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PCOS, stress and gut health - what is the connect?

PCOS is a condition that 1 in every 10 women suffers from, and YET is poorly researched and hugely misunderstood. It almost feels synonymous with Pandora’s box, in my opinion. Being diagnosed with it opened up a never-ending list of trouble for me.

To the new and uninitiated, PCOS is a complex condition that affects more than just your ovaries. And ovaries are not the only criteria for diagnosis. PCOS cannot be viewed through a tunnel vision. It affects every cell in your body. It is the cause of an inexhaustible list of problems including mood disorders, carb cravings, fatigue, brain fog, impulsivity, sleep disorders, high cholesterol, inflammation, anaemia, dry eye, weight gain, acne, hair loss and infertility. But today, we want to specifically touch upon the relationship between PCOS, stress and gut, especially because gut pretty much impacts every other part and system of the body.

PCOS and Gut

The collective billions of different bacteria that inhabit our intestines form what’s called the gut microbiome. These bacteria can have a huge impact on our reproductive health, immune system, digestion, and brain health. Gut health can also be directly related to hormonal imbalances, especially in PCOS.

In a recent study in 2017, they found that PCOS patients had less diversity in bacteria. So, we already got the shorter end of the stick. To add to that, in the same study, they found that Zonulin, that enable passage of materials in the intestines was significantly high in PCOS patients – which could result in leaky gut.  It’s also found that there is a strong relationship between blood Zonulin levels and obesity, insulin resistance, and severity in menstrual irregularities. In addition, blood levels of DAO (a marker for damage to intestine cells) was significantly high in PCOS women. 

PCOS and Stress

Stress can do insane things to the body including contribute to chronic illnesses. We’ve all heard of the fight or flight response. When we are under constant stress, even if it’s low levels, our body releases chemicals such as adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol into our bloodstream. The brain region called the hypothalamus stimulates the pituitary gland to secrete ACTH hormone in response to stress. This in turn stimulates the adrenals to produce stress hormones. ACTH also stimulates the production of the adrenal androgen hormones. And what does too much of that do? Contribute to PCOS. Today, women can also develop “adrenal PCOS” that causes symptoms similar to ovarian cyst-driven PCOS, which in turn creates more stress as PCOS is a condition that really targets insecurities!

So, what now?

Too much gloom and doom? Don’t panic. There’s much you can do to make this journey as comfortable and healthy as possible. Here are a few of our learning:

  • With PCOS, your hormones are already not working as well as they should, so it's imperative to get your stress levels under control. Mindfulness, relaxation and stress reduction is key to alleviating the effects of PCOS. Invest time, energy and money into managing your stress well. It’s worth it.
  • One way to manage stress on a daily basis is CosMix Stress Me Not, which is packed with adaptogens and antioxidants that will help control cortisol levels and offer calming effects.
  • Determine if you have leaky gut. Include prebiotics and probiotics (such as our Happy Gut!) in your daily diet. to improve the intestinal barrier of the gut and insulin resistance. In short, prioritize Gut Health.

Got more questions? Want to share your learning? Get in touch!

 

Words by -

Karen Fernandes

Riya Jithu