The Effects of Probiotic Supplements on PCOS

The Effects of Probiotic Supplements on PCOS

A diagnosis of PCOS is overwhelming for anyone because it affects every aspect of your life. Managing it can also be a struggle because you need to make a wide range of dietary and lifestyle changes, in addition to adhering to treatment and testing recommendations. However, with proper guidance and support, you can make these changes gradually, taking it one step at a time. This is particularly true for PCOS nutrition and dietary changes because foods play a significant role in PCOS progression, potentially alleviating symptoms or worsening them, which also raises the risk of other complications. Unsurprisingly, there has been growing interest in the use of probiotics for PCOS management. While you may be skeptical about such claims, they are backed by a huge amount of evidence. Here’s a comprehensive overview of what research over the last decade has to say about the use of any probiotic for women with PCOS.

Effects of Probiotics & Prebiotics Supplementation on Hormonal Balance in Women

The fact that women with PCOS experience chronic inflammation is already well-recognized in the medical community. We also know that this kind of inflammation raises the risk of heart disease and other problems. It is now also becoming clear that the use of probiotics in PCOS care can support other healthy diet changes such as the elimination of processed foods in favour of whole foods, and the reduction or elimination of saturated fats, processed meats and refined sugar.

Although probiotics and prebiotics are not a magic bullet to solve every problem associated with PCOS, their supplementation has been found to improve hormonal profiles. Probiotics can influence hormonal profiles in PCOS-affected women by promoting a healthier balance of gut bacteria, which may lead to reduced levels of androgens such as testosterone and improved insulin sensitivity, contributing to better hormonal regulation. These findings suggest a greater role of probiotics for hormonal imbalances in women.

Understanding PCOS and Probiotics

During the last decade, researchers have been looking beyond traditional PCOS medications, also focusing on the role of the gut microbiome as our understanding of this complex system has grown vastly. Their investigations have found marked differences in the gut microbiomes of women with PCOS as compared to in healthy women. While most women have diverse gut microbiomes, those with PCOS seem to have reduced diversity.

  • Development and progression of PCOS as reduced gut microbiome diversity has been associated with high testosterone levels and the onset of notable PCOS symptoms such as hirsutism or excess hair growth. It has also been linked to other conditions including weight gain, high cholesterol levels, and insulin resistance, which are commonly seen in PCOS.
  • Probiotics may potentially improve hormonal profiles in PCOS-afflicted women by modulating gut microbiota, leading to reduced inflammation and insulin resistance, which are often associated with PCOS. 
  • Studies have also observed improvements in weight management and BMI control in women using probiotic supplements for PCOS. These improvements subsequently lower the risk of complications such as infertility and cardiovascular disease. 
  • The use of probiotics in PCOS may be particularly effective in adolescents who also suffer from obesity.

The Link Between Gut Health and PCOS

The causes of PCOS are still not fully understood but research into the gut microbiome has helped to shed more light and suggests that gut health may play a bigger role than we imagined. 

  • An important early clue comes from a study published in 2015 that looked at the dietary habits of women with PCOS as compared to those without. This revealed a higher prevalence of unhealthy dietary habits in women with PCOS, which also increased the risk of obesity. 
  • These behaviours are now thought to adversely affect gut health, changing the normal balance of gut bacteria. This is called gut dysbiosis, a condition that can increase the permeability of the gut lining, which then allows harmful products from bacteria to enter the bloodstream. 
  • It is theorized that these substances can produce an immune response, also interfering with how insulin works. This results in increased insulin resistance, high insulin levels, and increased production of male hormones in the ovaries.
  • Other studies point to changes in gut bacteria that are influenced by bile acids, which are required for fat digestion. These acids are found to be present in larger amounts in women with PCOS – specifically deoxycholic acid, which influences body fat storage and insulin levels. 

These changes may have adverse effects on gut bacteria, with the changed gut microbiome composition weakening the gut lining, in turn worsening PCOS symptoms.

Benefits of Probiotic Supplements for PCOS

Although we don’t fully understand the mechanisms through which probiotics improve PCOS management, there are several explanations. These are some recognised probiotics benefits for PCOS:

Restored Gut Health: Probiotics can help restore gut microbial equilibrium, which improves gut health and digestion. When dealing with PCOS, it has been revealed that some of the chemical by-products from fibre digestion have a positive influence on metabolic function and hormones, which improves PCOS symptoms. These chemicals are released when dietary fibre is broken down by good bacteria in the gut. Probiotic supplements such as PCOS Balance by The Good Bug are a reliable and trustworthy source to restore gut health while dealing with PCOS. 
Improved PCOS Symptoms: Probiotic supplementation in PCOS can help to reduce inflammation by boosting gut health. This in turn has been found to reduce free androgen and testosterone levels and increase SHBG and nitric oxide levels, improving weight management and insulin resistance. Probiotic supplementation is also associated with better glycaemic control and improved lipid metabolism, protecting against PCOS complications of diabetes and heart disease.
Better Mental Health: Studies in recent years have shown that probiotic supplementation along with vitamin D can significantly improve mental health parameters, especially in women with PCOS who also have vitamin D deficiency – a widespread problem in India. Probiotics are seen to have a beneficial effect on vitamin D levels through their influence on vitamin D receptors and they also work synergistically to modulate the microbiota-gut-brain axis, which plays a direct role in the development and progression of mental illnesses and metabolic disorders.
Improves Heart Health: Probiotics may contribute to heart health by lowering bad cholesterol and blood pressure. Certain lactic acid-producing bacteria aid in reducing cholesterol levels by breaking down bile in the gut, a fluid primarily composed of cholesterol that helps in digestion. Through this process probiotics prevent the reabsorption of bile in the gut, thus reducing the amount of cholesterol that enters the bloodstream. 
Aids In Weight Loss:  Food lipids are not absorbed by the colon thanks to probiotics; instead, they are eliminated through feces instead of being stored by the body. Probiotics aid in weight loss through this mechanism.

Choosing the Right Probiotic Supplements for PCOS

When choosing probiotic supplements for PCOS, opt for those containing strains known to support gut health and hormonal balance, such as Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, and Bifidobacterium lactis. To ensure efficacy, look for supplements with multiple strains and high colony-forming units (CFUs). Additionally, consider probiotics with added prebiotics to further support gut microbiota diversity. The Good Bug offers probiotic supplements which are highly effective in dealing with PCOS. 

Potential Risks and Considerations

While probiotics are generally considered safe, individuals with compromised immune systems and serious comorbidities should check with their healthcare providers before starting probiotic supplementation. Keep in mind that some people may experience mild gastrointestinal discomfort when they first start taking probiotics, but this typically resolves over time. You may also need to adjust your dosage or change the strains to improve efficacy and reduce any discomfort. Perhaps most importantly, always choose high-quality probiotic supplements from reputable brands to minimize the risk of contamination or ineffective formulations.


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