Anti-Inflammatory Diet Benefits for PCOS

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As time goes by, researchers are becoming closer to getting answers about the causes and treatments for polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a reproductive and endocrine disorder that affects approximately 10% of women of childbearing age in the United States.

One new advance is more understanding about the role of inflammation in PCOS and how it may be a root cause of the syndrome, and its associated long-term complications. Compared to women of the same weight (thin, average and overweight), women with PCOS have higher levels of inflammatory markers. These markers include higher levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), pro-inflammatory cytokines and chemokines, white blood cell count, and oxidative stress.

Higher Inflammation and PCOS

One theory of the higher inflammation seen in PCOS women is due to higher androgens which in turn stimulate more insulin production. Higher insulin levels contribute to weight gain which only causes more inflammation. Thus a vicious cycle ensues for women with PCOS.

Inflammation can also be caused by diet, which can induce oxidative stress to stimulate an inflammatory response (even without weight gain). A diet high in carbohydrates is associated with a pro-inflammatory response. Eating an anti-inflammatory diet may counteract some of the inflammation in women with PCOS and help improve both metabolic and reproductive aspects.

In a study published in the North American Journal of Medical Sciences, women with PCOS followed a Mediterranean style anti-inflammatory diet for 3 months. This diet was designed to be low calorie, low-fat, low-saturated fat, low glycemic index, and moderate-to-high fiber. The diet composition was 25% proteins, 25% fat, and 50% carbohydrates and emphasized anti-inflammatory foods such as fish, legumes, nuts, olive oil, herbs, spices, and green tea.

The results: women lost 7% of their body weight and showed significant improvements in their cholesterol, blood pressure, and inflammatory markers. Sixty-three percent of women regained menstrual cyclicity and 12% conceived following this type of diet.

Are you interested in trying this diet approach to see how it helps you? Check out these simple ways to incorporate more anti-inflammatory foods into your diet.

Simple Ways to Eat an Anti-Inflammatory Diet

  • Evenly space carbohydrate foods throughout the day
  • Avoid sugary foods and beverages
  • Make half your plate vegetables
  • Eat a variety of fruits
  • Consume unsaturated sources of fat such as flaxseeds, olive oil, and nuts
  • Eat beans and legumes several times each week
  • Limit red meat to once every 2 weeks
  • Eat omega-3 rich fish (salmon, tuna, trout) twice a week
  • Use herbs and spices such as ginger, chili peppers, black pepper, curcumin, bay leaves, fennel, anise, caraway, cumin, coriander, clove, cinnamon, marjoram, rosemary, and thyme to season food
  • Drink green tea daily

Looking for PCOS friendly recipes? The PCOS Nutrition Center Cookbook: 100 Easy and Delicious Whole Food Recipes to Beat PCOS has anti-inflammatory recipes and meal plans inspired by the Mediterranean diet.

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