All women who have PCOS (Polycystic ovary syndrome) know that it’s very challenging as this hormonal condition is really complex and may affect different aspects of your health. For example, there is a link between PCOS and digestive issues (such as IBS, leaky gut, food intolerances etc).
Unfortunately, when having PCOS you may experience a wide broad of symptoms that go far from just hormones. The most common are nausea, fatigue, acne, blood sugar swings, constipation and many more.
If you have any digestive disorders and hormonal imbalances, I hope this post will help you as I packed it with the best tips and information that helped me to deal with all these symptoms.
PCOS and digestive issues
Recent studies in 2017 showed that zonulin, an inflammatory protein found in the gut, was significantly higher in PCOS patients – which could result in leaky gut. A 2010 study found that women with PCOS had an increased likelihood of irritable bowel syndrome as well.
So what is leaky gut?
Leaky gut is the condition when your intestinal lining is damaged and/or inflamed and foreign particles can actually leak out of your gut. So when particles such as foods, environmental toxins, and microbes are allowed to pass through the intestine freely as they do as a result of a “leaky gut”, the immune cells may not develop normally in response to these influences.
Leaky gut is also linked to the malabsorption of key nutrients such as vitamin A, magnesium, zinc, vitamin D, and calcium. When key nutrients are not properly assimilated, conditions that are common in women with PCOS may be aggravated, such as anxiety and depression, inflammation, and fatigue.
Inflammation in your body can cause constipation and nausea, diarrhea, IBS, autoimmune disorders and different skin conditions, like acne, psoriasis, eczema, and rosacea.
It works vice versa as well. PCOS might actually start in your gut. If you have a disrupted microbiome then you are more likely to develop PCOS as constant gut inflammation leads to metabolic disease by inducing insulin resistance. And as we know the main cause of PCOS is insulin resistance. Isn’t it a vicious cycle?!
But you can break this cycle. And I’ll show you how in this article. Just please-please-please, be ready to commit to change some of your habits and always be focused on your gut health. This is something you have to control for the rest of your life as it’s your weak spot. Don’t get frustrated! Just follow the tips from this article and pay attention to your gut health and digestion.
If you have PCOS, it’s important to remember that your intestine is the first entry point for the nutrients that your body needs to
There are a few steps that you can take that will greatly improve your gut health and help to reverse PCOS symptoms. Let’s go deeper in it!
In short, to keep your gut healthy you have to follow an anti-inflammatory diet. What does it mean? Firstly, you have to reduce your intake of gluten, dairy, sugar, and other foods that cause inflammation in your body.
What to avoid:
Scientific research has shown that some foods can cause inflammation for some people. These foods fit into two categories:
1. Foods that are difficult to digest, usually due to your genetic predisposition. It can be any food, but the most common triggers are gluten, dairy, legumes.
People who have food allergies have an autoimmune response to food, with such symptoms as abdominal pains, bloating, acid reflux, constipation or diarrhoea, nausea etc.
In food intolerance, you can get the same symptoms but you do not have the full autoimmune response.
Another product to avoid is dairy. The biggest problem with dairy is a protein called A1 casein. Studies have shown that A1 casein causes some people’s immune system to produce inflammatory cytokines. Besides that, dairy contains growth-hormone that affects our insulin response and makes PCOS symptoms worse. In my post “PCOS weight loss diet plan” I’m talking about dairy and other products you may want to ditch to heal yourself.
It’s interesting but many people see improvements in acne, weight, periods, and ovulation when they go dairy-free. So I encourage you to try substitute dairy for plant-based milk and cheese. You may experience digestive issues after eating some other products as well. Make sure you use a food diary to figure out your own sensitivities.
Trying a low FODMAP diet may be also a great idea for you.
2. Food that has been processed in a way that makes it inflammatory. Examples include processed soy, high fructose corn syrup and vegetable oils (corn, canola, sunflower, etc.) These seed oils contain high amounts of Omega 6 fat which can cause inflammation when you consume it in excess.
Almost all packaged foods contain processed soy. You will see it on ingredients lists as Soy Protein Isolate (SPI), soy flour, soy lecithin, and soybean oil. The best way to deal with that is to read the labels and only consume small amounts of fermented organic soy (such as tempeh and miso). If you have a thyroid issue then you should try to avoid soy all together.
Reducing inflammation in your body isn’t about cutting out entire food groups and following some restrictive, depressing diet. Instead, it’s centered around this basic concept: eat more good. Check my post “Best anti-inflammatory foods” to get a PDF list with foods you should add to your diet.
What to eat:
The key component to reducing inflammation is eating a healthy, unprocessed, colorful plant-based diet as much as possible. If you can afford to buy organic, then definitely go for it as organic foods provide you with way more nutrients. It is free from toxic chemicals, pesticides, and herbicides that can cause inflammation.
Eating a diet rich in fiber can help prevent or reverse gut disbalance. Fiber contains prebiotics which help good bacteria grow and thrive in your gut. So make sure you download my PDF with probiotics and prebiotics and add a least a couple of them to your everyday meals.
Another important thing to do is to consume many colorful vegetables and fruits to nourish your body and provide it with the best antioxidants. Use greens, bell peppers, tomatoes, herbs, seasonal fruits and berries.
Even if you are eating out and there are not many healthy options there, make sure you order a salad as
What else I recommend to try:
Drink a green smoothie/juice a day. Sometimes it’s really hard to eat lots of greens regularly so it can be more manageable to combine all these ingredients in a nutrient-dense drink. I usually make a green juice (celery, kale, ginger, cucumbers, 1 small green apple) in advance and store it in glass containers in a fridge for 2-3 days. Yes, it’s better to consume juices right away but realistically not many people can spend so much time on juicing every day.
You can also create a smoothie using this juice. Just add frozen mango/pineapple, protein powder, plant-based milk, and some fiber like flax seeds, chia seeds or hemp hearts.
Turmeric can fight inflammation, so it’s a good practice to add turmeric powder to your carry, smoothies or lattes. There are many other anti-inflammatory spices you can use in your cooking to add more goodness to your diet effortlessly.
We already know that spearmint tea helps to manage testosterone levels. The other advantage is that it helps with digestive issues and bloating. Make a habit of drinking 1-2 cups of spearmint tea every day to notice results
Drink this mixture if you experience bloating or digestive stress. Mix together 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar, juice of a lemon, 1 tsp ground cinnamon and 3-4 ice cubes – then drink. In general, adding raw apple cider vinegar to your diet is an amazing way to improve digestion. You can take an ACV shot in the morning or after your meals.
Growing good bacteria
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The aim of balancing your gut microbiome is to increase the number of good bacteria and reduce the amount of bad. Using prebiotics and probiotics can help to improve the intestinal barrier of the gut and insulin resistance.
Probiotics are fermented foods like kombucha, sauerkraut, kefir, and miso. The most common source of probiotics is yogurt. Even though it’s recommended to eliminate dairy on PCOS diet, organic unsweetened yogurt can be safe to consume because IGF-1 content (which causes a rise in testosterone levels and is really problematic for PCOS) is significantly reduced by the fermentation process.
Prebiotics are food for good bacteria (usually it’s different types of fiber). They include oat bran, chicory, coconut flour and more. I’ve talked about it in depth in my post “How to get rid of bloating” and “How to get a flat stomach” so check them out! I’ve also shared a list of most common prebiotics/probiotics you want to eat daily.
Here I just want to point out that it’s important to include resistant starch in your diet as it is prebiotic. Vegetables like potatoes, sweet potatoes, parsnips, beets, beans and legumes, as well as rice, all contain resistant starch. But it’s crucial to eat these foods when they are cold – only then the starch becomes resistant and can be beneficial for gut health.
You can also improve your gut health by taking probiotic supplements. The studies showed that PCOS patients had less diversity in bacteria. You kind of naturally have less bacteria so it’s important to provide your body with lots of different probiotics on a regular basis. Remember – the more bacteria diversity, the better it is for our gut and overall health!
That’s why it’s better to combine eating natural probiotics & prebiotics with taking high-quality probiotic supplements. Use different strains to keep variety and effectiveness
Important: Avoid drugs that worsen your gut health. Some medications like antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs (such as ibuprofen) kill off all bacteria in your gut. Of course, sometimes pills are necessary but make sure you don’t take them constantly. If there is a way to avoid taking antibiotics and pain-killers, go for natural alternatives.
There are some natural supplements that can be really helpful for anyone struggling with digestion issues, including indigestion (heartburn, acid reflux, GERD, gas, or bloating). I would like to recommend some of them that helped me to balance hormones and improve digestion.
Omega-3 may keep gut microbiota diverse and healthy as it lowers the inflammation. It also boosts the growth of good bacteria and supports overall health. That’s why it’s highly recommended to take Omega-3 every day.
Magnesium is another important nutrient you want to supplement. Magnesium deficiency is associated with higher intestinal
MCT oil. Medium Chain Triglyceride (MCT) oil is so supportive to optimal gut health. It is made from 100% coconut oil which is rich in lauric, caprylic and capric acids. They all have strong antibacterial and antiviral properties and help to kill pathogenic bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites.
Digestive enzymes can be really helpful if you have difficulties with digesting foods. They encourage the proper breakdown of the foods that travel through the intestine. I’ve noticed that when I eat nutrient-dense meals with beans and grains, I sometimes feel heavy and bloated. So I take digestive enzymes before such meals to help my body to digest them. I also use peppermint oil to relieve abdominal pain and bloating.
Glutamine. L-glutamine is a non-essential amino acid that is often simply called glutamine. It is produced by the body and is also found in food. It boosts immune cell activity in the gut, helping prevent infection and inflammation, as well as soothing the intestinal tissue.
It comes in a powder and it’s easy to add it to smoothies or other drinks.
- 1 portion of fermented food (kombucha, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, miso) with every meal
- Apple cider vinegar in the morning
- 1 probiotic supplement every day. Change the brand and the chains every month.
- Take digestive enzymes with heavy meals
- Eating a variety of foods (vegetables, salads + healthy unprocessed fats + unprocessed protein). Example: salad with cucumbers, tomatoes, bell-peppers, spinach, flax seeds and apple cider vinegar dressings + ½ avocado + baked chickpeas (not canned!)/3 boiled eggs/organic tempeh.
- Green juice/smoothie/green powder
- Incorporate natural supplements (omega-3, magnesium, mct oil, glutamine)
As you can see, PCOS and digestive issues are often linked together. But by eating a healthy diet and following the tips from this post, you can improve both PCOS and digestive symptoms.
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