PCOS is the most common endocrine dysfunction of women, now affecting, in varying degrees, up to 20% of all women across the world! There is now no area of the globe in which women are not impacted by this condition. It is widely recognized that women affected by PCOS have many medical troubles – obesity with weight loss resistance, pre-diabetes and diabetes, increased risk for strokes and heart attacks, menstrual dysfunctions, infertility, pregnancy complications, recalcitrant cystic acne and excessive facial hair, sleep problems, irritable bowel syndrome, arthritis, mood swings, and thyroid problems.
There is a powerful concept at the very core of PCOS, which is often neglected, and that is the essential fact that inflammation is the driver of ALL of these problems! Amazingly, the majority of scientific and medical researchers in this field remain unaware of this powerful connection, yet the recognition of the relationship between PCOS and inflammation is critical to the proper approach to managing and treating it! It goes beyond the scope of this article to explain the entire array of factors underlying the chronic and unremitting inflammation present in all PCOS women, including the 20% who are lean, but I want you to understand the very basics of this issue and why it is so critical that YOUR level of inflammation get measured, monitored, and as best it can be…..remediated!
So here is a brief overview of inflammation and PCOS. Women with PCOS live in a chronic state of physical stress (and often emotional stress) with an up-regulated adrenal system, giving rise to elevated levels of the hormone cortisol. Chronic over-production of cortisol results in a lowered level of metabolic activity, with reduced thyroid functioning, elevated levels of blood glucose, and intestinal abnormalities.
This creates a state of inflammation in the intestines and insulin resistance throughout the body. This chronic, low level intestinal inflammation damages the intestinal lining, impairing the function of a critical barrier, a barrier designed to prevent transport of toxins and bacteria across the intestinal wall. When this barrier no longer functions properly, the result is “leaky gut.” Intestinal contents actually cross into the body proper, inappropriately stimulating the immune system, and further inciting inflammation!!
As well, women with PCOS have adipose tissues (fat) which function abnormally, with low production of a hormone made by fat tissue called Adiponectin. This hormone is very anti-inflammatory and promotes fat burning, along with the transport of glucose across cell membranes. When the levels of Adiponectin are too low, insulin resistance grows and the body cannot burn fat properly!
The combined effects of low Adiponectin and elevated cortisol levels, result in abnormal fat accumulation and distribution, and high levels of circulating glucose. This then leads to a “snow ball” effect. High blood sugar induces more inflammation; excessive fat tissue elevates levels of inflammation; low Adiponectin further increases inflammation; leaky gut augments inflammation, and high cortisol levels perpetually fuel the fires of PCOS inflammation. So, what is the sum result of all of this? This results in the perfect storm of inflammation producing factors!
These factors create a persistent and constant up regulation of macrophages – the white blood cells of the body which produce what are called inflammatory cytokines, chemical messengers of the body designed to enable us to fight and fend off invaders, like bacteria. But in women with PCOS, this defensive mechanism is being activated inappropriately and persistently with the potential for dire results. Inflammation is now universally recognized as a factor contributing to the development of cancers, dementia, cardiovascular disease, depression, arthritis, tendinitis, autoimmune disease, and more! Unattended, PCOS women have a lifetime elevated risk of all of those outcomes.
Now comes the good news! Although all PCOS women are impacted, we can dramatically lower this state of chronic inflammation, promote weight loss, reduce insulin resistance, improve acne and facial hair, as well as improve the large array of additional maladies suffered by PCOS women around the world! The journey to health begins by measuring your personal level of inflammation, evaluating your initial inflammatory state and monitoring its subsequent improvement following the institution of appropriate therapies.
To provide my patients with the ultimate in excellent healthcare, I utilize the services of a specialty cardiovascular laboratory. By utilizing a unique panel of inflammatory biomarkers, in addition to other cardiovascular and hormone tests, the progress towards restitution of health can be measured and monitored. If you would like to learn more about the special inflammatory lab panel I utilize and how you can get these tests drawn on yourself, no matter where you live, please email me at [email protected] My team will contact you, so you can get your needs met!