If you have PCOS, you are probably in a state of inflammation most of the time. Following an anti-inflammatory diet and lifestyle is an important part of managing PCOS symptoms. Women who have PCOS are more likely to have higher CRP (c-reactive protein) levels, which is an indicator of inflammation in the body.
Inflammation is a way for your body to try and protect itself against damage and a foreign body, but your body can also react to something it sees as a threat, but shouldn’t, because it is harmless. The body can then start to treat your own cells and tissues as the enemy.
Higher amounts of oxidative stress and inflammatory cytokines are also found in women with PCOS, as well as more of the white blood cells that are also associated with inflammation known as lymphocytes and monocytes.
Here are a few things that you can do to lower inflammation in your body when you have PCOS:
1. Lower Your Intake of Inflammatory Foods
This is a change you might want to make gradually. When you cut out a few types of inflammatory foods at once, it can be overwhelming. Therefore, I recommend that you eliminate one thing at a time. The food types that most commonly cause inflammation are:
- Processed carbohydrates
- Trans fats/hydrogenated vegetable oil
2. Add Anti-Inflammatory Foods to Your Diet
While eliminating Inflammatory foods, you also want to add anti-inflammatory foods to your diet, such as:
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Fatty fish
- Green leafy vegetables
- Bone broth
4. Pair Saturated Fat with Polyphenols
For some people, eating too much saturated fat can cause inflammation, which can easily happen on a ketogenic diet. If you pair meals that contain saturated fat with foods and fluids that contain polyphenols, such as brightly coloured vegetables and herbal tea, then it will lower the inflammatory effects of eating too much saturated fat.
5. Practice Intermittent Fasting
Fasting can lower inflammation significantly, which is only one way in which it benefits your health. While there are many people who fast for 16 to 23 hours a day, it is not recommended that you do it for that long with PCOS, as fasting is a type of stress, and your body is under enough stress already with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. I recommend that you fast for 12 to 14 hours a day, and eat within a window of 10 to 12 hours.
6. Try Cold Shock Therapy, Whether Cold Showers, Ice Baths, or Cryotherapy
Cold exposure can lower inflammation, and while not exactly pleasant, it is something you could incorporate into your lifestyle. Even if you just take a five-minute cold shower a day, or do a cryotherapy session once a week, you will benefit.
7. Make Reducing Stress A Priority
I talk about stress a lot, and with good reason. Stress can cause inflammation. Have you ever notice that your skin becomes more inflamed in some way like acne, eczema, or even psoriasis when you are stressed? Or you could be like me, and get IBS (inflammatory bowel disease) flare-ups when stressed. You can lower inflammation in your body by doing things that help you stay calm, such as yoga, meditation, walking, socialising, etc. Find what works for you. I highly recommend doing breathing exercises as well.
8. Consider a Low-Carb Mediterranean Diet
The Mediterranean diet, which consists of moderate amounts of animal protein, enough vegetables and fruit, and at least 60% healthy fats like olive oil, avocado, nuts, seeds, and a bit of animal fat, is one of the best anti-inflammatory diets to follow. A quick Pinterest search for Mediterranean diet recipes will have you drooling.
The reason I suggest a low-carb Mediterranean diet is because with PCOS, your body is more sensitive to glucose, and you are more prone to insulin spikes, which make PCOS symptoms worse. You can take any Mediterranean recipe and substitute the carbs for a low-carb alternative like spiralised vegetables instead of pasta, and cauliflower rice or mash.
A low-carb Mediterranean diet will be very similar to a ketogenic diet, but you can consume a bit more protein and less fat than on a ketogenic diet if you want to. If you want to do a keto-Mediterranean diet (and the ketogenic diet is also wonderful for inflammation), you can increase your fat intake to 70% or more, and just make sure that the carbs you consume from your vegetables don’t exceed 50g.
A ketogenic diet is great for someone who has PCOS and wants to lose weight or improve other symptoms. It can be easy to consume too much saturated fat on a ketogenic diet, however, which is why I recommend aiming for a keto-Mediterranean diet where a lot of your fats come from sources that are rich in monounsaturated fat as well, such as nuts, seeds, avocados, avocado oil, extra virgin olive oil, olives, etc.
You can also cycle between the two diets, which is what I do. And if you want to add a carb like potato or sweet potato once or twice a week, you can do that too, as long as you start decreasing your carb intake, you will be helping your body to lower inflammation with PCOS.
9. Supplement with Omega 3 if You Have PCOS
In modern society, most people are consuming far too much omega 6 and not enough omega 3. When the ratio between omega 6 and omega 3 is imbalanced, and you have too much omega 6 in your system, it will cause inflammation. Reduce your intake of fats that are high in omega 6, such as margarine, vegetable oils, seed oils, soybean oil, corn oil, and canola oil. Also increase your intake of omega 3 through supplementation and foods, such as salmon, sardines, mackerel, chia seeds, flaxseeds, and walnuts.
10. Consume More Antioxidants
Oxidative stress can cause inflammation. Oxidative damage is also known as free radical damage. Antioxidants counteract free radicals, and protect the cells by donating their own electrons to the cells, which are lost during oxidative stress. While I don’t recommend supplementing with high doses of antioxidants, as it can interfere with muscle repair and development, you should consume antioxidant-rich foods. These include brightly coloured fruits and vegetables, herbal tea (especially green tea and rooibos tea), nuts, seeds, coffee, and dark chocolate.
I recommend that you incorporate these 10 tips for lowering inflammation with PCOS gradually, so that you don’t overwhelm yourself. But if you do make these changes, your body will become a lot less inflamed and you will be healthier overall. I hope you have found this post helpful.