Reversing Autoimmunity in Women with PCOS
Guest post by Dr. Felice Gersh
As a quick recap from my prior article on PCOS and autoimmunity, recall that women with PCOS have higher rates of autoimmunity due to their gut issues. I will go so far as to say that all women with PCOS with autoimmunity have impaired gut barrier function, infamously known as a “leaky gut.” What this means is that the lining of the gut, which is made up of a single layer of cells known as enterocytes, are not as closely aligned as they should be, and in fact, separate far enough apart to permit toxic contents from within the gut to move outside the intestinal lumen (inside area), into the body itself. Those dangerous contents include toxic particles of bacteria, known as endotoxin (toxin from within) and particles of partially digested food, including proteins. Over time, the immune cells which line the intestinal tract (the Gut Associated Lymphoid Tissue, known as GALT) create antibodies against our own cells – hence the evolution of autoimmune disease. The reasons for the development of the leaky gut include a high fat, high sugar, fiber reduced diet, processed foods containing a myriad of chemicals harmful to the gut microbiota (bacteria), the chronically high cortisol levels typical of PCOS women, poor sleep, obesity, intestinal infections with pathological bacteria and yeast, chemicals in our water, gluten autoimmunity, food allergies and sensitivities, toxic mouthwashes and toothpastes, gingivitis, pharmaceuticals, nutrient deficiencies, dental amalgams and mercury fillings, and other hormone imbalances. I assume you’re feeling quite overwhelmed at this moment, and perhaps more than a little fearful that there is no hope for you. Well, don’t despair, for hope abounds!
I will now proceed to cover the foundational issues for gut healing, for that is where it begins and it ends. There is more – the middle sandwich filling, shall we say. For the in-depth discussion on that part, you’ll have to wait for my next article. Here I’ll cover the basics.
Repair Your Gut
The foundations for repairing a leaky gut involve what are deemed the 5 R’s. They are: Remove, Replace, Repair, Repopulate, and Restore the spirit. I consider the 2 R’s at the beginning and end of the list to be like the bookends – essential to holding up the middle 3 R’s. If those 2 R’s are left out of the picture, no matter how hard you try to heal your leaky gut, you will not succeed.
The first R, REMOVE, stands for removing all the toxic foods you eat, the chemicals in food and water, and the foods your body cannot handle, for any reason. So this means: no more factory made processed foods, no industrial fats, chemically extracted oils (like vegetable oil, corn oil, soybean oil, and others), no sugars, no processed carbohydrates (no boxed cereals, breads, muffins, bagels, pastas, and the like), no processed soy, no wheat or gluten, no inflammatory foods like commercial dairy products, confined –feed lot animals (standard meats), and most farmed fish. Because you have an autoimmune disease or autoimmunity (a positive ANA – antinuclear antibody test), I must tell you that you should also avoid all grains, even whole grains, until your condition is reversed. That means no corn, rice, quinoa, oats, buckwheat, millet, and other grains, primarily because of their high rates of contamination with wheat, due to the common use of harvesting, storing, and transporting equipment. What does that leave to eat? You can eat all organic fruit and vegetables, organic animal foods-but please limit to one small serving only 3 times a week, whole organic soy, beans, lentils (thoroughly wash and rinse beans and lentils please), and raw organic nuts and seeds. Honestly, there will be plenty for you to eat.
To get a great intake of fiber, eat lots of different vegetables – the goal being a whopping 9 cups daily! Be sure to include all sorts of vegetables, of all colors, and lots of root vegetables as well (beets, rutabagas, turnips, carrots, parsnips, onions, garlic, leeks, fennel, and yams). The variety of vegetables will deliver the needed fiber, vitamins and minerals, and those miracles ingredients called polyphenols.
The fifth R, RESTORE THE SPIRIT, refers to restoring a wonderful mood and attitude. It’s quite amazing really, but you cannot heal well without the right attitude and a healthy mood. This has been shown numerous times – a positive attitude is a must[i],[ii],[iii],[iv]. Please believe you will get better. That belief is like the “special sauce” for wellness.
Women with PCOS tend to express more depression and anxiety[v]. There are many approaches to improve your mood, such as the Emotional Freedom Technique, meditation, guided imagery, homeopathy, acupuncture, massage, and cognitive behavioral therapy. Choose one that appeals to you, and stick with it.
The other 3 R’s involve a direct approach to the state of the gut – replacing needed digestive enzymes or stomach acid, giving supplements to aid the healing of the enterocytes, giving antimicrobial herbs to kill off the pathogens growing within the gut, and providing good bacteria to help grow the vibrant community of microbes known as the microbiome. You must also supplement the nutrients you are deficient in, such as selenium, zinc, the B vitamins, Vitamin A, and so forth. Supplements should also support your immune system (boswellia, selenium, and resveratrol). Also, a compounded pharmaceutical, called Low Dose Naltrexone can be miraculous to help reverse autoimmunity. The exact choices for all of these items are dictated by the laboratory tests your PCOS doctor will order for you. Know that if you have no specialized PCOS doctors in your area, you can always come to see me. I see women from all over the globe!
In my next article, I will address the issue of those ubiquitous environmental toxins which promote autoimmunity and practical ways to identify your personal toxic and load, lower your exposures, and finally improve your body’s ability to eliminate them by accessing and enhancing your detoxification pathways. Step by step, I will guide you and give the power and knowledge to reclaim your health and improve or eliminate autoimmunity!
Dr. Felice Gersh is one of only a small number of fellowship trained integrative gynecologists in the nation. She blends the best of the world of natural and holistic medicine with state of the art functional and allopathic medical treatment. Because of her extensive knowledge of the complex inter-relationships of the body’s organs, she recognizes the need to investigate all aspects of health, always working to re-establish a healthy gastrointestinal tract, adequate sleep, good mood, great nutrition, high energy, and balanced hormones.
Expert in all areas of women’s health, and particularly of gynecological and reproductive matters, Dr. Gersh deals in an integrative manner with such uniquely female issues as polycystic ovary disease (PCOS).
She is currently writing a book on Polycystic Ovary Syndrome and writing a chapter on the same topic for a medical textbook.
You may contact Dr. Gersh at:
Integrative Medical Group of Irvine, 4968 Booth Circle, Suite 101, Irvine, California 92604