Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) can affect your body in lots of ways. With such a long list of potential symptoms, it’s hard to know what is your PCOS and what’s an unrelated issue. If you’re a woman with PCOS, you’ve probably wondered if PCOS is the reason you’re always fighting off some infection or illness. It may feel like you get one sickness after the other.
For many women with PCOS, it just doesn’t seem like our immune system is doing what it’s supposed to, but is polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) to blame? If so, how do we get relief? I’ll explore all the links between PCOS and autoimmune disease today, and give you practical tips to strengthen your immune system. Let’s get into it:
Does PCOS Lower Your Immune System?
Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) can definitely lower your immune system. Depending on your PCOS type, hormonal imbalances and an inflammatory diet could be causing your compromised immune health. And, if you’re also gluten or dairy sensitive, you’re at an even higher risk of experiencing immune issues.
When our gut tries to digest these foods, it sends a sort of “call for help” to the immune system asking it to help break down the proteins. (The same thing happens when our bodies ingest environmental toxins from micro-plastics, flame retardants, paint, candles, and birth control pills.)
Unfortunately, the body just can’t digest these things, despite the call for help. So, the toxins and proteins build up in the system, leading to continual immune responses and potentially leaky gut syndrome over time. At the very least, these un-break-downable toxins can trigger other PCOS symptoms as well as lowered immunity.
Gluten, dairy, and toxins aren’t the only reason for lowered immunity in PCOS. Hormonal imbalances are to blame too! Women have two main sex hormones: estrogen and progesterone. However, Cyster’s often have lower levels of progesterone. And, low levels of progesterone over-stimulate the immune system!
Overstimulation of the immune system means your body can’t tell the difference between healthy cells and invasive ones. Often, this causes frequent sickness, poor recovery from sickness, and general fatigue.
All that being said, PCOS definitely affects your immune system!
Is PCOS An Autoimmune Condition?
Whether or not PCOS is an autoimmune condition is widely debated, and there isn’t a medical consensus. However, many doctors claim that since the low levels of progesterone cause the formation of autoantibodies (antibodies that attack your own body), polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is very likely a type of autoimmune disorder. I tend to agree with this consensus, however, some medical professionals consider it simply an endocrinopathy. (AKA disease of the endocrine system.)
How To Manage PCOS And Low Immune System
Consdier cutting gluten and dairy.
People with PCOS should consider cutting gluten and dairy for 30 days to see how you feel. As we discussed, the proteins in gluten and dairy are not easily digested by the gut. So, your stomach uses inflammation to alert the immune system it needs help. This chronic inflammation can lead to other immune issues and harsh symptoms like joint pain, swelling/bloating, and skin issues.
Cutting gluten and dairy can help relieve your symptoms, strengthen your immune system, and bring your energy back. You can learn more about cutting gluten and dairy HERE. And, if you’re intimidated by finding meals without dairy and gluten, don’t worry, our meal plan has you covered!
Eat omega-3 fatty acids.
Foods with omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties that can help stifle the immune system’s overreaction. Plus, omega-3 is good for a lot of other PCOS symptoms because it reduces insulin resistance, improves your lipid profile (cholesterol), and helps balance hormones.
To up your omega-3 intake, add omega-3 rich foods like salmon, flaxseeds, walnuts, chia seeds, oysters, and more to your diet. You could also consider taking an omega-3 fish oil supplement for extra support after consulting with your doctor.
Choose the right PCOS-friendly foods.
Speaking of foods, they have a lot of power! Choosing foods with antioxidants, beneficial vitamins, anti-inflammatory properties, and low carbs can help alleviate your symptoms and support your immune system. Avocados, berries, turmeric, pumpkin, and even dark chocolate (in moderation, Cyster) can have PCOS-fighting effects. You can find a roundup of my PCOS pantry must-haves HERE.
If you weren’t already convinced exercise was good for you, did you know that working out can actually help your body fight off pathogens? It’s true! Exercising has been shown to strengthen the immune system and reduce inflammation. Just make sure you’re doing PCOS-friendly workouts like these.
Improve your sleep habits.
Getting good sleep with PCOS is not always easy. Hormonal imbalances, insulin resistance, irregular menstrual cycles, anxiety, and depression can all contribute to PCOS sleep problems. However, if you can improve your sleep hygiene using these techniques, you can help support your immune system as well.
Stress is another contributing factor to poor immune health. High cortisol levels lower the number of lymphocytes in the body, which are cells that help protect your body from infection. Taking time to care for your mental health and overall well being can also help your physical wellness.
Whether PCOS is considered an autoimmune disorder is up for debate, but there is no debate that PCOS can have a significant impact on your immune health.
When you have polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), you may feel like you’re always getting sick. This probably isn’t just in your head! If you have made no lifestyle changes to manage your PCOS, you may be encountering the negative effects of PCOS on your immune system.
Use the advice above and direction from your doctor to strengthen your immune system and make strides in your overall PCOS recovery! For even more support, you can join The Cysterhood, a community of women just like you finding ways to remedy their PCOS symptoms. Our blog and podcast also has tons of free information that can help you get your PCOS life back on track. Let’s heal, Cysters!