There is no denying that inflammation is the ‘bad guy’ in PCOS. The concept is similar to ladies that chase the ‘bad boy’, those guys may look cool on the exterior (just like this fire twirling goddess) but they may bring you harm and destruction. Same goes for inflammation in the body and the things that light that fire; it is catastrophic for PCOS. Inflammation is a top factor that needs addressing if you have PCOS, if you ignore it, your symptoms will get cosy and stick around.
What fuels the flames (i.e. contributes to inflammation)?
There are a number of factors which can both drive inflammation and contribute to it.
Here are a few (sadly there are more than this):
THE ‘S’ WORD
Stress is a big one; remember that stress doesn’t have to be emotional or mental you can experience stress on a physical or biological level (having PCOS is a stress for the body in itself). Things like being stuck in peak hour traffic, not getting enough sleep, environmental toxins, eating bad food etc. But going back to emotional stress, when your body notices that something is stressing you out, it produces the hormone cortisol to help you cope or adapt with stress.
Cortisol is involved in that ‘fight or flight’ response which dates back to cave man times when they needed to run from a sabre toothed tiger. The thing is our body doesn’t know the difference between a life and death situation or otherwise. It is when the stress is ongoing and frequent that it becomes an issue; cortisol levels rise in an effort to restore a sense of calm. High cortisol can lead to our ‘bad boy friend’ inflammation. So it is vital to include things that make you feel ‘zen’ this can include a date with yours truly: a bath with candles, epsom salts surrounded by candles (ooohhh how romantic), reading a book, dancing, taking time out in nature.
There are certain foods that just add fuel to the already brightly burning flame when you have PCOS. I would avoid these with a 10-foot pole: red meat (switch to fish and chicken instead), cow’s dairy – milk, cheese, yoghurt (switch to goat’s or sheep’s products instead if you tolerate them and if you are not lactose intolerant), fried foods – deep fried chicken, fish, drumsticks, dim sims, spring rolls these are bad news for everyone really just a heart attack waiting to happen (switch to fresh food, stir fry, steam or lightly boil your food instead). Fried foods use inflammatory oils that go rancid easily such as soy, corn, canola and sunflower oil (yucko!).
Environmental toxins are a big one; they seem to be all around us. So we need to be doing what we can to minimise the ones that lurk at home and what we slap on our skin as part of our daily beauty and hygiene routine. The EWG (Environmental Working Group) conducted a study that revealed the average Joe Blogs has 91 toxic chemicals in their body! (yikes!).
Environmental toxins pretend to be oestrogen and the body is none the wiser > hormone imbalance > inflammation > hormone balance. Toxins or Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) also interfere with glucose and insulin > insulin resistance (which is already present in PCOS) > inflammation. Finally (as if that isn’t bad enough already), POPs are linked to weight gain due to hormone balance and blood sugar disruption > inflammation. So have a think about what you are using that you can switch to something more natural: deodorant, moisturiser, shampoo etc.
Why is inflammation so bad for PCOS?
Ladies with PCOS tend to have elevated levels of CRP, compared to others, which a marker on a blood test that tells you whether or not inflammation is occurring in the body. If CRP levels are raised (which means that there is inflammation) this increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, insulin resistance and diabetes. Usually their body’s inflammatory response is triggered inappropriately.
The other thing is inflammation > hormone imbalance which leads to more inflammation (eep!). There is already enough hormone imbalance in women with PCOS so you definitely don’t want to add to this problem. Inflammation will result in higher levels of testosterone (these are already high in PCOS). This contributes to anovulatory cycles (a cycle where ovulation is no where to be found).
So do yourself a favour and try some of those lifestyle and dietary recommendations to kick that bad boy inflammation where the sun don’t shine.
Would you like to learn more about Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome vs Polycystic Ovaries?
Find out: If they are the same or different and what the difference is, Is PCOS a new fandangled thing? How does it affect fertility? And the best ways to manage PCOS and PCO. Click here to view a Q & A on Tsuno’s blog where I was interviewed about PCOS and PCO.
If you would like to learn some more about PCOS click here