You may have been told about a link between PCOS and gut health. As a result, it would be fair to wonder if you should take a probiotic if you have PCOS. Carry on reading to find out more about probiotics, the benefits of taking them and how they may help the symptoms of PCOS.
So, what are probiotics?
Probiotics are live microorganisms (bacteria and yeast) which can convey health benefits when consumed in the right amount. There are hundreds of probiotic strains, with a lot of variety between the products on offer. The most well-researched probiotics can often be found in probiotic supplements and yoghurts containing live bacteria (check yoghurts to specify which strain of live probiotics they contain to ensure it is present). Fermented foods may also contain probiotics, however, there is less evidence in relation to the effect on the gut and overall health.
It’s important to note that probiotics are not the same as prebiotics. We explain the difference between probiotics, prebiotics and the link to PCOS in this article.
How do probiotics work?
Probiotics can be beneficial to our health for a variety of reasons. They can improve the balance of bacteria in our gut, by reducing the ability of harmful bacteria to survive and increasing the levels of good bacteria.
Probiotics have also been found to improve the barrier function of the gut lining. Additionally, they’ve been found to stimulate the production of antimicrobial substances, which helps to reduce inflammation risk and infection.
In addition to gut health, probiotics have been seen to have an impact via the nervous system and our immune systems to impact other organs.
All pretty incredible stuff! However, it is important to remember that probiotics are not the only factor that can influence gut health: your diet, exercise, stress, age, medication, other health conditions and your living environment can also have an impact.
Are there benefits to taking probiotics for PCOS?
Recent research has shown that taking a probiotic may provide beneficial effects towards improving aspects related to PCOS.
A recent randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial (considered the “gold standard” method), was conducted on 60 patients with PCOS, receiving either a probiotic containing Lactobacillus, Lactobacilllus casei and Bifidobacterium bifidum or a placebo. After 12 weeks, taking probiotics (in comparison to the placebo) had beneficial effects on testosterone, measures of hirsutism, and blood lipid levels (1).
Additionally, a meta-analysis (assessing the results of multiple previous research studies), including 587 patients in randomised controlled trials, found that probiotics can influence metabolic, hormonal and inflammatory parameters in individuals with PCOS. They concluded that using probiotics may lead to an improvement in fertility (2).
Best probiotics for PCOS
It’s important to be clear that probiotics are generally considered food rather than medication, so they aren’t necessarily rigorously tested in the same way medicine is. This means that what the label says may not reflect what is actually in the bottle. Here are our top three best probiotics for PCOS.
- In every shot of Symprove, you get 10 billion units of good bugs in four carefully selected strains
- Unique water-based delivery method
- Use code PCOS25 for new customers to save on subscriptions
- Contains 14 strains of live bacteria to complement the natural gut flora
The takeaway of PCOS and probiotics
Emerging research is showing that probiotics can offer various health benefits for those with PCOS. However, please remember they’re only one piece of the puzzle. If you choose to take a probiotic product, it’s helpful to look for ones containing the strains used in clinical studies. The potential of probiotics is still a new field of research and further studies are required to fully understand all of the details around what to take for the most beneficial effects on PCOS symptoms. It may be helpful to first seek advice from a healthcare professional.
Probiotics: Frequently Asked Questions
What should I be looking for in a probiotic supplement?
Gut health experts advise choosing a probiotic that has been clinically tested. Plus, aim to choose a product with at least 1 billion CFU per daily dose.
What is the best time to take a probiotic?
Try to stay consistent with the time in which you take your supplement, to increase the likelihood of remembering to take it! It is recommended to take probiotics on an empty stomach if possible, ideally 10-30 minutes before eating anything so many people take a probiotic before breakfast. Each probiotic manufacturer will have different advice, so follow the manufactures directions for the best results.
Will a probiotic help my symptoms of PCOS?
Unfortunately, we don’t have enough evidence to conclusively state whether probiotics will help PCOS symptoms. The evidence we have so far is limited but promising. Having a healthy gut, which probiotics may contribute to, is generally considered to improve someone’s overall health.
Founder and Editor | Registered Associate Nutritionist
Founder of Be The Collective LTD [The PCOS Collective & The Endo Collective] Alex Okell ANutr is a London-based reproductive health nutritionist with experience in research, private practice and digital media. She holds a Master’s degree in Nutrition from King’s College London and has co-authored papers with the University of Cambridge, King’s College London, The Food Foundation and the Food Standards Agency. Alex offers 1:1 PCOS support in our virtual PCOS clinic.