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Does Polycystic Ovary Syndrome Start with Your Gut Bacteria?

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a common hormonal disorder affecting 4-10% of menstruating women (1, 2, 3).

At the heart of the syndrome is the abnormally high production of androgens (male sex hormones) by the ovaries.

High androgen production creates a characteristic clustering of symptoms that define PCOS, which include (4):

  • Excess facial and body hair growth
  • New or worsening acne
  • Irregular menstruation or lack of menstruation
  • Anovulation
  • Infertility
  • Development of multiple small fluid-filled cysts on both ovaries

In addition to serious reproductive symptoms, the syndrome is associated with a high risk of developing life-threatening chronic metabolic conditions, including insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease (3, 4).

Despite nearly a century of research (5), scientists have struggled to understand the mechanisms that lead to PCOS (3, 4).

What causes the ovaries to start making too many androgens?

How are changes in reproductive function linked to chronic diseases like diabetes or cardiovascular disease?

We simply didn’t know.

But the latest research indicates that we might finally be on the brink of identifying at least one of the root causes of PCOS.

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The Role of Gut Bacteria in Fertility and Estrogen Dominance

I’ve talked before about the importance of optimizing your gut health before getting pregnant in order to promote a healthy pregnancy for both you and your baby.

But what about getting pregnant in the first place… Can your gut bacteria play a role in your hormone balance and fertility?

The science suggests that it very well might!

To understand why let’s take a closer look at infertility and one of its common causes: estrogen imbalance.

INFERTILITY & ESTROGEN DOMINANCE

When you hear the term “infertility,” you likely think of a person or a couple that cannot and will never be able to have children. In the medical world, however, infertility does not refer to a permanent state at all.

A diagnosis of infertility simply means that you have not been able to get pregnant after a year of normal, unprotected sex (1).

It’s actually a diagnosis that is far more common than you might realize. According to recent statistics, between 7% and 15.5% of American women experience infertility in any given year, and the majority of women (51.8%) meet the criteria for infertility at least once during their menstruating years (2).

Does Gut Bacteria Impact Your Pregnancy?

Thinking about starting a family?

If so, now is a very important time to consider your own digestive health — it has a much bigger impact on your baby’s health than you might think!

Gut Bacteria is Passed to Your Baby

For decades, conventional wisdom told us that the womb is a sterile environment, devoid of any microbes to protect your baby and its growing immune system. It was thought that your baby doesn’t get exposed to any bacteria until during birth when it passes through the vaginal canal. (1)

But recently, researchers have been able to detect some bacteria in the placenta and even in the intestines of a fetus. (2,3) They posit that this bacteria is derived from your (mom’s) gut microbiome, meaning your gut bacteria can travel via the placenta to reach your baby and affect its development.

So, your baby’s microbiome begins developing and acquiring bacteria from you far earlier than we previously thought.

That makes it even more important that you have the healthiest gut you can prior to getting pregnant — If you have a healthy gut, chances are that your baby will have a healthy gut and a healthy start to life too.

Lessons Learned Through 1 Year of Marriage and Powerlifting (Plus, Our Anniversary Celebration!)

This past weekend, I celebrated both 1 year of marriage and 1 year of powerlifting. Aidan and I celebrated our first anniversary with a trip to D.C. and a fancy hotel stay, and while away for the weekend, I started reflecting on the lessons learned through a year of marriage and a year of consistently working out.

I wanted to share the things I’ve learned and the things I’ve found to be important in both of these areas because the more I thought about it, the more many things overlapped (surprisingly!).

Be Supportive:

I spent the last quarter of 2016 and the first quarter of 2017 deep in the development, marketing, and finally, actual running of my online course, Build Your Biome. And, man, it was a lot of work. It was something I really wanted to get out into the world, and I needed support to be able to do that.

Through my long days (and nights, if I’m being honest) working on this program, my husband was there to support me. He cooked meals, did the household chores, and gave me pep talks when technology was about to make my brain explode.

Does Gut Health Impact Mental Health?

When we think about our mental health, I’m sure most of us don’t think about our gut.

But did you know that your mental well-being may be influenced by the microscopic creatures living in your gut microbiome? The connection between gut health and mental health is one that has recently been gaining more attention, as scientists believe that the gut microbiome has enormous potential to yield new “psychobiotics.”

Psychobiotics are beneficial bacteria (probiotics) or support for such bacteria (prebiotics) that act on your bacteria-brain relationships. (1)

When I say “bacteria-brain relationships”, I’m referring to the “gut-brain axis,” an important concept that I’ve talked about before, but I’ll briefly outline it again below.

The gut-brain axis is comprised of two kinds of nervous systems: the central nervous system (CNS) and the enteric nervous system (ENS).

  • The CNS consists of the spinal cord and brain, and contains a crucial feature called the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve is the longest cranial nerve you have, running from near the hypothalamus all the way to your intestines where it reaches the other big player in the gut-brain axis, the enteric nervous system.

Can Taking Prebiotics Heal Lactose Intolerance?

75% of the world’s population suffers from lactose intolerance, and if you’re one of that 75% you know how *ahem* uncomfortable the symptoms can be.

However, new research released in January of this year might have a solution for those dealing with this annoying condition: prebiotics.

If you don’t know already, I’m a huge fan of prebiotics (probiotics are great, too, but I think they get all the glory!).

Never heard of a prebiotic? Prebiotics feed probiotics. They are specific types of carbohydrates that selectively feed beneficial bacteria in the gut. Probiotics are the bacteria living in your gut, and prebiotics feed them to keep them alive and healthy.

The Study

In this study, researchers gave lactose intolerant individuals increasing dosages of GOS (galacto-oligosaccharides, a specific type of prebiotic) over the course of about a month as they avoided dairy in their diet. They began participants at 1.5g of GOS and worked their way up to 15g. Each dose was given once per day.

After a month of being on GOS, participants stopped taking it and started including dairy products in their diet for the next 30 days.

How Do You Know If You Have Bad Gut Bacteria?

You’ve probably heard the words “microbiome”, “gut bacteria”, or “flora” quite a bit these days.

Maybe you’ve even read a few articles on why you should pay attention to your gut bacteria and how important they are for your overall health.

You know that “bad bacteria” aren’t great for your health…But now you’re wondering – how do I know if I have bad bacteria? Hint: you might have bad bacteria even if you don’t have digestive issues.

Let me walk you through it!

What is Unbalanced Gut Bacteria?

When you hear the terms “bad gut bacteria” or “unbalanced gut flora”, this can refer to a number of different conditions. The most common include small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), an imbalance of gut flora in the large intestine (commonly referred to as “dysbiosis”), pathogens, or parasites.

Let’s do a quick rundown of each of these conditions:

SIBO

The small intestine should be relatively sterile when compared to the large intestine, which houses the majority of our bacteria in what is called the “microbiome”. When bacteria translocate to the small intestine for any reason and overgrow,

Can Your Gut Bacteria Help You Lose Weight?

Are you struggling to lose weight?

Perhaps you’ve tried restrictive diet after restrictive diet, exercise programs, and more – only to find that your weight doesn’t budge.

What if the answer to achieving and maintaining a healthy weight has been inside of you all along?

The Microbiome

Your digestive system is home to a vast ecosystem of trillions of bacteria that are diverse and complex. (1)

The different bacterial species all work together, much like a community, to ensure your digestive system and body functions appropriately. (2) The correct balance of microbiota can help your metabolism, increase your immunity, and can even enhance your brain functioning. (3)

Gut bacteria is acquired from birth, passed from mother to child (4), and there are many factors that could affect and alter your gut microbiota throughout your life, including:

  • The environment you live in. A large study investigated the differences in gut bacteria in rural and urban dwellers and found that urban people living in America had vastly different bacteria in their stool than those living in rural Malawi and Venezuela. They found that urban American fecal matter was the least diverse out of the groups,

Want to See What’s Inside Build Your Biome? Here’s a sneak peek!

I’m so excited to open up the Build Your Biome course again, and I hope you’ll join us!

In this video, I go over the 8-week course outline. You’ll see exactly what you’ll learn in the course, plus get a sneak peek inside the website itself to see what the videos look like!

Want to join the program? Click here to register!

A European Adventure – Visiting Paris, Lisbon, Sintra, Reims, and Epernay

I just got back from an absolutely incredible trip to Portugal and France!

As a wedding gift, my long-time best friend Kristin gave me a flight to Paris with her for a much-needed girls trip (our first one together!). (Also, sorry Aidan, apparently this wedding gift is just for ME :)).

We knew we wanted to visit somewhere other than France since we had both been to Paris before, and spent a while deciding where to go. First we though Barcelona might be fun, but since we had both been there before too, we wanted to find somewhere new to the two of us.

We were looking at cheap flights from Paris to other destinations in Europe and stumbled upon Portugal! Now, I’m a big traveler and of course I have a huge list of destinations that I want to go to…surprisingly, Portugal hadn’t been on it. But, boy, it DEFINITELY should’ve been.

I absolutely loved our time in Portugal, which I’ll tell you about in a bit!

First stop, Paris!

So we flew into Paris and stayed one night at the Terrass Hotel in Montmartre (complete with an awesome rooftop bar –