Diet, diet, diet. It's probably one of the words more women with PCOS hate! So instead as you go forward reading this blog, don't think about the word "diet" as a method of torture/being without your favorite foods/avoiding snacks or late night treats. Instead try to associate diet with a life change that will bring energy/comfort/happiness. I can't stress enough how happy you feel well you don't feel miserable from PCOS symptoms. An anti inflammatory diet maybe be great for you, it's a way of eating that helps reduce chronic inflammation in your body.
Keep in mind too that this is just one option and every woman with PCOS is going to need different things to manage their symptoms but don't pass this blog up because according to a very large study done in Sweden which followed people for 16 years, (published in the Journal of Internal Medicine1) an anti-inflammatory diet can lengthen your life, even if you're a smoker. Which is crazy. This might be a diet to share with your friends and family. Plus, you'd be surprised how much inflammation is happening in women with PCOS, this could be the diet (aka life changing/happiness experience) for you.
What is Chronic Inflammation?
Inflammation is a natural part of our immune system. Inflammation is a basic method by which we respond to infection, irritation, or injury. However, too much of anything isn't good!
For women with PCOS, low-grade inflammation often occurs and is associated with insulin resistance in PCOS2. When women with PCOS have chronic inflammations, their bodies are constantly inflamed inside. Not all inflammation is bad, Acute inflammation helps us heal and only lasts a few days, while Chronic Inflammation can last for months to years. Chronic inflammation is also called low-grade inflammation because it produces a steady, low-level of inflammation throughout the body. Chronic low-grade inflammation is a contributor to Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). This is believed to be created from a higher amount of androgens, which creates increased insulin, and these higher insulin levels can cause weight gain which causes more inflammation.
Chronic inflammation vs the world...
Women with PCOS aren't the only ones who suffer from Chronic inflammation, it's believed that inflammation may contribute to a wide range of chronic diseases like metabolic syndrome, which includes type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. The World Health Organization (WHO), ranks chronic diseases as the greatest threat to human health. "Chronic inflammatory diseases are the most significant cause of death in the world3." Though don't despair, because as I mentioned before an anti-inflammatory diet may lengthen your life and prevent these possibilities.
Signs you Might have Chronic Inflammation
-Not ovulating: In gynecology, "inflammation can affect ovulation and hormone production as well as be associated with endometriosis."15 It is also a main driver for PCOS symptoms. Reducing inflammation with an anti inflammatory diet can help reduce symptoms from PCOS and endometriosis and may help with ovulation.
-Aches and pains: are you experiencing pain all the time but it isn't do to an injury? Then that is an indicator of excess inflammation. Do you notice pain at the end of your range of motion? This could be arthritis but it could also be chronic inflammation, ask your doctor to make sure.
-Swollen Lymph Nodes: Have you ever gone to the doctor and they've checked under your neck to see if you have swollen lymph nodes? It's pretty common when you have a cold or sore throat, however if your lymph nodes are always swollen or hurt, you should see a doctor as this could be a sign of chronic inflammatory issues. Lymph nodes are located in your neck, under your armpits and near the groin.
-Digestive Issues: symptoms from chronic inflammation can show up in the gastrointestinal tract with symptoms of ongoing diarrhea or gassiness as well as possible bloating and cramping.
-Brain fog: A common symptom for women with PCOS is brain fog. If you're noticing it more frequently or you're having a difficult time focusing, this might be because of inflammation. Sometimes simple life choices like better food can solve some of your symptoms like brain fog. Any fast food, or processed food can increase inflammation levels. Try making your own food all week, sticking to high levels of fiber with vegetables and fruit and you'll notice the difference.
-Common symptoms could also be caused from chronic inflammation are a stuffy nose, rash, acne, dry skin, eczema or headaches, heartburn: Everyone can experience these symptoms at some point but if they aren't going away, it could be a sign of chronic inflammation and you should ask your doctor.
Why you want an anti inflammatory diet:
Besides being great for PCOS, "anti-inflammatory agents have been found to provide relief from some PMS4" according to studies. Inflammation causes a lot of symptoms, which is why you might be able to find overall relief from PMS and PCOS symptoms with anti-inflammatory agents which include an anti inflammatory diet.
Let's talk about some foods that may cause or aggravate inflammation, even if you don't want to try the anti inflammatory diet, you might want to avoid these foods for your overall health:
Say No to the Following Foods:
1. Sugar and high-fructose corn syrup
One study alone could get me to stop wanting sugar, this study fed mice a high sucrose (table sugar) diet which developed into breast cancer that spread to their lungs and it was said this was caused from the inflammatory response to sugar.5
Think you can just eat the good with the bad? Maybe that won't work, according to another study done on mice, a high sugar diet actually blocked the effects of omega-3 (an anti-inflammatory agent).6
Think about all the sugar around you, it's not just in candy, some cereals, cakes, cookies, doughnuts, and sweet pastries. it's also in your drinks like juice, alcohol and soda! A recent clinical trial was done comparing people who drank regular soda, diet soda, milk or water. The group who drank soda regularly had increased levels of uric acid. "Uric acid induce insulin resistance and low-grade inflammation."7 Which are both PCOS symptoms, meaning soda should be cut out of your diet whether you're planning on trying the anti inflammatory diet or not.
2. Artificial trans fats
"Trans fats raise your bad (LDL) cholesterol levels and lower your good (HDL) cholesterol levels. Eating trans fats increases your risk of developing heart disease and stroke. It’s also associated with a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes."8 Raised LDL cholesterol causes inflammation. How can you avoid food that may contain trans fats? Try to avoid fried foods like doughnuts, and baked goods including cakes, pie crusts, biscuits, frozen pizza, cookies, crackers, and stick margarines and other spreads. The Nutrition Facts panel is another way to determine the amount of trans fats. However, products can be listed as “0 grams of trans fats” if they contain 0 grams to less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving and some companies can list small serving amounts in order to avoid marking trans fats. To double check, try reading the ingredients list and look for “partially hydrogenated oils.”
3. Vegetable and seed oils
Increases in chronic inflammatory diseases may be because of the increased use of certain vegetable oils in the Western diet. This could be because of their very high omega-6 fatty acid content9.
However evidence of increased omega-6 fatty acids increasing inflammation in humans is limited. There are still other health reasons to avoid vegetable oils.
4. Refined carbohydrates
Not all carbohydrates are bad but refined carbs which is what you'll mostly find at the store or in restaurants are common drivers of inflammation.10 Why are they such a problem? Because refined carbs have had most of their fiber removed. They also have a higher glycemic index which in one study, older adults with high intakes of glycemic index foods found "Women in the highest GI (glycemic index) tertile had a 2.9-fold increased risk of inflammatory death compared with women in the lowest GI (glycemic index) tertile."11
Refined carbohydrates are found in white bread, pizza dough, pasta, pastries, white flour, white rice, sweet desserts, and many breakfast cereals.
6. Processed meat
Processed meats like bacon, hot dogs, meat jerkies, salami, sausage, and some red meats are high in saturated fat, which causes inflammation. Studies show higher intakes of these processed meats go hand in hand with diseases caused by inflammation.12
What to eat for an anti inflammatory diet:
- nuts (like almonds and walnuts)
- berries (like blueberries, strawberries, and blackberries)
- olive oil and coconut oil
- dark, leafy greens (like kale and spinach)
- whole grains (like quinoa, brown rice, wild rice)
- red grapes
- beans and lentils
- cold water fish (like tuna and salmon)
- green tea (matcha)
- spices, like pepper, turmeric, ginger, and cinnamon
- dark chocolate
- chia seeds
- flax seeds
- citrus (like oranges and lemons)
- natural sweeteners (like dates and pure maple syrup)
- root starches (like sweet potatoes, beets, and potatoes)
Diet alone may not control inflammation, but it is part of the building blocks for success. An anti inflammatory diet paired with PCOS supplements or S'moo (a supplement designed to help balance your hormones) can have you on the right path to reducing PCOS symptoms and reducing your inflammatory symptoms, not to mention based on some studies this diet may increase the length of your life. It's worth a try.
This content is strictly the opinion of S'moo and is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of medical advice or treatment from a personal physician. All readers/viewers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. Neither S'moo nor the publisher of this content takes responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or persons reading or following the information in this educational content. All viewers of this content, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their physicians before beginning any nutrition, supplement or lifestyle program.