It’s no surprise that this is a question that often comes up for women with PCOS, however, the answer isn’t exactly cut and dry. A lot of women who suffer from PCOS also suffer from other comorbid issues, a number of which mimic symptoms of autoimmune diseases.
What is an autoimmune disease?
According to WebMD, an autoimmune disease is classified as a disorder that causes abnormally low or abnormally high activation of the immune system. There can be much speculation in regards to what classifies as an auto immune disease and what does not. And honestly, those who have some of the more well known types of Autoimmune Diseases tend to somewhat “gatekeep” the definition of what it means to have one. In basic terms, it is an over activation of the immune system that causes the body to attack itself in order to neutralize a perceived threat. Even if that threat is something that your body is creating. This is where PCOS as an auto immune disease tracks for me.
Here is why I believe PCOS CAN be classified as an autoimmune disease:
“In PCOS low level of progesterone overstimulates immune system that leads to production of autoantibodies and therefore it can be labeled as an autoimmune disorder.”https://www.hindawi.com/journals/scientifica/2016/4071735/
While it may seem daunting to have yet another way to classify PCOS, since it is already considered a metabolic, endocrine, and reproductive disorder, it may actually prove to be beneficial. The more we can learn about PCOS, the better chance we have at managing it’s symptoms and maybe someday discovering a cure for it. At the very least, this new consideration can help us learn how to manage our symptoms better.
PCOS Symptoms that are also autoimmune symptoms:
- achy muscles/joints
- swelling and redness
- persistent and low-grade fever
- trouble focusing, fuzzy brain
- hair loss
- skin rashes/ breakouts
- flare ups caused by food or environmental sensitivities (think dairy and gluten in particular)
So by now, things are probably starting to make more sense in regards to PCOS and why sometimes you might feel worse than others. This a common issue with autoimmune diseases. It’s what we call “going into remission” or “coming out of remission.” In other words, there might be times in your life when your PCOS is better managed than others and you aren’t feeling too yucky, your inflammation might be lower, and you might get your period on time two months in a row. There is not a cure for PCOS, but we CAN push it into remission by doing things to naturally mitigate the pain and to help ease cysts, reduce them, and/or lower inflammation.
Sadly, traditional doctors, gynecologists, and reproductive endocrinologists have some knowledge of PCOS, but their fix for the diagnosis is to lose weight and get on birth control to help manage the symptoms. While this might work for some womxn, it will not work for all.
This is why I propose a more holistic approach to managing PCOS. Since I have been working to mitigate my PCOS symptoms holistically, I have seen drastic personal improvement. I have not yet carried a pregnancy to full term, but my monthly symptoms are much less than they used to be.
By taking a look at the gut-brain connection, the conclusion can be drawn that PCOS is a cyclical issue that stems from hormonal imbalance. The excess testosterone created in the reproductive organs can cause inflammation in the gut and vice versa. I talk more about this in another post on Insulin Resistance and I highly encourage you to take a look at it. I also suggest getting in touch with a holistic doctor in your area (or in a nearby city) to look at your individual case. Functional medicine doctors can often help with this as well.
The Main Take Away
- Research autoimmune diseases and learn how to best eat to reduce the inflammation in your body.
- Vegan or pescatarian isn’t for everyone, but it can greatly help. At the very least, I would suggest trying the Mediterranean Eating Pattern as it offers low GI options for long lasting sustenance while also not upsetting your IR.
- Keep a journal for a month or two at the very least. This journal should log your daily mood, body feelings, skin conditions, cramps and menstrual symptoms, as well as your food intake and supplement/medication use. It doesn’t have to be super detailed, but it is important to keep track for at least a month, so you can begin to identify cycles and patterns throughout the month.
- Keep track of things that make you feel inflamed, moody, or angry.
- Find a holistic doctor or functional medicine doc in your area.
- Think about getting checked for lupus, diabetes, Hashimoto’s and/or thyroid issues – these are common comorbidities that can run parallel with PCOS.
- Practice destressing habits like yoga, journaling, or using cannabis.
- Try using cannabis products to help mitigate pain and nausea for a natural alternative. I suggest the products I have available in my online wellness shop, Remedee Wellness. I have a variety of options ranging from topicals to ingestibles, as well as pure CBD, Delta 8 T H C, and others. Check it out!
- Alternate heat and ice to help lower acute inflammation.
- Set intentions for your healing journey and write down successes.
- Try to stay positive and get connected to a community that will help you succeed and will encourage you. Facebook groups for PCOS are amazing for this!
- Find recipe substitutes for your favorite dishes and desserts that are part of the anti-inflammatory diet. Stevia and monk fruit are great alternatives for sweetening things!
- Check out my post on going dairy-free to help reduce inflammation!
Most importantly, remember that I am here for you during this journey and am always a quick email or DM away from sending you encouragement. Seriously – reach out to me via IG DMs and I got you, babe! So much love to you all 🙂