By Amy Medling, founder of PCOS Diva
When you hear about inflammation, most people think of cuts and scrapes, infections, and sprained ankles. What if I told you that inflammation is at the heart of your Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)? That’s right. There are many possible root causes of PCOS, but at the heart of them all, what is driving your day-to-day symptoms, is systemic inflammation.
In fact, inflammation drives many of the ailments and diseases that plague people around the world. It is widely accepted as a factor in not only PCOS, but in some cancers, dementia, cardiovascular disease, depression, arthritis, tendinitis, autoimmune disease, insomnia, weight gain and obesity, hormone disruption, insulin resistance, diabetes, dysmenorrhea and fertility issues, digestive issues, allergies, and auto-immune dysfunction.
What drives inflammation in PCOS?
There are several factors which drive systemic inflammation and fan the flames of PCOS. To begin with, because of constant physical and/or emotional stress, those with PCOS typically have upregulated adrenal system which results in the production of excess cortisol. As Dr. Felice Gersh explains, “Chronic over-production of cortisol results in a lowered level of metabolic activity, with reduced thyroid functioning, elevated levels of blood glucose, and intestinal abnormalities. This creates a state of inflammation in the intestines and insulin resistance throughout the body. This intestinal inflammation damages the intestinal lining, impairing the function of a critical barrier, a barrier designed to prevent transport of toxins and bacteria across the intestinal wall. When this barrier no longer functions properly, intestinal contents cross into the body proper, inappropriately stimulating the immune system and inciting systemic inflammation.”
Other factors may contribute to this inflammation in much the same way. Certain foods, unique to each person, may cause this sort of constant low-grade inflammation. So can a lack of quality sleep and stress.
The good news is that there are simple steps you can take to reduce inflammation and improve your PCOS symptoms very quickly.
Top 5 Things You Can Do Right Now to Reduce Inflammation
1) Weed Out Inflammatory Foods
Certain foods trigger inflammation. For example, processed sugars help release inflammatory messengers that can raise the risk of chronic inflammation. In fact, Dr. Edwin McDonald of the University of Chicago explains, “All processed foods can cause inflammation. They can alter the bacteria that live in our gut, and that alteration has the ability to interact with our immune system and eventually trigger it in a way that leads to chronic inflammation.[i]” You may also be sensitive to certain foods which aggravate the lining of your intestine and perpetuate inflammation by activating your immune system. I find that gluten and dairy are commonly inflammatory for those with PCOS. The best way to find out is to eliminate one and then the other for a couple of weeks and see if you feel better. I bet you will.
2) Reduce Stress
Inflammation and stress are absolutely linked. Both physical and emotional stress cause your body to produce more cortisol, a hormone which helps control things such as blood sugar, metabolism, and inflammation. Unfortunately, “prolonged stress alters the effectiveness of cortisol to regulate the inflammatory response because it decreases tissue sensitivity to the hormone. Specifically, immune cells become insensitive to cortisol’s regulatory effect. In turn, runaway inflammation is thought to promote the development and progression of many diseases.” explains Sheldon Cohen of Carnegie Mellon University. Take steps to reduce your stress by creating boundaries, practicing meditation and yoga, getting exercise, and spending time outdoors. Check out this article for more stress relief ideas.
3) Get Some Quality Sleep
Adequate quality sleep is elusive for many but is critical for a strong immune system and preventing systemic inflammation[ii], [iii]. If you are not sleeping well, examine why. Do you need more movement in your day? Are you stressed? Are you drinking alcohol or consuming sugar before bed? How’s your sleep routine? Have you been tested for a sleep disorder such as sleep apnea?
4) Move It
Studies show that exercise can help reduce systemic inflammation like that found in PCOS[iv], [v]. That does not mean you need to run miles and miles every day. In fact, overdoing it will increase your inflammation and make things worse. Find movement that you like (walking with a friend, gardening, yoga, Pilates, anything!) and do that. Do what makes you feel good, and it will pay off in countless ways.
5) Add Supplements Like Fish Oil & Diva DeFlame
Fish oil has long been known to fight inflammation. One recent study in the American Heart Association journal Circulation Research found that a dose of quality fish oil reduced the level of inflammatory markers for up to twenty four hours. Be sure your fish oil is third party certified and derived from an uncontaminated source. The type matters too. Research shows that TG is better absorbed into the body then EE, and is more effective sooner[vi],[vii]. You may also use time-tested herbs such as turmeric, boswellia (Indian Frankincense), ginger and rosemary as well as nutrients and proteolytic enzymes to support your body’s healthy response to inflammation. PCOS Diva DeFlame is specially formulated for this purpose.
Amy Medling, best-selling author of Healing PCOS and certified health coach, specializes in working with women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), who are frustrated and have lost all hope when the only solution their doctors offer is to lose weight, take a pill, and live with their symptoms. In response, Amy founded PCOS Diva and developed a proven protocol of supplements, diet, and lifestyle programs that offer women tools to help gain control of their PCOS and regain their fertility, femininity, health, and happiness.
[i] Edwin McDonald, MD. “Foods That Cause Inflammation & How to Reduce Inflammation.” Foods That Cause Inflammation & How to Reduce Inflammation – UChicago Medicine, UChicago Medicine, 4 Sept. 2020, www.uchicagomedicine.org/forefront/gastrointestinal-articles/what-foods-cause-or-reduce-inflammation.
[ii] Irwin, M.R. Sleep and inflammation: partners in sickness and in health. Nat Rev Immunol 19, 702–715 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41577-019-0190-z
[iii] Norah Simpson, MA, David F. Dinges, PhD, Sleep and Inflammation, Nutrition Reviews, Volume 65, Issue suppl_3, December 2007, Pages S244–S252, https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1753-4887.2007.tb00371.x
[iv] Kristen M. Beavers, Tina E. Brinkley, Barbara J. Nicklas, Effect of exercise training on chronic inflammation,
Clinica Chimica Acta, Volume 411, Issues 11–12, 2010, Pages 785-793, ISSN 0009-8981, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cca.2010.02.069.
[v] George S. Metsios, Rikke H. Moe, George D. Kitas, Exercise and inflammation, Best Practice & Research Clinical Rheumatology, Volume 34, Issue 2, 2020, 101504, ISSN 1521-6942, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.berh.2020.101504.
[vi] Lawson, L.D. and B.G. Hughes, Human absorption of fish oil fatty acids as triacylglycerols, free acids, or ethyl esters. Biochem Biophys Res Commun, 1988. 152(1): p. 328-35.
[vii] Krokan, H.E., K.S. Bjerve, and E. Mork, The enteral bioavailability of eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid is as good from ethyl esters as from glyceryl esters in spite of lower hydrolytic rates by pancreatic lipase in vitro. Biochim Biophys Acta, 1993. 1168(1): p. 59-67.