Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal disorder common in women of reproductive age. The hormonal imbalance creates excess testosterone, which leads to a host of symptoms including inflammation, irregular periods, acne, and difficulty losing weight.
Although the exact cause of PCOS is unknown, there are plenty of issues that can worsen PCOS symptoms; namely nutrition and lifestyle-related factors.
If you have Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, adjusting your diet and lifestyle may feel a little like walking a tightrope.
Have no fear, Cyster. That’s why I’m here!
This week, I’m here to share the many benefits of omega-3 fatty acids. The beneficial effects of omega-3s are powerful; they’re associated with lowering androgen/testosterone levels (goodbye facial hair & acne!), lowering triglyceride levels, (a type of blood fat – too much of which can increase the risk of heart disease), reducing blood pressure, reducing inflammation (which ALL of us have), and improving your mood (yay!)
Let’s explore the reason why omega-3s are such a game-changer for women with polycystic ovaries, shall we?
Please note that this blog post is not a substitute for official medical advice. If you are concerned about your symptoms, suspect you have an underlying health condition or wish to make dietary/lifestyle changes, please consult your doctor first.
Firstly…what are omega-3s?
Omega-3s are important long-chain, polyunsaturated fatty acids that you get solely from your diet (or supplements). They’re essential nutrients that you absorb from food to help build and maintain a healthy body. Omega-3s are a key part of cell membranes throughout the body and affect the function of the cell receptors in these membranes. They help to produce hormones that regulate blood clotting, heart health, and inflammation.
Let me explain why PCOS women can’t efficiently absorb omega-3s.
Omega-3s are critical for hormone health and must be absorbed from natural sources. Unfortunately, PCOS women cannot efficiently absorb them from seeds & nuts due to the impairment of an enzyme called D6D that converts them into a usable form. Fortunately, you can skip this conversion step by taking a fish oil supplement.
Conditions such as vitamin and mineral deficiencies and hormonal abnormalities including stress hormones, insulin resistance, and hypothyroidism can inhibit the D6D enzyme and reduce its ability to convert ALA (found in seeds & nuts) to EPA/DHA (the useable form of omega-3).
PCOS women have one or more of these conditions so our bodies are very inefficient at conversion.
Therefore, we have low levels of EPA and DHA…a major issue because chronic inflammation can run rampant in PCOS women if we don’t know how to manage it through diet, lifestyle, and supplementation. By taking fish oil, you can avoid this problem because it already contains EPA and DHA. So there’s no need for that D6D enzyme.
Here’s a list of foods that contain omega-3s. But, since we mainly absorb our omega-3s from fish (and many of us are likely not eating fish every day), consider taking an omega-3 fish oil supplement to help you reap all the anti-inflammatory benefits.
- Fish oil supplements
- Fish and other seafood (especially fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, tuna, herrings, and sardines)
- Plant oils (such as flaxseed oil, sunflower oil, and canola oil)
Our very own Omega-3 fish oil supplement has been specially formulated for PCOS Cysters. This purified fish oil supplement is rich in EPA and DHA (the most important, usable type of omega-3s) and highly concentrated for maximum nutritional benefits.
Sourced from 100% sustainable, wild-caught Alaskan Pollock from the Gulf of Alaska and the Bering Sea, it’s met the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) standard for sustainability.
The supplement has also been independently tested and certified by both NSF International and the International Fish Oil Standards (IFOS) for content accuracy, purity, and freedom from contaminants such as mercury and PCBs. AlaskOmega® is a refined omega-3 fish oil concentrate and a registered trademark of Organic Technologies.
7 benefits of Omega-3s for PCOS
1. Improve insulin resistance
Omega-3s are known to improve the insulin resistance associated with PCOS. Blood sugar imbalances can lead to insulin resistance, which is when the body can’t easily use glucose from your blood for energy. Increased insulin levels cause the ovaries to produce more testosterone, leading to high androgen levels – a hallmark of PCOS. Studies have shown that omega-3s may improve insulin sensitivity in people with metabolic disorders like PCOS.
2. Lower inflammation
PCOS is strongly linked to chronic, low-grade inflammation. Omega-3s have anti-inflammatory properties, which are key to managing PCOS. You might be suffering from inflammation if you’re experiencing digestive issues, headaches, joint pain, weight gain, inexplicable fatigue, or food sensitivities (e.g. gluten intolerance). Another hallmark of inflammation is high inflammatory markers, like high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hs-CRP). This protein is produced by the body when blood vessel walls are inflamed.
Studies show that omega-3s can decrease hs-CRP levels and dampen inflammatory reactions, as the fatty acids can inhibit an enzyme called cyclooxygenase (COX), which produces the hormones that spark inflammation.
3. Combat hair loss
The female body produces male hormones called androgens; these include testosterone and dihydrotestosterone (DHT). High levels of androgens, particularly DHT, can shrink hair follicles, leading to thinning hair, hair loss, and limp, brittle hair. Hair thinning due to the effects of increased androgen production is known as androgenic alopecia. Omega-3s are known as follicle-stimulating hormones (FSH) and can help combat hair loss, as they provide essential proteins and nutrients to hair follicles and skin. The fatty acids may aid hair growth and thickness. Which is a game-changer if your hair is thinning as a result of PCOS.
4. Improve mood
Anxiety and low moods are common in PCOS patients. Mood issues are typically the result of hormone imbalances or the stress that comes with enduring difficult PCOS symptoms. Omega-3 supplementation may combat stress and low moods by traveling through the brain membrane and interacting with mood-related molecules in the brain. Foods that are rich in omega-3s could be vital in boosting mood and aiding emotional regulation.
5. Regulate the menstrual cycle
Most women with PCOS experience irregular periods, due to high levels of the luteinizing hormone (LH), androgens, and insulin. Omega-3s may balance testosterone levels in PCOS Cysters, which could help to regulate the length of menstrual cycles as well as ease the severity of menstrual cramps. Once again, the anti-inflammatory properties of omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to ease pain in some contexts, which explains why some PCOS Cysters take fish oil supplements to help relieve cramps.
6. Improve fertility
Dietary supplementation with omega-3s may improve female fertility. Omega-3s can reportedly:
- Increase the blood flow to the uterus
- Help to regulate the menstrual cycle
- Help to curb inflammation
- Aid brain and retina development during pregnancy
7. Lower triglycerides
There’s strong evidence to suggest that omega-3s can help reduce high triglyceride levels in those with PCOS. Triglycerides are a type of fat found in our blood; they’re a key source of energy and essential for good health. But if our triglyceride levels are too high, we’re at heightened risk of developing serious conditions, such as heart disease. Omega-3s to the rescue!
Omega-3s are jam-packed with health benefits and there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that they’re a game-changer for PCOS Cysters looking to live a symptom-free lifestyle.