Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is a mysterious disorder that affects millions of women in the United States. Despite its widespread effect on the US population, the exact cause of the disorder is unknown. It is known that the disorder is characterized by an imbalance of hormones that cause unwanted changes in the body from hair growth to fertility problems. Due to the negative feedback of hormones, an imbalance creates symptoms that gradually appear, rather than have immediate onset. This gradual progression causes PCOS to be very difficult to detect early on within a patient, making prevention a necessary precaution to avoid its negative effects.
The cause of PCOS has been linked to both genetics and diet. Genetics are impossible to change therefore prevention is not possible. If a family member has PCOS, then the best way to manage is to be aware and recognize the symptoms if they appear. These can include excessive hair growth on face and body, elevated blood sugar, weight gain, acne development, sleep apnea, and problems with fertility, ovulation, and menstruation. Eating a proper diet and exercising is crucial; weight loss is known to balance hormones.
As we know, obesity strongly correlates with hormone imbalance and insulin resistance, but intestinal dysfunction also correlates with obesity. Therefore, it could be inferred that intestinal dysfunction correlates with hormone imbalance. In fact, a 2010 study showed that women with PCOS had an increased likelihood of irritable bowel syndrome, which has shown similar symptoms to leaky gut syndrome. A leaky gut is characterized by the malabsorption of key nutrients like vitamins A and D, magnesium, zinc and calcium. It also involves the absorption of toxins, undigested food, and microorganisms that can irritate the body. This is caused when the “tight junctions” of the intestinal wall are opened, causing the contents of the intestine to leak into the bloodstream. A hormone known as zonulin is the regulator of tight junctions and when its released in excessive amounts it causes the opening of tight junctions. Thus, leaky gut syndrome can also be caused by hormone imbalance and may be linked to PCOS more closely than originally thought.
Leaky gut syndrome is characterized by intestinal hyperpermeability, where the intestines absorb larger molecules that should not be normally absorbed. This can allow allergens and toxins from food to be allowed into the bloodstream. The malabsorption of essential nutrients causes symptoms like anxiety, depression, inflammation and fatigue. The absorption of allergens and toxins can cause inflammation and allergic reactions that are similar to those observed in PCOS. The release of chemicals by bacteria growing in the gut can also cause these types of symptoms. Bacteria and fungi grow naturally in the intestine and in most cases they are beneficial and help break down nutrients for the body. Candida albicans is a fungus that grows in the intestinal tract. Normally, it has no harmful effects, but when yeast growth is elevated, it releases chemicals that cause inflammation, indigestion, itching/discomfort, rashes and infections. These chemicals released from the gut can cause an immune reaction and lead to the allergenic symptoms that are found in diseases like PCOS, Celiac and Crohns disease. Therefore, leaky gut can also affect the development of the immune system.
Gut Associated Lymphoid Tissue (GALT) lies directly beneath intestinal epithelial cells and is one of the largest concentrations of lymphoid tissue in the body. This is where immature immune cells grow. When toxins, food and allergens come into contact with them, it may cause an overactive immune response, resulting in inflammation. It also interferes with the development of these cells, causing them to be unable to tolerate tissues in the body. This plays a role in the development of autoimmunity.
As you can see, leaky gut and bacteria within the intestine play a key role in the development of PCOS and may be closely linked. Many symptoms that may be a result of PCOS may actually be a result of any of these disorders. Therefore, it is imperative that patients be aware of these symptoms and try to treat these disorders. Removing allergenic, poor-quality, non-organic and GMO (genetically modified organisms) foods from your diet can reduce the release of zonulin. By ingesting probiotics and adhering to a low-carbohydrate diet, harmful bacteria and fungi are reduced or eliminated. Probiotics promote the proper digestion of foods, which allows the absorption of key nutrients that can mitigate some effects of PCOS and leaky gut syndrome.
Finally, the most important step is to repair the damage done by these disorders with therapeutic nutrient supplements.
- Calcium d-glucarate
- N-acetyl cysteine
The above all help heal intestinal lining and calm inflammation. The best way to know what to take is to visit a professional and help them help you. Since the intestines is where all your nutrients are absorbed and where your immune system develops, it is very important that you keep it healthy, which can lead to a healthy immune system, reduced allergies and better metabolic health in general.