Simply Explained: The Role of Inflammation in PCOS

Dr. Pakhi Sharma (MBBS)
Dr. Pakhi Sharma (MBBS)

General Physician | 6+ years

Inflammation PCOS
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Do you remember getting hurt recently and watching your skin turn red, hot, and swollen immediately after? This is because of a process called inflammation, a necessary body function. But sometimes it can go haywire and cause complications in health conditions, such as PCOS. Read this blog to find out more about inflammation in PCOS and how to treat it.

Contents:
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    What is Inflammation?
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    Are There Different Types of Inflammation?
  • blog_single_bullet_icon
    The Relationship Between PCOS and Inflammation: What Causes What?
  • blog_single_bullet_icon
    Are There Any Complications Related to Inflammatory PCOS?
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    How to Treat PCOS Inflammation? Find Now!
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    Don’t Have Time To Read?
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    FAQs
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What is Inflammation?

When your body suffers an injury or comes in contact with an unidentified invader like a virus, bacteria, or toxins, your immune system gets activated and tries to protect your body by eliminating the cause of the threat and initiating repair. This reaction is called inflammation.

It is initiated by a combination of biochemical events involving blood cells, the local vascular system, the immune system, and various cells within the injured tissue. Inflammation is generally a necessary and helpful body function.

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Are There Different Types of Inflammation?

Yes. Inflammation can be classified into acute (short-lasting) and chronic (long-lasting) inflammation.

  • Acute inflammation refers to the body’s response to a sudden body injury, such as a cut on a finger or getting your knee hit by something hard. Your body sends out plasma and inflammatory cells to the location of the injury to initiate the healing process. Acute inflammation lasts only a few hours or days. Key signs include sudden heating up, redness, pain, swelling, etc. at the site of injury.
  • Chronic inflammation refers to inflammation that is in response to long-term exposure to an irritant or malfunctioning of your immune system. It can be caused due to long-term exposure to chemicals, persistent acute inflammation. autoimmune disorders, etc. Chronic inflammation may last for months or even years and its symptoms may not be so visually apparent.

Chronic inflammation is often referred to as low-grade inflammation because it creates a steady and low-level of inflammation constantly throughout the body instead of a sudden and massive reaction.

Chronic inflammation has been linked to several health conditions, some of them being:

Curious about what is inflammation in PCOS? Let’s find out.

The Relationship Between PCOS and Inflammation: What Causes What?

Multiple studies suggest that there is a link between PCOS and chronic, low-grade inflammation.

Some studies suggest that in PCOS, a pro-inflammatory state exists irrespective of whether the woman with PCOS is obese or not. The studies also summarise that a dietary trigger such as glucose can induce oxidative stress and stimulate an inflammatory response in PCOS. This inflammation directly stimulates excess androgen (male hormones) production in PCOS.

Inflammation is observed as elevated levels of C-Reactive Protein (CRP) in women with PCOS as compared to those without the condition. High levels of CRP are also associated with PCOS-related conditions such as insulin resistance

Women with PCOS may also have high levels of other markers for inflammation, such as oxidative stress, inflammatory cytokines, and white blood cells called lymphocytes and monocytes. 

Because of the presence of inflammation in PCOS, some sources may refer to PCOS as “inflammatory PCOS”. However, inflammatory PCOS is the same as PCOS. Inflammatory PCOS symptoms are also no different from PCOS symptoms including irregular periods, infertility, abnormal hair growth on the face and body, acne, dark skin patches, etc. 

Are There Any Complications Related to Inflammatory PCOS?

Yes, chronic, low-grade inflammation in PCOS can increase the risk for several health complications such as:

Infertility

Inflammation in PCOS may affect the normal functioning of your ovaries by hampering the process of ovulation and affecting the quality or health of your eggs. It may even hinder the implantation of the embryo (fertilised egg) onto the uterus. Thus, chronic inflammation in PCOS can make it difficult for you to get pregnant.

Type 2 Diabetes

Research suggests that Type 2 Diabetes is more common among women with PCOS as compared to women without the condition. Chronic inflammation, increased insulin resistance and being overweight all are factors that lead to the development of Type 2 Diabetes in PCOS.

Obesity

About 80% of women with PCOS develop obesity and find it difficult to lose weight. The relationship between obesity and inflammation works both ways. Inflammation can give rise to obesity and obesity can be another cause of chronic inflammation. Obesity can also lead to an increased risk of heart disease. 

Heart Disease

Those with PCOS are at increased risk of heart disease. As we discussed, obesity in PCOS may contribute to an increased risk of heart disease. Further, long-term oxidative stress, which is associated with inflammation, can directly affect your heart health over time and reduce its functioning efficiency. Those with PCOS are at a higher risk of developing high blood pressure and getting a stroke.

This means you need to be extra cautious of your lifestyle when you have PCOS to reduce the risk of developing other health conditions. Wondering about how to reduce inflammation in PCOS? Read on to know more!

How to Treat PCOS Inflammation? Find Now!

Due to the health risks of PCOS-related inflammation, it is extremely important to manage it well. Lowering inflammation levels should be your first step towards reducing the risk of complications. This includes:

Anti-Inflammation PCOS Diet

This is the easiest and most fundamental step towards better management of inflammation in PCOS. Though following a balanced diet rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants may help, you can reach out for these tips to combat inflammation:

  • Include low-calorie and antioxidant-rich vegetables and fruits in your diet (green leafy vegetables, citrus fruits, berries).
  • Include more sources of unsaturated fats such as olive oil, nuts and seeds in your meals every day.
  • Add more protein-rich foods such as legumes and beans to your diet. 
  • Have green tea frequently.
  • Add more omega-3 fatty acid rich foods such as fish to your meals.
  • Use herbs and spices such as ginger, black pepper, bay leaves, fennel, caraway, cumin, coriander, clove, and cinnamon to season foods. 

Certain foods can cause further inflammation, so avoid:

  • Sugary foods and beverages
  • Refined carbs such as white bread, cakes and other baked goods
  • Dairy products such as milk, cheese, etc.
  • Processed meats
  • Foods with preservatives
  • Consumption of alcohol

Physical Activity

Regular exercise can help lower inflammation levels in women with PCOS. It can further reduce insulin resistance and your overall body weight and even lower the risk of complications such as Type 2 Diabetes and heart disease.

Getting regular physical activity of your choice, for at least 150 minutes per week may help you manage PCOS and reduce the risk of PCOS complications

Lifestyle Changes

Some of the other ways of reducing PCOS-related inflammation include:

  • Getting enough sleep, at least 7 hours per night.
  • Managing stress with mindfulness activities such as meditation.
  • Quitting smoking.

Don’t Have Time To Read?

  • Inflammation refers to your immune system’s response to protect your body from an injury or attack by an unknown invader like a virus, bacteria, or toxins.
  • Inflammation can be classified into 2 types. Acute inflammation happens after a sudden body injury whereas chronic inflammation is in response to long-term exposure to an irritant or malfunctioning of your immune system.
  • Several studies suggest that chronic, low-grade inflammation is present in PCOS and can increase the risk for several health complications such as infertility, obesity, heart disease, and Type 2 Diabetes.
  • Lowering inflammation levels can help reduce the risk of complications in PCOS. This can be done by following an anti-inflammatory diet, getting regular physical activity and adopting lifestyle changes such as getting enough sleep, managing stress, and quitting smoking.
  • Start your PCOS management journey with Phable. Use the Phable Care App to consult India’s leading gynaecologists, endocrinologists, nutritionists, and dieticians; order medicines; book lab tests; and get real-time remote care from the comfort of your home. Check out our store to order healthy treats, weighing scales, fitness bands, and more! We also have a PCOS Management program that provides ‎360º care.

Frequently Asked Questions

No, PCOS does not directly cause inflammation. Low-grade inflammation is considered to be one of the contributing factors to the development of PCOS. This chronic inflammation, if not managed correctly, can increase the risk of developing complications such as infertility, obesity, heart disease, and Type 2 Diabetes in PCOS.

Inflammation in PCOS does not have any other symptoms apart from the usual symptoms of PCOS, such as irregular menstrual cycles, hirsutism, acne, weight gain, fertility issues, etc.

Inflammatory PCOS is not a specific type of PCOS. Most PCOS cases are associated with some level of chronic inflammation. PCOS is not reversible. It needs to be managed with medication and lifestyle changes.

Yes, weight gain is one of the symptoms of PCOS and chronic inflammation in PCOS can contribute to weight gain. Not only this, but inflammation in this condition also makes it hard for you to lose weight. 

Anti-inflammatory foods include green leafy vegetables (such as spinach and kale), antioxidant-rich citrus fruits, berries, tomatoes, green tea, and omega-3 fatty acid-rich fish such as salmon.

You can reduce inflammation in PCOS by incorporating certain lifestyle changes such as adopting an anti-inflammatory diet, following a consistent exercise routine, getting enough sleep, managing stress, and quitting smoking.

Dr. Pakhi Sharma
Dr. Pakhi Sharma, MBBS
(General physician, 6+ years)
An expert in obstetrics and medical emergencies, Dr. Pakhi Sharma, an alumni of Sri Devaraj Urs University of Higher Education and Research Centre, is a general physician working at Phablecare. She has 6+ years of work experience spread across gynaecology and obstetrics, family medicine, and medical emergencies at renowned hospitals and clinics.

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