PCOS and IBS: Connecting the Dots


Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) are separate medical diseases with no clear cause association. However, some people may have both PCOS and IBS at the same time, prompting experts to look into possible links between the two.

Before delving into the relationship between PCOS and IBS, let’s first define PCOS and IBS.

What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)?

IBS is an abbreviation for Irritable Bowel Syndrome. It is a common gastrointestinal condition that affects the large intestine (colon) and can result in a wide range of digestive symptoms. Irritable bowel syndrome is a chronic disorder that causes abdominal pain, bloating, and changes in bowel patterns such as diarrhea, constipation, or alternating between the two.

The specific etiology of irritable bowel syndrome is unknown; however it is thought to be a combination of factors such as irregular intestine muscle contractions, increased sensitivity to certain foods or stress, and changes in the gut micro biota. Irritable bowel syndrome is a functional disorder, which means that there are no anatomical or visible symptoms of disease in the digestive tract.

Irritable bowel syndrome symptoms range in severity and may appear and disappear over time. It is treatable through food and lifestyle adjustments, stress management, and, in certain circumstances, medication recommended by a healthcare provider. Individuals suffering from Irritable bowel syndrome should collaborate closely with a healthcare provider to design a personalized treatment plan that meets their specific symptoms and needs.

Symptoms of Irritable bowel syndrome(IBS):

The specific symptoms and their severity can vary from person to person, but common symptoms of Irritable bowel syndrome include:

  1. Abdominal pain or discomfort: This is typically described as cramping or aching and is centered in the lower abdomen. A bowel movement may provide relief from the pain.
  2. Changes in bowel habits: IBS can cause bowel movement changes such as diarrhea, constipation, or a combination of the two (alternating between diarrhea and constipation). Mucus in the feces may occur in some people.
  3. Bloating and gas: Many people who have IBS have increased bloating and gas production, which can be uncomfortable and embarrassing.
  1. Urgency: Some people with IBS may experience a strong and sudden urge to urinate, which can cause concern about finding a restroom in time.
  2. Incomplete evacuation: A typical symptom of IBS is the sensation that you haven’t entirely emptied your intestines after a bowel movement.
  3. Stool appearance changes: Stools in IBS can range in consistency and appearance from loose and watery to firm and lumpy.
  4. Abdominal discomfort after eating: Many people with IBS have worsening symptoms after eating, especially if they eat certain trigger foods.

Cause of Irritable bowel syndrome(IBS):

The specific cause of Irritable bowel syndrome is unknown; however it is most likely the result of a mix of events. Some of the known factors that can contribute to the development of Irritable bowel syndrome include:

  1. Changes in Gut Motility: Changes in the pace and regularity of bowel motions might be caused by abnormal contractions of the muscles in the intestines. This can cause diarrhea, constipation, or a mix of the two, which are common IBS symptoms.
  2. Pain Sensitivity: People with Irritable bowel syndrome frequently have an increased sensitivity to pain and discomfort in their gastrointestinal tract. Visceral hypersensitivity causes abdominal pain and discomfort even in reaction to typical bowel movements.IBS
  3. Gut-Brain Axis: The gut-brain axis is a bidirectional communication pathway that connects the gut and the brain. Modifications to this communication mechanism may contribute to IBS symptoms. Some people’s IBS symptoms might be triggered or exacerbated by stress, anxiety, and emotional issues.
  4. Intestinal Infections: Gastrointestinal infections, such as bacterial or viral gastroenteritis, can occasionally cause IBS symptoms, particularly in sensitive individuals. This is referred to as post-infectious IBS (PI-IBS).
  5. Diet and Food Sensitivities: Certain foods and dietary factors might aggravate or exacerbate IBS symptoms. High-fat foods, spicy foods, caffeine, alcohol, artificial sweeteners, and dairy products in people with lactose intolerance are all common triggers. Some IBS sufferers may also have dietary sensitivities or allergies.

What is PCOS?

PCOS is a hormonal condition that predominantly affects a woman’s reproductive system.

It is distinguished by irregular menstrual cycles, an excess of androgen hormone production (which can produce symptoms such as acne and excessive hair development), and the presence of many tiny cysts on the ovaries.

PCOS is a complicated disorder with a wide range of potential symptoms and health consequences. It can have an impact on fertility and may be linked to various health conditions such as cardiovascular disease, sleep apnea, and mood disorders. The precise origin of PCOS is unknown; however it appears to be a combination of genetic, hormonal, and lifestyle factors.

Symptoms of PCOS:         

The following are some of the most common signs and symptoms of PCOS:

  1. Irregular periods: PCOS frequently causes irregular menstrual cycles, with fewer than eight menstrual cycles in a year or periods that are unpredictable in their timing.
  2. Ovulation Issues: Many people with PCOS have trouble ovulating on a regular basis, which can lead to infertility or problems becoming pregnant.
  3. High Androgen amounts: Androgens are masculine hormones found in both males and females; however persons with PCOS have greater amounts of androgens. Acne, abundant face and body hair (hirsutism), and male-pattern baldness can result from this.
  4. Polycystic Ovaries: On ultrasonography, individuals with PCOS may have larger ovaries with tiny, fluid-filled sacs called cysts. However, not all people with PCOS have cysts, and having cysts does not always mean you have PCOS.IBS
  5. Weight Gain: Many people with PCOS suffer with weight gain or obesity, and maintaining a healthy weight can be difficult.
  6. Insulin resistance: Insulin resistance occurs when the hormone insulin fails to regulate blood sugar levels. Some PCOS patients may develop insulin resistance, which can result in high blood sugar levels and an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.

Causes of PCOS:

It is a hormonal disorder which is basically caused by hormonal imbalances and few other reasons. PCOS can be reversed naturally by making few changes in our life style which includes eating habits and exercise.

Basically PCOS is caused due to hormonal imbalances which in turn are caused due to ten modern lifestyle root causes.

So let’s see the 10 modern lifestyle root causes that lead to hormonal imbalances:

  1. Food Related Causes- inflammation, toxicity, acidity, excess male hormones, insulin resistance
  2. Exercise Related Causes : Sedentary lifestyle, lack of muscle strength, excess ovarian fat
  3. Sleep Related -Causes Poor sleep quality (Lack of Deep Sleep)
  4. Stress Related Causes – Chronic Stress

Relation between PCOS and IBS:

PCOS is largely a female reproductive system disorder, whereas IBS is a gastrointestinal disorder. However, there is some evidence that these two illnesses may have overlapping symptoms or be related in some circumstances. Here’s how PCOS and IBS might be linked:

  1. Hormonal imbalances: PCOS is characterized by hormonal abnormalities, specifically an excess of androgens (male hormones) such as testosterone. These hormonal imbalances can have an impact on a variety of physiological systems, including the gastrointestinal system. Hormones regulate gut motility and can alter bowel motions. Imbalances in sex hormones may lead to IBS symptoms such as diarrhea, constipation, or abdominal discomfort.
  2. Insulin resistance: Many people with PCOS have insulin resistance, which means their cells don’t respond well to insulin. This can result in greater insulin levels in the bloodstream. Insulin resistance and high insulin levels may contribute to IBS symptoms since insulin affects gut function and increases the probability of suffering digestive difficulties.
  3. Inflammation: Chronic inflammation has been linked to both PCOS and IBS. Inflammation in the body can impact several organ systems, including the digestive tract. Inflammation can cause changes in gut motility, pain sensitivity, and changes in gut flora, all of which can contribute to IBS symptoms.
  4. Stress and Anxiety: Both PCOS and IBS have been linked to increased stress and anxiety. By influencing intestinal motility and sensitivity, stress and anxiety can aggravate IBS symptoms. Women with PCOS may suffer stress as a result of their disease, which may exacerbate their IBS symptoms.IBS

While symptoms and risk factors may overlap, it is critical to understand that PCOS and IBS are distinct illnesses with unique underlying mechanisms and diagnostic criteria. If you feel you have either or both of these disorders, it is critical to get medical attention for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.

Finally, the link between PCOS and IBS is complex and understudied. More data is needed to demonstrate a definite link between the two illnesses, according to ongoing research in this field. If you have PCOS or IBS symptoms, it is critical that you consult with a healthcare specialist to address your individual needs and concerns.