The collection of microorganisms residing in your gut forms the basis for your reproductive health. With over 2 kg of microbiota, primarily composed of bacteria, inhabiting our gut, these microorganisms play a crucial role. They produce vital vitamins, regulate the immune system, impact metabolism and influence hormone levels, muscle strength, and mood.
A flourishing and varied gut microbiome is linked to enhanced health and overall well-being. The presence of numerous microbial species characterizes a healthy gut, showcasing diversity both in type and abundance. Examining the gut microbiome in individuals with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) reveals a decrease in diversity. This reduction often involves an increase in species that promote inflammation and metabolic disruption, along with a decrease in beneficial bacteria essential for producing advantageous compounds.
In cases of gut dysbiosis related to PCOS, there is a surge in androgens (hyperandrogenism), potentially suppressing ovulation. Specific groups of bacteria in females with PCOS affect appetite, body weight, sex hormones and communication between the brain and gut. Individuals with PCOS are likely to exhibit elevated levels of Bacteroides vulgatus (B. vulgatus) in their gut. Transplanting B. vulgatus from the gut of a female with PCOS into mice leads to the development of insulin resistance, heightened inflammation, increased circulating endotoxin, diminished ovarian function and reduced fertility. Conversely, when mice with PCOS receive a transplant of a healthy human gut microbiota, there is an improvement in PCOS symptoms and enhanced fertility, as demonstrated in various studies.
Understanding Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a prevalent endocrine disorder that impacts 5% to 20% of females in their reproductive age globally. Commonly linked to disruptions in the menstrual cycle, insulin resistance, elevated androgen levels (such as testosterone) and infertility, PCOS presents multifaceted challenges.
Beyond the genetic factors influencing PCOS, there exists a connection between our gut microbiome and this syndrome. In this discussion, we delve into this association and unveil strategies to enhance your gut health, offering potential avenues for managing PCOS. Diagnosing PCOS is often a complex process. With a multitude of symptoms at play, there isn’t a singular test that definitively confirms or rules out the presence of PCOS. Moreover, lifestyle adjustments can contribute to the amelioration of PCOS symptoms, potentially camouflaging some of its characteristic features. For instance, engaging in regular exercise could lead to an improvement in menstrual regularity, even if initially marked by extended cycles.
Exploring Gut Health
The Bidirectional Link Between the Gut and Brain
Did you know that an intricate network of nerves, hormones and chemical messengers forms a connection between your gut and brain? This two-way communication pathway, termed the gut-brain axis, enables signals to travel between your digestive system and your brain. Remarkably, what transpires in your gut has the potential to influence your emotions, thoughts and cognitive functions.
Gut Microbiota: Microscopic Powerhouses
Your gut harbors trillions of microorganisms collectively referred to as the gut microbiota. These minuscule inhabitants play a pivotal role in sustaining your health by aiding in digestion, supporting the immune system and producing essential vitamins and neurotransmitters. Ongoing research also suggests a possible link between an imbalance in your gut microbiota and conditions such as mood disorders, anxiety and even depression.
Stress, Mood and Gut Harmony
Have you ever observed how stress can impact your digestion? The gut-brain connection is instrumental in this scenario as well. Prolonged stress has the potential to disrupt the equilibrium of your gut microbiota, leading to digestive issues. Moreover, the gut is a source of neurotransmitters like serotonin, often referred to as the “happy hormone.” An unhealthy gut could influence your mood and emotional well-being.
Cultivating Optimal Health for Your Gut
Preserving a healthy gut involves adopting a holistic approach. A well-rounded diet rich in fiber, prebiotics and probiotics can foster a diverse and thriving gut microbiota. Regular exercise, sufficient sleep and effective stress management are equally crucial aspects of maintaining gut health.
Practical Tips for a Joyful Gut and Mind
- Diverse Diet: Integrate a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins into your meals.
- Probiotics: Include fermented foods like yogurt, kefir and sauerkraut to introduce beneficial probiotics.
- Prebiotics: Consume foods such as garlic, onions and bananas that promote the growth of healthy gut bacteria.
- Stay Hydrated: Ensure you drink ample water to support digestion and nutrient absorption.
- Mindfulness and Relaxation: Embrace practices like deep breathing, meditation and yoga to effectively manage stress.
THE MICROBIOME & DYSBIOSIS
The gut microbiome encompasses the community of microorganisms residing in the gastrointestinal tract, comprising bacteria, fungi and viruses, with bacteria predominantly residing in the large intestine. The microbiome plays several crucial roles in the body, such as:
— Facilitating digestion and absorption of food
— Regulating the immune system
— Managing inflammation
— Producing essential vitamins
— Balancing hormones, including insulin
— Generating neurotransmitters that influence mental health
Dysbiosis occurs when there is an imbalance between beneficial and harmful bacteria, potentially leading to various health complications. Research indicates that women with PCOS exhibit dysbiosis and a less diverse array of gut bacteria compared to those without PCOS, potentially contributing to symptoms and disease progression. Additionally, studies reveal an inverse relationship between androgen levels and gut bacterial diversity in PCOS. Complications associated with PCOS, such as obesity and insulin resistance, may exacerbate dysbiosis, complicating the condition further.
This term refers to the integrity of the gut barrier lining. A healthy gut lining is likened to a closed fist with minimal gaps, serving as a protective barrier against harmful microorganisms and toxins. Conversely, increased intestinal permeability resembles an open hand with spread-out fingers, allowing the entry of harmful substances. This may contribute to the pathophysiology of inflammatory diseases, a key driver in PCOS. Both dysbiosis and heightened intestinal permeability are recognized features of PCOS. Notably, conventional treatments like the oral contraceptive pill, commonly prescribed for PCOS, have been found in studies to potentially worsen the gut microbiome and contribute to increased intestinal permeability.
Tips for a Healthy Gut
Promoting Gut Health Through Wise Dietary Choices
1: Embrace Whole Grains
For millennia, whole grains have been a staple in our diets. Incorporating whole grains into your daily meals is essential to maintain a well-functioning gut. Rich in fibers, antioxidants and various micronutrients, whole grains act as prebiotics, nurturing the growth of beneficial intestinal bacteria. Additionally, they play a pivotal role in preventing constipation by softening stool consistency.
2: Indulge in Green Leafy Vegetables
Leafy greens like spinach, broccoli and kale offer a symphony of dietary fibers, vitamins, minerals and iron. A diet abundant in these vegetables can enhance your gut system, optimizing its functionality. When it comes to digestive health, individual responses to certain foods can vary. Acidic foods such as tomatoes, citrus fruits, salad dressings and carbonated beverages might trigger heartburn, while wheat and onions could lead to irritable bowel syndrome. Those with lactose intolerance should be cautious with dairy products. Maintaining a food journal can help identify specific foods that exacerbate digestive issues.
3: Prioritize Lean Proteins
Especially beneficial for individuals dealing with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or gut sensitivity, lean proteins such as chicken or white-fleshed fish provide a high-protein, low-fat option. Steering clear of high-fat foods is crucial, as they can induce intestinal contractions, potentially compromising gut health.
4: Opt for Low-Sugar Fruits
Reducing sugar intake is pivotal for a healthy intestine. Fruits with high sugar levels, such as mangoes, berries and apples, can contribute to bloating and abdominal distension. Being mindful of the sugar content in fruits supports overall gut well-being.
5: Stay Hydrated
While not a food, water is indispensable for bodily functions. Adequate water intake aids nutrient absorption, facilitates waste elimination and cleanses not only the intestine but the entire body. Prioritize hydration for overall health and gut maintenance.
Foods That Foster Gut Health
1: Yoghurt — A Probiotic Powerhouse
Yogurt, a fermented milk product, is a rich source of live, friendly bacteria known as probiotics. Supporting digestion and maintaining gut health, yogurt can be enjoyed on its own or combined with fruits for a delightful and nutritious fusion.
2: Chia Seeds — Fibre-Rich Superfood
Chia seeds, packed with dietary fibers, create a gel-like substance in the stomach, serving as a prebiotic. This aids the growth of beneficial bacteria in the intestine and helps alleviate constipation.
3: Almonds — Micronutrient-Rich Snack
Abundant in vitamin E, fatty acids and fibres, almonds contribute to gut health. A daily handful of almonds provides essential nutrients for maintaining robust digestive function.
4: Miso — Fermented Soy Elixir
Miso, derived from fermented soybeans, introduces probiotics that enhance digestion and support intestinal health. By fostering the growth of good bacteria, miso contributes to a thriving gut environment.
5: Olive Oil — Anti-Inflammatory Elixir
Olive oil, rich in fatty acids and polyphenols, combats gut inflammation and preserves bacterial flora. Incorporating olive oil into salads or cooking routines adds a flavourful and health-promoting element.
6: Avocado — Superfood for Gut Health
Avocado, renowned for its fiber content and micronutrients, promotes healthy digestion and sustains intestinal well-being. Low in sugar, avocados are a gentle choice for maintaining gut health.
7: Bananas — Fibre-Rich and Antacid
Bananas, abundant in fiber and low in fruit sugar, contain inulin, fostering the growth of beneficial gut bacteria. With natural antacid effects, bananas safeguard the stomach and intestine from digestive acids.
8: Kiwi — Protein Digestion Aid
Green kiwi, containing the enzyme actinidin, supports protein digestion. Known for its laxative effects due to its high fiber content, kiwi contributes to a healthy gut.
9: Apricots — Immunity Booster
Rich in vitamin C and fibers, apricots boost immunity and promote gut health. Maintaining bowel regularity aids in preventing constipation and supports colon health.
10: Guava — Digestive Health Ally
Guava, a crunchy and sweet-sour fruit, stands out for its rich fiber and vitamin content. Acting as an excellent laxative, guava ensures smooth stool passage.
Foods to Avoid for a Healthy Gut
In addition to embracing gut-friendly foods, steering clear of certain items can contribute to optimal gut health:
1: Artificial Sweeteners — Microbial Disruptors
Some artificial sweeteners negatively impact gut microorganisms. Reducing or avoiding them, unless necessary for diabetes management, is advisable.
2: Alcohol — Gut Microbiome Disruptor
Moderation in alcohol intake is recommended, as it can alter the balance of bacteria in the gut. Additionally, alcohol is associated with acidity and digestive issues.
3: Fried and Processed Foods — Digestive Culprits
Fried and processed foods, particularly fast food, can induce stomach pain, gassiness and other digestive problems. Their overall impact on health is detrimental, making them advisable to steer clear of.
Cultivate a Daily 10-Minute Meditation Routine for Mind-Body Relaxation
Dedicate a mere 10 minutes each day to meditation, a practice proven to alleviate stress, a known adversary of the gut microbiome. Mindfulness and meditation work synergistically to diminish stress levels and fortify overall gut health.
Exercise Caution with Anti-Inflammatory Drugs and Opioids
Exercise discretion when using anti-inflammatory drugs and opioids, avoiding them whenever feasible. Overreliance on these medications can detrimentally impact the health of the gut microbiome.
Prioritize Nutrient-Dense Carbohydrates, Shunning Refined Options
Steer clear of refined carbohydrates and gravitate toward nutrient-dense carbohydrate sources, particularly those derived from vegetables. Carbohydrates sourced from vegetables play a pivotal role in fostering a healthy and diverse gut microbiome.
Moderate Alcohol Consumption for Optimal Gut Microbiome Diversity
Strive to limit alcohol intake to fewer than 2 alcoholic beverages per week for the next 8 weeks. Excessive alcohol consumption can compromise the diversity of the gut microbiome, underscoring the importance of moderation.
Stay Hydrated and Support Digestion
Adjust your water and fluid intake based on thirst and exercise levels. Adequate hydration supports digestion and mitigates the risk of dehydration-related issues.
Cautiously Manage Caffeine Intake
Manage caffeine intake judiciously, restricting consumption to 1–2 cups before noon. While coffee can be advantageous to the microbiome, excessive consumption may lead to dehydration, digestive irregularities and sleep disturbances.
Prioritize Varied Protein Sources for Gut Health
Prioritize a diverse range of protein-dense foods, ideally sourced from whole foods. Supplementing with protein shakes, as necessary, aids in meeting protein goals. Amino acids in proteins are utilized by gut bacteria to generate vital metabolites, such as indole-3-propionic acid, fostering overall health and wellness.
Embrace Regular Massage for Neurotransmitter Stimulation
Incorporate either professional massages or self-massages into your routine weekly. This practice stimulates neurotransmitters, including serotonin, fortifying the crucial gut-brain connection.
Bask in 10 Minutes of Daily Sunlight for Vitamin Production
Devote at least 10 minutes daily to direct sunlight exposure. Sunlight facilitates vitamin production, pivotal for supporting the optimal functioning of the gut microbiome. Residents in low-sunlight areas may consider consulting their doctor about vitamin D3 supplementation.
Maintain a healthy sleep cycle with consistency. At least 7–8 hours of sleep is essential for the healthy functioning of an adult body.
Effectively handling stress is crucial for numerous facets of well-being, with a notable impact on gut health. Research involving animals has indicated that brief psychological stressors have the potential to disturb the microorganisms within the intestines. In humans, a diverse range of stressors, encompassing psychological stress, environmental factors like extreme temperatures or noise, sleep deprivation and circadian rhythm disruptions, can detrimentally influence gut health. Various stress management strategies, such as meditation, deep breathing exercises and progressive muscle relaxation, prove beneficial in mitigating the adverse effects of stress on the gut.
- Probiotics: Beneficial Microorganisms
Probiotics encompass living organisms, primarily bacteria and a specific type of yeast, mirroring the advantageous bacteria in the gut that aid in digestion. These supplements find application in addressing certain gastrointestinal (GI) issues and promoting overall digestive well-being. Some probiotics may offer relief from diarrhea and potentially alleviate symptoms associated with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Consider incorporating them into malted milk or yogurt.
- DGL (Licorice): Alleviating Heartburn
Licorice has a long-standing tradition of use in mitigating symptoms of indigestion, such as heartburn and acid reflux. While these applications lack robust scientific backing, unpurified licorice may have side effects, including contributing to elevated blood pressure in certain individuals. Deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL) is a specific licorice extract with a particular chemical removed, exhibiting fewer side effects. However, pregnant women should consult their doctor before taking DGL or any other supplement.
- Peppermint Oil: IBS Relief
Although ongoing research is underway, several studies suggest that peppermint oil might reduce pain and bloating associated with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Enteric-coated capsules release the oil in the small and large intestines, avoiding dissolution in the stomach. Peppermint oil, when used in small doses, appears to be generally safe.
- Chamomile: Beyond a Relaxing Tea
Chamomile, widely employed for various ailments, has been explored for its potential to address digestive issues like upset stomach, colic and nausea. Additionally, it has historical use in managing anxiety and insomnia. Individuals with certain plant allergies, such as ragweed, should exercise caution and consult with their doctor before incorporating chamomile supplements.
- Ginger: Stomach Comfort
Employed in Asian medicine to treat stomachaches, ginger is utilized in the West to alleviate nausea and vomiting during pregnancy. Available in various forms, including powder, capsules, tablets, or freshly cut root, ginger is generally considered safe in small doses (1 to 2 grams per day).
- L-Glutamine: Supporting Intestinal Health
Naturally present in the body, glutamine provides support to the intestines and other organs. Some experts believe the supplement L-glutamine aids in relieving diarrhea induced by surgery, infections, or stress. It may also enhance nutrient absorption in specific conditions. However, additional research is necessary.
- Psyllium: Fibre for Alleviating Constipation
Included in bulk laxatives, psyllium, owing to its high fiber content, absorbs water in the intestines, promoting bulky and more manageable stool passage. Adequate fluid intake is crucial when using psyllium to prevent dehydration or worsening constipation. Individuals allergic to certain pollens could experience severe allergic reactions when taking psyllium.
- Artichoke: Easing Stomach Discomfort
Artichoke leaf extract shows promise in relieving symptoms of indigestion, potentially reducing nausea, vomiting, gas and abdominal pain with regular use. It may also contribute to treating IBS and minimizing associated cramps and abdominal pain. While the extract exhibits no known drug interactions, individuals allergic to specific pollens should be cautious due to potential allergic reactions.
Best Supplements for PCOS
Extensive research has explored the potential of myo-inositol in promoting hormone balance and supporting reproductive health. Given that most foods containing myo-inositol offer this beneficial nutrient in minimal quantities, supplements prove to be the most effective means of obtaining additional myo-inositol.
As one of the body’s most abundant minerals, magnesium plays a crucial role in enhancing sleep quality and reducing tiredness and fatigue. Consequently, maintaining appropriate magnesium levels is vital, especially for individuals dealing with PCOS, as it provides the necessary energy to navigate through the day.
Individuals with PCOS often receive metformin prescriptions to improve insulin effectiveness. However, this medication can potentially deplete vitamin B12 levels, impacting energy levels. Therefore, those using metformin might consider supplementing with vitamin B12. Additionally, vitamin B6 contributes to hormonal activity regulation, while vitamin B5 is essential for the production and metabolism of steroid hormones, including estrogen.
Learn More With Veera
Ensuring a healthy gastrointestinal lifestyle is essential, not only to prevent gut-related diseases but also for overall well-being. Key factors in this endeavor include prioritizing fiber and maintaining proper hydration. In addition to incorporating prebiotics and probiotics into your diet, regular exercise, stress management, practicing good hygiene, obtaining sufficient sleep and steering clear of smoking, alcohol and processed foods all contribute significantly to promoting a healthier gut and preventing diseases. By following these strategies and tips, you can enhance your overall physical, mental and emotional health. And Veera Health’s expert gynecologists can help you follow all these with efficiency.