PCOS And Inflammation: The Connection Explained & Tips for Recovery
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PCOS and Inflammation: The Chicken or The Egg, or Both?

Nov 18, 2017

Women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) have been shown to have higher levels of inflammation. That’s also true for those suffering from other diseases of modern civilization — cardiovascular disease, cancer and type 2 diabetes. Interestingly, as PCOS patients are also at a greater risk of these other diseases, it begs the question. What is the link between PCOS and inflammation, and is it a cause or a response to the signs and symptoms of PCOS.

Let’s take a look…

What is Inflammation?

This should be an easy question to answer, right? Well, …

Inflammation is a complex cascade of biological processes that, in essence, exist to protect us. When we think of an injury, the acute inflammatory process comes to mind. Redness, heat, swelling, and pain are an attempt to confine the damage, which may include limiting function.

So how can it also be an underlying contributor to PCOS? After all, it’s not like someone has poked your ovary with a stick.

Chronic, or long-term, inflammation is a slightly different process. The cells present at the inflammatory site slowly change over time. And this leads to simultaneous destruction and repair of the tissue.

PCOS patients have been shown to have elevated markers for inflammation. In their review paper, Antoni Duleba and Anuja Dokras, state “… studies collectively suggest that women with PCOS have altered circulatory levels of some markers of inflammation, which may reflect a state of chronic low-grade inflammation.”

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Struggling with PCOD symptoms?

How To Monitor Inflammation?

Sadly, inflammation is given very little consideration in the mainstream health field. So, how can we assess and monitor this challenge? Both finding a doctor open to new options and standing your ground are key. Plus…

Blood Tests

There are blood tests that analyze the presence of inflammation. In PCOS, inflammatory markers that are often high include C-reactive protein (CRP), interleukin-18 (IL-18), monocyte chemoattractant protein-1 (MCP-1.) White blood count (WBC) and increased oxidative stress is also an indicator of PCOS. It’s not important to understand these specifically, just that you can request these blood tests from your health professional to gain an understanding of the inflammation levels in your body.

7 signs you may have increased inflammation

While not definitive, here are seven signs you may have higher inflammation:

  • Depression
  • High blood pressure
  • Pain
  • Fatigue
  • Belly fat
  • Tummy troubles or digestive distress
  • Obesity
  • And, of course, PCOS

If you are inflamed or would like to implement natural and holistic strategies to reduce your risk, there are many simple steps you can take.

Inflammation-lowering Tips to Improve your PCOS Symptoms

PCOS and Inflammation
Inflammation-lowering Tips to Improve your PCOS Symptoms

The wonderful thing is, even if you have high inflammation or are at increased risk due to PCOS, there are many steps that can turn this around. These approaches don’t involve medications and have the beneficial effects of jam-packed nutrients that enhance other areas of your health. With that said…

Eat Naturally

Our modern diets often provide an excess of calorie-dense and easily digestible foods — think junk food burgers and the like. These foods trigger irregular after-meal increases in blood sugars and triglyceride levels and immediate increases in inflammatory markers like C-reactive protein. Stick to foods like low glycemic load fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds and eggs instead and you can transform your very biology. A low-carb high fat diet helps in fighting both inflammation and PCOS.

Reduce your Intake of Processed Meats

In women, red and processed meat consumption has been associated with increased CRP levels. Why not substitute some of this meat with some tofu, miso or paneer and try some new vegetarian or white meat-based recipes?

Avoid the Sticky Sweet Stuff

Ah, the sweet sticky stuff! You probably guessed it would be in here. I’m afraid that most, if not all, PCOS patients need to be very aware of how often they consume processed sugar. And they should aim to reduce or avoid this specific type of dangerous white powder. One study showed potentially harmful effects of low to moderate consumption of [sugar sweetened beverages] on… CRP within just 3 weeks!

Consume Healthy Fats

Consumption of omega 3 fatty acids, like those from fresh salmon, sardines and mackerel, flax seeds, chia seeds and walnuts are well known for their inflammation-reducing properties. This is one of the reasons omega 3 fats are recommended for those with arthritis and heart problems.

From Plant Farm to Pharmacy

Plants contain various polyphenols shown to act as anti-inflammatory agents. A phenol unit consists of a six-membered aromatic hydrocarbon ring, bonded directly to…  Yawn! Are you falling asleep? (If not and you’d love to know more, visit this link.) What is important that polyphenols reduce inflammation and help you to stay well.

Examples of polyphenols are “isothiocyanates in cabbage and broccoli, epigallocatechin in green tea, capsaicin in chili peppers, chalones, rutin and naringenin in apples, resveratrol in red wine and fresh peanuts and curcumin/curcuminoids in turmeric.”

Ginger can reduce CRP. As an added bonus, this power root can notably improve insulin sensitivity, which is critical for women with PCOS.

As Dario Giugliano, MD, PhD put it so eloquently, “Western dietary patterns warm up inflammation, while prudent dietary patterns cool it down.”

Reduce Stress

When we think about our body, we often neglect the role our emotional and mental health plays. Think about it like this…

Your boss is horrendous and your job plain sucks. The hours are long, the appreciation lax, the pay poor. You don’t sleep enough because there isn’t time and, well, you just can’t wind down. This has been going on for years.

It’s not too far-fetched to expect you may experience some signs and symptoms like:

  • Headaches
  • Depression
  • Stress
  • Gut issues
  • Sweating
  • Palpitations
  • Fatigue
  • Concentration difficulties
  • Irritability
  • Nightmares
  • Anxiety
  • Memory loss


Still wonder if your psychological and physical wellbeing are linked?

Mental stress has been shown to increase inflammatory levels. Take time to sleep well, meditate, get together with loved ones and laugh, enjoy a relaxation massage, spend a day dedicated to nothing other than relaxation, maybe even schedule a holiday.

Got Gut Troubles?

Our digestive system is incredible. It’s one of the areas of the body I find most intriguing for both its simplicity and complexity. As far as toxins go, our gut should act like a funnel, channeling harmful material through our body without allowing it to enter. Sometimes, however, due to our diet, stress, alcohol, other lifestyle choices or toxic exposure, our gut lining becomes leaky. This allows materials that may hurt us to cross the gut barrier and change from passing through us to become in us. This can cause inflammation at the site of gut damage, and enable this local inflammatory reaction to pass through into our bloodstream and so become systemic. This is known as a leaky gut.

A gut-specific detoxification program, reduced alcohol consumption, supplementation including glutamine, zinc, omega three fats, pre and probiotics, sufficient pure water and a fiber-full and natural food plan all help.

Based on the things I have learned and witnessed over the years, I believe that inflammatory cascade contributes to the manifestation of symptoms of PCOS. I also feel having PCOS works in the other direction. It can increase inflammation. So is inflammation the PCOS chicken or the Polycystic Ovary Syndrome egg? I believe it’s both.

Want To Explore More? Checkout Sepalika Polycystic Ovary Disorder (PCOD) Program

Dr. Rebecca Harwin
is a leading natural health and PCOS expert, and has worked with thousands of women, men and children to improve their lives. Holding three University degrees, she is the author of 23 books, including her Amazon bestseller titled, Conquer Your PCOS Naturally, and three courses. Dr. Harwin is a contented wife and stepmom of one 17-year old, a greyhound, two cats and three hens.