PCOS and Inflammation

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome  (PCOS) has been associated with low-grade systemic inflammation many times in research. (2) Inflammation is part of the body’s immune system, and is used to help protect the body from any harmful intruders. When the body recognizes a potential threat, it will create specific chemical messengers known as cytokines that work to protect the body. When it comes to PCOS symptoms, however, inflammation plays a different role.

In PCOS, instead of inflammatory cytokines being created when there is a potential threat, there is a continuous level of low-grade inflammation in the body. This is mostly driven by insulin resistance and dysfunction in your fat cells.

What are signs of inflammation?

Common signs of inflammation include PCOS symptoms such as:

  • Swelling
  • Pain
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Bloating
  • Brain fog
  • Acne
  • Mood changes

What are the common causes of inflammation?

  • Diet
  • Stress
  • Food sensitivities
  • Environmental Factors

Is there a way to test for inflammation in the body?

It has been shown that women with PCOS tend to have higher levels of C-Reactive Protein (CRP) in their blood (2). CRP is one of the primary markers of inflammation in the body. CRP can also be elevated in diabetes, insulin resistance and heart disease—which we know are commonly associated with PCOS. Other signs of inflammation can be higher levels of white blood cells.

How can you reduce inflammation today?

1) Diet

A diet that’s rich in antioxidants is key to managing inflammation in the body. An anti-inflammatory diet consists of decreasing (or eliminating) gluten, dairy, and sugar consumption.

Interestingly, a recent study showed that higher adherence to a Mediterranean diet resulted in lower CRP levels. This is inevitable since the Mediterranean diet is rich in fiber, complex carbohydrates, healthy fats, and moderate amounts of animal protein.  

2) Lifestyle

We know that stress can play a huge factor in the amount of inflammation in the body. Therefore, focusing all your energy and attention on reducing stress in your life is key to managing inflammation. This means exercising, making sure your sleep is in check, and mindfulness-based activities such as meditation and yoga.

Additionally, a simple daily gratitude practice can go a long way in supporting your overall health. Consider a gratitude journal in which you begin and end each day with a sentence or two about what you’re grateful for.

Stay tuned for my next article on the top 3 supplements to reduce inflammation in PCOS.

Key points:

  • Women with PCOS have been shown to have low-grade inflammation
  • Inflammation can be tested in the blood via a blood test for C-Reactive Protein
  • The key to reducing inflammation in the body is an anti-inflammatory diet, paired with managing stress in your day-to-day life.

Next Steps:

References

  1. Barrea, L., Arnone, A., Annunziata, G., Muscogiuri, G., Laudisio, D., Salzano, C., … Savastano, S. (2019). Adherence to the mediterranean diet, dietary patterns and body composition in women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Nutrients, 11(10). https://doi.org/10.3390/nu11102278
  2. Duleba, A. J., & Dokras, A. (2012). Is PCOS an inflammatory process? Fertility and Sterility, 97(1), 7–12. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.fertnstert.2011.11.023

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