Who Needs A Probiotic? Women with PCOS.
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Improve Your PCOS Diet with Probiotics

live active cultures - food labelingby Amy Medling, founder of PCOS Diva
Good gut health is essential.  Not only is your GI Tract a critical player in defending against germs and infection, it is the center of nutrition for all of the cells in your body.  Proper nutrition and self-care can go a long way toward improving gut health, but many people need a probiotic helping out in their gut as well. In fact, many women with PCOS have “Leaky Gut.” Adding probiotics is an important part of healing your leaky gut.
If you follow PCOS Diva, you may have already read my article about Candida.  In it, I mention that one of my favorite probiotics is Syntol.  It is great for balancing gut bacteria and eliminating yeast, but it is also a good idea to switch up your probiotics every so often, so you expose yourself to different strains of good bacteria.
When I decided to try a different probiotic, I researched a wide variety of brands to find something that I felt good about using.  After much investigation, I decided to begin  VSL#3, and I’ve been very happy with the results.
It is also important to add some fermented foods to your diet that include natural probiotics.  My favorite is sauerkraut.  My favorite sauerkraut is Micro Mamas Mama Kraut.  For more info about fermented foods, listen to my podcast with Master Fermentationalist Summer Bock and read my post about fermented foods.
In the mean time, let me answer some questions that I am commonly asked about PCOS and probiotics.

What is a probiotic?

Probiotics are live microbes that can be formulated into many different types of products including foods, drugs, and dietary supplements. Species of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium are most commonly used as probiotics; however, the yeast Saccharomyces and some E. coli and Bacillus species are also used.

Lactic acid bacteria (LAB), including species of Lactobacillus, which have been used for preservation of food by fermentation for thousands of years, can serve a dual function by acting as agents of food fermentation and potentially imparting health benefits.  Fermentation of food provides characteristic taste profiles and lowers the pH in your gut, which prevents contamination by potential pathogens. Fermentation is globally applied in the preservation of a range of raw agricultural materials (cereals, roots, tubers, fruit and vegetables, milk, meat, and/or fish for example).  Strictly speaking, however, the term “probiotic” should be reserved for live microbes that have been shown in controlled human studies to impart a health benefit.

What do probiotics do?

Increasing evidence shows that the activity of probiotic bacteria in the human GI tract plays a role in the dietary management of certain diseases. The intestine is naturally colonized by more than 400 different bacterial species.   40 of these are predominant.  In the colon, bacteria reach a concentration of 1010 – 1012 per ml of fecal contents. It has now been scientifically proven that the intestinal microflora, and in particular Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli, play a significant role in your health by:

  • affecting the PH of the intestine leading to healing
  • providing bacteria that produce nutrients that heal the colon
  • competing with bad bacteria already present for nutrients and positioning on the colon wall

The intestinal microflora play a significant role in metabolic function both from a nutritional point of view as well as for the maintenance of an efficient intestinal mucosal barrier.

How do I choose a probiotic?

Know Your Bacteria:

Studies have shown that taking specific multistrain probiotics can help infer health benefits above what a change in diet alone could accomplish.  Each probiotic formulation must show that its mixture of bacterial strains can help patients in the dietary management of their specific diseases. VSL#3 provides specifically modified nutritional support for the dietary management of certain medically diagnosed conditions by delivering a high concentration of several strains of live bacteria in a formulation that survives gastric acids, bile salts, and pancreatic secretions thereby colonizing the gastrointestinal tract.  This high-potency probiotic medical food contains 8 different strains of live lactic acid bacteria that were specially selected to produce an optimal synergistic composition of bacteria.  The 8 strains are:

  • Bifidobacterium breve
  • Bifidobacterium longum
  • Bifidobacterium infantis
  • Lactobacillus acidophilus
  • Lactobacillus plantarum
  • Lactobacillus paracasei
  • Lactobacillus bulgaricus
  • Streptococcus thermophiles

Know Your Dosage:

Most commercially available probiotics contain between 1 to 10 billion CFU (colony forming units) per capsule.  Even yogurt, a common source of probiotics for many Americans, does not contain more than 2 billion CFU per serving.  However, VSL#3 capsules have 112.5 billion CFU per capsule.  VSL#3 is also sold in packets that have 225 billion and 450 billion CFU count.  VSL#3 also is made in a prescription form, called VSL#3 DS, and this contains 900 billion CFU per packet.  It is by far the most potent probiotic on the market!

Yeast based probiotics are great for antibiotic associated diarrhea, and specific multi-strain probiotics are good for Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Ulcerative Colitis.

For Irritable Bowel Syndrome, one capsule of 112.5 billion per day is great to start.

For Ulcerative Colitis, one packet of 450 billion per day is great and go up to 3600 billion per day if flaring.

Check the Quality:

Remember, supplements are not regulated by the FDA.  Since VSL#3 is a medical food and not a dietary supplement like most other probiotics, it truly has the CFU count it claims on the label, and that fact is verified by the FDA.   You can find it in most pharmacies, but you have to ask for it.  VSL#3 is refrigerated, a feature that ensures it is being purchased as live bacteria, so consumers will need to walk back to the pharmacist and ask for VSL#3 from the fridge behind the counter (even though most of the forms do not require a prescription).  VSL#3 is gluten free, non-dairy, Kosher and Halal certified.

Probiotics are safe, effective, cheap ways to get your GI tract healthy again!

**Update: A high quality probiotic is now available in the PCOS Diva store!


Jenna Pedone, RPh, Sigma-Tau Pharmaceuticals

Jenna Pedone, RPh is a registered pharmacist. She graduated form the University of Rhode Island and currently works at Sigma Tau Pharmaceuticals. Jenna has a passion for non pharmaceutical options to help heal patients.  Visit their website at http://www.vsl3.com.





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2 responses to “Improve Your PCOS Diet with Probiotics”

  1. Hi Amy,
    I totally agree that getting your gut in shape is a critical step in getting PCOS and PMS under control. In addition to a high-quality and potent probiotic, I find it very helpful for many women to identify their food sensitivities, in order to remove or at least remove trigger foods from the diet. Foods your body can’t digest well set up a low-grade chronic inflammation, and that excess inflammation contributes to period pain (because pain is an inflammatory dynamic). Certainly a whole-foods diet as you consistently advocate, is critical, since so much of the garbage in processed food includes chemicals which are “xenoestrogens” – foreign estrogen-like compounds that trigger imbalanced hormonal activity in the body. Glad to know others see this connection too!
    Dr. Deborah