Probiotic supplements are among the most popular and widely selling on the market due in part to the ever growing scientific fascination with gut health that continues to capture consumer attention the world over.
Having reviewed the data about their potential uses at length in a previous article, I appreciate that there is a good deal of evidence suggesting that probiotic supplementation can be advantageous in certain contexts.
But does PCOS happen to be one of them?
Having recently explored the topic of soy intake in women with this condition, I decided to expand the conversation into a sub topic – the microbiome.
PCOS & Your Gut Microbiome
It didn’t take me long to realize that there is a great deal of attention being paid to gut health and the microbiome in the PCOS literature.
There appears to be some level of consensus suggesting that women with PCOS may be more likely to suffer from gut dysbiosis, which in simple terms means that an imbalance exists between the “good” and “bad” bacteria in their GI tract.
A 2018 study published by the American Diabetes Association Journal also found that women with PCOS had less diversity in their gut microbiota and that both insulin resistance and androgen level were correlated with the presence of certain types of healthy bacteria.
Whether PCOS leads to issues with gut bacteria, or gut issues lead to PCOS, remains to be determined but a 2018 trial published in the Journal Of Functional Foods found that supplementation with 4 different strains of Lactobacillus probiotics may reduce markers of inflammation in women living with PCOS.
Additionally, a 2019 paper published by the American Society Of Microbiology found that the V9 strain of Bifidobacterium lactis may positively influence hormone levels in women with PCOS.
Further to that point, a systematic review and meta-analysis from 2019 out of the European Journal Of Nutrition found that, as per the findings discussed above, probiotic supplementation may have a role to play in improving both inflammation and hormone levels in women with PCOS.
That same study also identifies prebiotics, which essentially serve as food for your healthy gut bacteria, as another potential source of benefit.
Commonly available foods with some prebiotic content include:
Keep in mind as well that many other fibre-rich foods will also have prebiotic benefits and that foods naturally high in polyphenols may also play a prebiotic role in the digestive tract.
You can learn more about polyphenols and the foods that contain them in my previous article on the topic.
It certainly appears that the gut microbiome is an increasingly intriguing target for intervention in women living with PCOS and that probiotic supplementation ( as well as microbiome enhancement via diet) may continue to garner scientific attention as a potentially valuable management tool.
While the evidence is certainly not definitive in favour of probiotic supplementation, it remains intriguing and an area warranting continued exploration.
Andy De Santis RD MPH
Need Help Optimizing Nutrition For Your PCOS? Let’s Chat.
Bonus Content Part I – COQ 10 And PCOS
COQ10 is another one of the most popular selling and well-studied supplements on the market.
Having looked into COQ10 supplementation of a potential area of interest for one my previous books, I happened upon intriguing evidence from a pair of experimental studies which demonstrated a potential benefit for women living with PCOS.
These include a 2019 paper out of the Journal Of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism and a 2017 paper out of Clinical Endocrinology.
Bonus Content Part II – Hypothyroidism & PCOS
These conditions may overlap in some women and there is evidence to suggest certain supplements (discussed in the article below) may actually help with both PCOS and hypothyroidism.
Bonus Content Part III – Insulin Resistance/ Blood Sugar Levels
Women living with PCOS may also need to pay extra attention to metabolic parameters like A1C.
I’ve helped many people conquer these issues and written topics on both on my blog, which you can click through below.