and it made me more depressed.
    My dr even said I shouldn’t seek counseling if I want to have children. Crazy right?

    1. I am 30 and managed to diagnose myself with PCOS at 14. I was 18 before I was diagnosed by doctors and have continously been told to simply lose weigh to treat my condition. I also developed chronic hypertension at 25. I did manage to lose some weight for my wedding last November and now have regular periods. However, since then I have gained nearly 2 stone and have ovulated once. My husband and I are ttc and I had no idea that simple things like removing gluten could help. I have been taking metphormin for a few months now and it is not helping in the slightest. Good to finally find a site with practical advice and help. Hopefully, I will have some positive news shortly.

      1. I had very bad acne and was over weight; could not stop eating, was craving sugar so bad;i started taking metformin; it took a good few months;my cravings for sugar went; i know longer have a big appetite;the metformin really works;my acne improved;i am now having bio residense aswell natural treatment; which has helped my depression and energy;it has balanced my hormones alot

    2. Don’t go by weight go by dress size. Muscle mass weighs more. I am classed as overweight but I am a 10/12. I’ve had to diet and exercise all my life to keep it down
      However i have three children out of 7 pregnancies. I was told that I wouldn’t be able to conceive naturally but I did. Doctors are not always right. Just live as healthily as possible to lower your chances of developing heart disease and diabetes. I am now on the lowest dose of pills for high blood pressure and I am just prediabetic at 51. I have horses so I’m always on the go. I’m sure this has kept me fit and younger than my years. Don’t lose heart fight it!

      1. Ann – good job on all the work! Try to not get discouraged. The exercise, for myself, helps keep my mind in a better place, which helps me deal with everything else, including motivation to select better foods.

        Consider mixing up the workouts and study which ones your body responds to. There was an article on here about what types our bodies respond to best. I was doing cardio for months and felt better, but zero to negative results. Moved to a super set (weight lifting light to medium weights, high reps, fast – so you get a cardio affect from it) – and have lost 15 lbs in the last 8 months – FINALLY.

        Also, I was diagnosed with the high blood pressure around your age, but the PCOS wasn’t identified for another 20 yrs. Frustrating. I believe (hind sight), I had it all along, which was driving the high blood pressure.

        I wish doctors would work to identify what’s driving the symptom, rather than simply treat it (like the high blood pressure).

        Good Luck! You’re not alone!! And Maddy is right, pay attention to how your body feels in your clothes and when you drop sizes. Muscle is heavier and SMALLER than fat. So even with my 15 lbs drop, it was probably much much more. I simply don’t have my fat % measurement to compare.

        K-

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