There is a definite link between PCOS and inflammation. Inflammation is also associated with many other health conditions including endometriosis, infertility, Type II diabetes and heart disease.
What is inflammation?
To combat this internal harm, our body produces C-reactive protein (CRP), which, unfortunately, can damage the arteries by helping to form plaque while attempting to tackle a condition like high blood pressure.
There are a variety of other markers that may be tested including interleukin-6 (IL-6) and tumour necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha). These are cytokines which are chemical signals the immune system uses to control such activity. The concentrations of cytokines and CRP rise at least a hundredfold when a person is fighting an infection. By contrast, in most studies looking at heart disease, these markers reach only perhaps twice-normal amounts. So it’s not clear whether at such low concentrations the cytokines trigger swelling or inflammation.
The link between PCOS and inflammation
If you have PCOS, you are more likely to experience underlying inflammation. There are several theories as to why there is a link between PCOS and inflammation, including:
- Insulin resistance: research links blood sugar regulation with inflammation in PCOS. Insulin resistance can make you overweight, and the more overweight you are, the more markers you will make.
- Elevated prolactin: this is a pro-inflammatory hormone, so the more prolactin your pituitary gland is secreting, the more prone to inflammation you will be.
Having said all this, inflammatory markers in the blood are increased not only in overweight or obese women with PCOS but also in healthy weight women with PCOS, compared to women who do not have PCOS.
Prolactin & PCOS
Signs and symptoms of excess/elevated prolactin include:
- Breast tenderness prior to menstruation
- Long irregular cycles
- Delayed ovulation
- Inapropriate lactation
- Amenorrhoea (absent periods)
- Aching joints
Ask your doctor to check your prolactin levels via a blood test. Normal values for women (depending on the pathology laboratory) should be between 85-100mlU/L.
Very high prolactin (>400mlU/L) can indicate a prolactin secreting tumour on the pituitary gland and further testing via MRI or CT scan is required to dertermin if this is the case.
High prolactin of >350mlU/L can indicate the use of drugs (i.e. side effects) such as major tranquilisers, narcotics, can indicate an underactive thyroid or even liver cirrosis.
How to control inflammation
While the cause and best treatment for PCOS has yet to determined, the research indicates that insulin resistance, blood sugar regulation, inflammation and hormone levels appear to be linked. Losing excess weight and controlling inflammation cannot be emphasised enough.
By following a specific diet plan such as The Natural PCOS Diet and taking targeted nutritional supplements and herbal medicine, your inflammatory makers should come down, signficantly improving your PCOS symptoms.