Targeting Your Gut Microbiota to Manage PCOS
| Cecilia Kitic
Do You Have PCOS?
It is estimated that up to 25% of women have Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) so if you said YES! to this you are not alone. It is quite common though for many women to be unaware that they have the condition until they have difficultly conceiving.
PCOS disrupts hormone balance, metabolism and mood state and can make it more difficult to conceive, and have a successful pregnancy.
We now know that underlying these real physiological and psychological changes that can make getting pregnant harder, is gut dysbiosis.
What is the Connection between Dysbiosis and PCOS?
Dysbiosis refers to an imbalance in the good and bad microbiota living in your gut. Remember that we have over 2kg of microbiota that influence almost every process in the body from how we regulate blood sugar, how resilient we are in the face of stress, how many nutrients we extract from the food we eat and even how strong we are.
If you have PCOS, you most likely have dysbiosis. This means that there is a reduction in good microbiota, or too many bad microbiota, and a reduction in diversity of the microbiota communities in your gut.
This disturbance or dysbiosis in gut microbiota can be the result of missing out on dietary prebiotic fibre, inadequate physical activity, medication or not getting quality sleep.
When the gut microbiota are out of balance, the gut is not as good at keeping out bad microbes. When the toxins (lipopolysaccharide) from microbiota enter our bloodstream, they potently activate the immune system causing inflammation.
Inflammation drives the disease processes of PCOS, reducing insulin sensitivity, increasing the production of testosterone, driving the growth of cysts and negatively impacting egg quality.
Dysbiosis underlies disturbances in the menstrual cycle, hair growth and acne from elevated testosterone levels and polycystic ovaries.
In women with PCOS, the extent of dysbiosis of the gut microbiota is associated with increased testosterone concentrations and higher body mass index (BMI) (1).
Diversity Dampens PCOS
Improving the diversity of the gut to reduce dysbiosis may be one of the best approaches to manage PCOS.
Using a PCOS model a recent study shows that improving diversity of the gut microbiome improves reproductive and metabolic health (2). With enhanced gut diversity insulin sensitivity is improved and body weight reduces.
A diet containing the prebiotic fibre inulin, reduces cyst number, lowers blood levels of lipopolysaccharide, enhances the diversity of good microbiota and reduces inflammation(3).
The effectiveness of inulin when mixed with other prebiotic fibre and omega-3s informed our scientifically formulated blend of Fertile Gut!
How Can You Boost Gut Microbiota Diversity?
Move your Body
Exercise is a great way to enhance the diversity of your gut microbiota. Exercise increases microbiota diversity to increase the production of our good chemical messengers which include short chain fatty acids. You can read more about one of these key short chain fatty acids butyrate here.
Moving your body is also one of the most potent way to reduce inflammation so make aerobic exercise and strength training part of your regular routine. The Australian guidelines for managing PCOS state that exercise should be one of the first line strategies for improving quality of life for women with PCOS. And it really is no wonder when we see the positive changes that happen at the level of the gut and impact every cell of the body – including our eggs!
Exposure to different environments and ensuring you get your hands dirty every now and again increase our microbiota diversity. Interact with lots of people and if you have a furry pet that can increase your diversity even more!
Find your Fibre
One dietary strategy for improving the diversity of your microbiota is to feed them food they love- fibre and prebiotics!
A healthy gut has a nice thick layer of mucus sitting on top of the gut cells. This layer in between our gut wall and the food we eat acts as a physical barrier that protects the cells of our gut wall and prevents the entry of pathogens (bad bacteria and viruses) into our circulation.
In PCOS there is an imbalance in our good and bad gut bacteria leading to inflammation. This inflammation can cause the mucus layer to degrade, becoming thinner or even absent in sections of the gut.
When you miss out on dietary fibre in your day, the gut microbiota that want to be fed start breaking down your mucus layer for food. This erodes away the protective layer making you more susceptible to pathogens, and greater inflammation and oxidative stress.
This happens with not only chronic fibre insufficiency, but when you miss out on fibre even intermittently.
This connection between the gut, dietary fibre, susceptibility to pathogens and inflammation is the reason why getting enough dietary fibre, and prebiotic fibre, in your day has such benefits for reproductive health!
Have you had your prebiotic fibre goodness today?
- Liu R, Zhang C, Shi Y, Zhang F, Li L, Wang X, et al. Dysbiosis of Gut Microbiota Associated with Clinical Parameters in Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. Front Microbiol. 2017;8:324.
- Torres PJ, Ho BS, Arroyo P, Sau L, Chen A, Kelley ST, et al. Exposure to a Healthy Gut Microbiome Protects Against Reproductive and Metabolic Dysregulation in a PCOS Mouse Model. Endocrinology. 2019;160(5):1193-204.
- Xue J, Li X, Liu P, Li K, Sha L, Yang X, et al. Inulin and metformin ameliorate polycystic ovary syndrome via anti-inflammation and modulating gut microbiota in mice. Endocr J. 2019;66(10):859-70.