Health benefits of probiotics for PCOS

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Wondering if you should take a probiotic if you have PCOS? Here’s what to know about the benefits of probiotics and how they can help PCOS.

What are Probiotics?

Probiotics are naturally occurring friendly bacteria that enhance health in several key ways, including:
• Assisting with digestion and nutrient assimilation
• Helping inhibit the overgrowth of harmful bacteria
• Supporting the immune system
• Maintaining bowel health and assisting with proper elimination
• Helping restore and maintain balanced flora after antibiotics, which kill the beneficial gut flora

Why Do we Need Probiotics?

Nearly 70% of the immune system is associated with the gastrointestinal (GI) tract through synergistic interactions with various bacteria colonies (flora) that reside in our GI tract to maintain its health and function. Imbalances in this gut flora—either an absence of beneficial bacteria or an overgrowth of unhealthy organisms—can interfere with our quest for optimal health.

Abdominal pain, bloating, gas, constipation, diarrhea, and a struggling immune system are some common outcomes of imbalanced gut flora. Antibiotic therapy, illness, poor diet, stress, and environmental toxins affect the health of our gut flora. In the past, regular consumption of fermented foods helped to maintain healthy gut flora, but these foods are increasingly rare in our diet. The combination of unhealthy lifestyles and a lack of fermented foods in the diet makes it important for most people to supplement with probiotics.

Benefits of Probiotics for PCOS

Emerging research has shown probiotics to be beneficial at improving many aspects related to PCOS such as cholesterol, insulin, testosterone, and inflammation as well as fertility.

A randomized, double -blind placebo controlled study (the gold standard of testing) compared the benefits of a probiotic in comparison to a placebo for six months. The results showed a Multi-strain probiotic along with nutrition and lifestyle modifications improved periods, lowered testosterone, weight and improved quality of life in women with PCOS.
The probiotic strains studied are:
(Lactobacillus acidophilus
L. rhamnosus
L. reuteri
L. plantarum
L. casei
L. fermentum

(all of these strains can be found in the PCOS Nutrition Center PCOS PROBIOTIC)

PCOS Probiotic

A previous randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial also saw benefits of probiotics in women with PCOS. In this study, 60 PCOS patients were randomized into two groups to receive either probiotic capsules (n = 30) or placebo (n = 30) for 12 weeks. The probiotic capsules contained three strains available in PCOS PROBIOTIC™: Lactobacillus, Lactobacillus casei, and Bifidobacterium bifidum. Compared with the placebo group, taking probiotic supplements resulted in a significantly reduced BMI, lower serum insulin and lower blood lipid levels.

Another randomized double-blind controlled experiment confirmed that compared with the placebo group, probiotic supplementation with Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus casei and Bifidobacterium bifidum significantly increased serum levels of sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG), reduced total serum testosterone levels, reduced modified Ferriman–Gallwey (mFG) scores, and improved chronic inflammatory states as indicated by decreased levels of serum high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hs-CRP) and malondialdehyde (MDA) concentrations. No adverse effects of probiotic supplementation were observed.

A meta-analysis of 587 patients showed that probiotics can reduce total cholesterol, triglycerides and LDL cholesterol levels, increase HDL cholesterol and consequently reduce the long-term cardiovascular risk of PCOS patients.

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Food sources of probiotics

While yogurt and other dairy foods are among the most popular probiotics, there are other foods available -and many more on their way. You can always buy probiotics in a supplement form as well (capsules and powders). Here’s a list of some probiotic-containing foods:

  • Yogurt (refrigerated or frozen)

  • Fermented and unfermented milk

  • Miso

  • Kimchi

  • Sauerkraut

  • Tempeh

  • Soy beverages

  • Some juices

  • Various granola bars and cereals

Efficacy And Safety Of Probiotics

The FDA identifies probiotics to be generally recognized as safe (GRAS). Not all probiotics are created equal. The dose needed for probiotics varies greatly depending on the product and strain. Most probiotics can be taken with minimal side effects.

Bottom line
Emerging research is showing that probiotics do offer numerous health benefits to people with PCOS. These benefits include supporting the immune system and intestinal health, reducing inflammation, and metabolic health. When selecting a type of probiotics, it’s important to pick a product that contains the same strain that was used in clinical studies. Researchers are just beginning to understand the potential of probiotics. Much more scientific knowledge is needed about probiotics including safety and appropriate dosage and how they can best benefit women with PCOS.

For more information on probiotics visit:
Get the facts: An introduction to probiotics. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

Let us know! What has been your experience with probiotics?

pcos dietitian angela grassiAngela Grassi, MS, RDN, LDN is the founder of The PCOS Nutrition Center where she provides evidence-based nutrition information and coaching to women with PCOS. Angela is the author of several books on PCOS including PCOS: The Dietitian’s Guide, The PCOS Workbook: Your Guide to Complete Physical and Emotional Health, and The PCOS Nutrition Center Cookbook Recognized by Today’s Dietitian as one of the Top 10 Incredible Dietitian’s making a difference in 2014, Angela is the past recipient for The Outstanding Nutrition Entrepreneur Award, The Award in Excellence in Practice in Women’s Health and The Award for Excellence in Graduate Research, from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Having PCOS herself, Angela has been dedicated to advocacy, education, and research of the syndrome. To learn more about one-on-one nutrition coaching or to schedule a call with Angela, click here

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