Living with PCOS and IBS can be challenging. Here’s how they are related and can be managed
Polycystic ovarian syndrome is a female reproductive health disorder that is on the rise due to genetics, poor lifestyle, and diet choices. Affecting up to 26% of women of reproductive age globally, PCOS is infamous for highjacking their emotional and physical health.
Untreated PCOS can lead to wide-ranging symptoms that may extend beyond just irregular periods, one of the major features of PCOS.
These symptoms may end up disturbing your gut health and cause another big problem, irritable bowel syndrome.
Let’s understand the connection between PCOS and IBS, their symptoms, and how you can manage both naturally.
What is IBS?
Irritable bowel disorder (IBS) negatively impacts the functions of your lower gastrointestinal tract which includes the small and large intestines.
IBS is a chronic disorder and you may observe symptoms lasting for months.
Do I have IBS + PCOS?
Check for these symptoms –
- Diarrhoea near periods
- Skipped periods
- Abdominal pain
- Mood swings
- Lower abdomen cramps
- Mucousy stool
- Trouble falling asleep
- Discomfortable stool passage
- Very dry/hard/soft/watery stool
Duration of IBS symptoms
- May last for a few days
- Mey may get better or worse irregularly
- Symptoms can persist for months as IBS is a long-term disorder
- Having symptoms at least once a week for 3 months
Have you observed some of these symptoms that sometimes flare up with recurring abdominal pain at least once a week in the last three months?
If yes, this could be a sign of IBS and you should see a doctor.
PCOS & IBS inflammatory connection
PCOS and IBS have similar symptoms including
- Irritated mood
- Stomach and pelvic pains
One case study shows that women with PCOS are more susceptible to IBS as compared to non-PCOS women.
The link between PCOS with IBS could be due to the one underlying common problem – inflammation.
In PCOS, excessive dietary glucose triggers the inflammatory response from mononuclear cells (MNC). This glucose-related trigger along with its inflammatory markers leads to insulin resistance in PCOS.
Moreover, high levels of male hormones in PCOS can make MNC overly sensitive to sugar and can lead to diet-induced inflammation.
In the case of IBS, clinical evidence shows that some IBS patients may also develop GI tract infection which suggests that IBS can also be inflammatory, contrary to the popular claim that IBS is wholly a functional disorder or gut.
Can PCOS cause IBS-like symptoms?
Yes, PCOS can mess with your digestion in multiple ways and a few are listed below:
1. Increased ovarian hormone and IBS
Excess female sex hormones in PCOS decrease gastrointestinal movement. It makes women with PCOS more prone to IBS than men
About 20.8% of PCOS women have IBS dominant constipation (IBS-C) which is mildly relieved near the time of menstruation as the hormone levels go down which gives diarrhoea-like symptoms.
So, in PCOS you may experience slow down bowel movements leading to dry painful stool passage.
2. PCOS stress may cause IBS
Patients with IBS are hypersensitive to stress. In fact, IBS is largely affected by the gut-brain interaction where mood shifts can worsen IBS symptoms.
PCOS wreaks emotional havoc on women’s health that has the potential to abruptly alter their digestion.
3. High testosterone levels and IBS
Another possible link between PCOS & IBS could be the excessive amounts of androgen hormones (like testosterone) and abnormalities in the endocrine system that can alter bowel function.
4. Gut microbiome disproportion in PCOS and IBS
A higher than normal amount of gut bacteria found in the small intestine is may cause digestive problems like diarrhoea in IBS and PCOS.
5. Medication side effects
How to manage IBS and PCOS
Add some high fibre foods into your diet they will help in controlling your IBS-D (diarrhoea).
- Non-starchy vegetables: broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, carrot
- Starchy vegetables: potato, sweet potato, winter squash
- Fruits: apple, raspberries, banana, blueberries, pear, orange
- Whole grains: quinoa, oats, brown rice
- Legumes, nuts, and seeds: green peas, chia seeds, almonds, lentils, black beans, pistachios
When your body is running low on bodily fluids it retains water from the food waste and that may result in IBS-C (constipation).
- Drink plain water instead of carbonated drinks.
- Reduce caffeine intake as it dehydrates your body.
- Avoid eating too much fibrous food or dr
3. Low-sugar diet
With PCOS you already run the risk of developing type-2 diabetes due to insulin resistance. So it is important to limit the glucose stress in your body.
Too much sugar intake also reduces beneficial bacteria from the gut, that’s why you should try to control portions of your sugar consumption.
- Eat fruits instead of fruit juices.
- Eat foods that have a low glycemic index a.k.a. good carbs.
Doing regular yoga has tremendous health benefits for both PCOS and IBS management.
You may find more about detailed yoga steps, benefits, and contraindications here:
- Yoga poses and ayurvedic perspective for PCOS treatment
- Yoga poses for IBS and ayurvedic perspective for IBS treatment
Foods and ayurvedic herbs for IBS
1. Bel juice (stone apple juice)
It is a gut-friendly tonic that also boosts your brain. It is helpful in treating constipation, diarrhoea, diabetes, and inflammation.
2. Probiotic yoghurt
Go for the fresh yogurt as it is loaded with healthy bacteria that are vital for gut health. Its cooling properties have therapeutic effects on intestinal health.
It is a natural laxative and detoxifier. Taking 2-5 g of triphala powder with warm water at night will ease bowel movements the next day.
It also activates the digestive fire agni and balances all dosha – vata, pitta, kapha.
4. Methi seeds
Fenugreek seeds (methi) when swallowed with warm water help in stopping diarrhoea. It is also good for gut health and insulin resistance in PCOS.
5. Black pepper
It is a medicinal herb that is packed with anti-inflammatory properties. Its consumption as a seasoning for foods and green tea helps in the release of digestive juices in the stomach.
It aids digestion and fights acidity and heartburn.
Symptoms of PCOS and IBS are somewhat similar on some level as both cause abdominal discomfort and a disturbed gut. Having PCOS may lead to IBS-like symptoms which is why women with PCOS are often diagnosed with IBS as well.
Both ad PCOS and IBS are naturally manageable with certain dietary restrictions and yoga practice. Before taking any herbal medicine it is important to consult a doctor who can help you choose the best remedies according to your dosha type.
Yes. Excessive female sex hormones and stress can lead to IBS with PCOS. PCOS women are more prone to IBS-C type as compared to men and non-PCOS women.
Turmeric is an excellent detoxifier. It is also beneficial in improving metabolism, weight loss, and healing of inflammation. So, turmeric water can be good for you, however, you must consult a doctor before taking any natural remedies for a serious condition like pcos.
Probiotic foods like curd are great for promoting healthy gut bacteria and improving gut movement. Consuming fresh, unflavored yoghurt is good for IBS and PCOS.
- Avoid foods that flare up your symptoms
- Do not eat too much sugar
- Eat fresh fruits and veggies
- Take enough fiber
- Exercise daily
- Hydrate yourself
- Sleep properly
- Eat unprocessed foods
All these tips are helpful in promoting health and managing digestive problems.