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PCOS and Your Immune System

PCOS and Your Immune System?noresize

PCOS is the most common endocrine/immune disorder in women. While current PCOS research is limited, what we do know is that PCOS has similarities with other autoimmune conditions. Although PCOS is not currently considered an autoimmune disease, emerging research shows that it has a greater impact on your immune system than was previously thought. Interestingly, research also shows that women with PCOS are also significantly more likely to develop an accompanying autoimmune condition.

PCOS and Autoimmune Disorders

There are a few theories that point to why women with PCOS may be more prone to autoimmune disorders.

Inflammation

The theory implies that inflammatory processes related to PCOS either cause or are exacerbated by accompanying autoimmune disorders. However, since the etiology of PCOS is unknown, this is a tough theory to explore. The unknown etiology makes it difficult to determine if PCOS is the cause or the effect of the inflammation.

Sex hormone Imbalances

This theory suggests that the imbalance between the sex hormones estradiol and progesterone play a role in the link between autoimmune disorders and PCOS. Research shows that low levels of progesterone cause an overstimulation of the immune system. This in turn produces elevated levels of estrogen, which causes antibodies to be produced. These antibodies increase the likelihood of developing an autoimmune condition.

Low Vitamin D Levels

With the limited research on this topic, there’s no way to truly say if PCOS is an autoimmune disorder or if having it increases your risk for developing an autoimmune disorder. However, we do know that a diet high in anti-inflammatory foods (and low in inflammatory foods) can help you manage PCOS and avoid immune system complications. Recommendations on foods to eat and foods to avoid for an anti-inflammatory diet are listed below.

Foods to Eat

Vegetables: Broccoli, kale, sweet potatoes, cauliflower, mushrooms

Fruits: Strawberries, blueberries, cherries, oranges, blackberries, raspberries, grapes, avocado

Grains: whole wheat bread, oatmeal, brown rice, quinoa, bulgur, whole wheat pasta

Minimally processed meats: fish, poultry, lean beef

Probiotic rich food: kombucha, kimchi, sauerkraut, pickles

Foods to Avoid

Sugar and high fructose corn syrup: check food labels and avoid products like soda, candy and sweetened beverages

Refined grains: white bread, white rice, white pasta, pastries, cookies, cakes

Alcohol

Processed meat: Sausage, bacon, ham, smoked meat, beef jerky, cured meats, deli meat

If you have PCOS, try to avoid refined grains

To read more about foods to avoid, foods to eat, and how to make easy changes as part of a healthy PCOS diet, download our PCOS Nutrition Guide.

pcos nutrition guide

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