Bloating and digestive troubles are not something you have to learn to live with just because you have PCOS. Maintaining healthy digestion can deliver freedom from bloating and bowel troubles, as well as improve mood, balance the hormones and help with weight control.

Top tips to help ease life with PCOS/PhotoCredit: Pixabay
Top tips to help ease life with PCOS/PhotoCredit: Pixabay

Polycystic ovarian syndrome is a complex hormonal imbalance that affects one in five women in the UK. Females will have polycystic ovaries before they are born, and researchers estimate that it has been around for 3.3million years, believing that it developed at a time when the symptoms ensured a greater chance of survival during famines. Today, PCOS is a syndrome that exists in every country of the world, and mostly in the Western world, affecting fertility, weight, and digestion for millions of women.

The hormones that are often higher than they should be in PCOS are oestrogen, testosterone and insulin. Together, these hormones can lead to heavy or long periods, skipped periods, breast tenderness, fibroids, increase in body or facial hair, acne, hot flushes, night sweats, irritability and difficulties conceiving. All this disruption and stress will affect digestion, creating symptoms such as IBS, flatulence, gas, wind, and heartburn.

So, how do we make life with PCOS easier on the body?

Take Digestive Enzymes

If you’ve ever noticed your belly inflate like a balloon after eating, you are experiencing what it feels like when your gut bacteria are struggling to process a food you have eaten. For some, bloating may be a rare experience, but for many it can become extreme and unbearable, particularly around the time of menstruation.

Digestion is a series of steps. Chewing tells the stomach to produce acid and digestive enzymes, then the acid and enzymes break down food into an acidic liquid called chyme. That chyme then leaves the stomach, reaches the small intestine and travels to the large intestine.

In PCOS, the signals that trigger the steps of digestion are interrupted. The rise and fall of hormones can trigger the body to speed up or slow down the release of stomach acid and digestive enzymes. As a result, the liquid that reaches the small intestine is not broken down properly, leading to disturbance in the gut, which in turn lead to gas, flatulence, discomfort, bloating and IBS like symptoms.

The gut itself is a universe, full of healthy bacteria that have the task of ridding the body of excess hormones. When poorly digested liquid from the stomach reaches the same area as gut bacteria, they must do more digesting than they are designed for as this generates gas, fast.

With time and repetition of this process, the balance of gut bacteria can become unhealthy, leading to poor hormone removal from the body and more digestive disturbance.

Taking a digestive enzyme like Digest Gold from Enzymedica with every meal, can help cut off that domino effect that begins with poor stomach digestion to not only help your body gain more nutrients from your diet, but to also help clear excess hormones, and dramatically reduce bloating, gas and bowel irritation.   

Increase Green Leafy Vegetables

Detoxification is the word used to express that the body is getting rid of something that there is too much of, and in PCOS there is a frequent need to get rid of extra hormones that are circulating the bloodstream. Where there is bloating and flatulence, the next part of the body to tend to is the liver. When the liver cannot get rid of hormones, it will feed them back to the gut, leading to more gas, cramps and IBS like symptoms.

The best way to help detoxification is to increase the amount of green leafy vegetables in the diet. Leafy greens such as cabbage, broccoli, bok-choy, kale and spinach are loaded with nutrients, minerals and fibre that support detoxification. 

Aim to make half of your dinner plate leafy greens to begin the process of reducing those high hormone level symptoms of PCOS such as acne, weight gain and mood swings. 

Reduce Blood Sugar

Insulin resistance in PCOS can make gaining energy from food difficult, leading to tiredness, low energy, sugar cravings and consistent weight gain. In PCOS, the driver of this experience is insulin resistance which comes with the condition. When energy is not being used well, cravings usually follow, and often the foods most craved are high carbohydrate foods that convert to gas and bloating quickly, and later constipation or diarrhoea. The root of this pattern is in the diet and choosing foods that will not raise blood sugar levels at high speed. When blood sugar is pushed up quickly, it will drop at the same speed, leading to energy crashes, brain fog and more cravings, flatulence, bloating and bowel irregularities.

Insulin resistance falls on a spectrum of severity and can be mild and easily managed with diet and lifestyle, or severe as with diabetes. Insulin resistance is made worse by high levels of circulating sugar in the bloodstream. Foods that lead to high circulating levels of blood sugar are easy to identify using a food chart called Glycaemic Load or GL for short.  

Low GL foods tend to be higher in protein, fat and fibre content such as egg-based pasta, long grain rice, and sourdough. Fruits and vegetables also have GL values, with watermelon ranking as one of the highest GL foods, and avocado ranking as one of the lowest. 

Reducing the glycaemic load of meals will help to reduce the severity of the insulin resistance in PCOS, leading to improved metabolism, energy levels, easier weight loss and a happier digestive system. 

Improve Sleep

If PCOS is affecting your digestive system, then a good sleep routine is essential. A good sleep routine means that you go to bed at approximately the same time every night, ideally before midnight and sleep through the night until the morning.

During sleep, the body’s detoxification systems get to work to process what you have eaten, clean up debris and waste, and get rid of any excess in the body. The morning bowel movement is getting rid of the waste collected by our detoxification systems.

Good sleep will help the body to remove excess hormones, regulate existing hormones and help the digestive system detoxify, leading to reduced bloating, flatulence, bowel symptoms, and sugar cravings, which all together will alleviate and reduce the digestive discomfort that accompanies PCOS.


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