Last updated February 8, 2018 at 10:13 am
Polycystic ovary syndrome, or PCOS, affects between 7 and 10 per cent of women of childbearing age, and new research shows that they have less diverse bacteria populating their gut microbiome.
Women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) are likely to have less diverse gut bacteria than their condition-free peers, which could exacerbate or lead to other health conditions.
Researchers compared the microbiomes of 73 PCOS-diagnosed women with 48 PCOS-free women and 42 women with polycystic ovaries but no other PCOS symptoms by examining fecal swabs.
They found the least diverse gut bacteria in the women with PCOS, and the most diverse in the women without the condition. The women with polycystic ovaries were somewhere in between.
Related: Get to Know the Gut Microbiome
According to the study’s senior author Dr Varykina Thackray from the University of California, “Like other metabolic disorders, PCOS is associated with changes in the composition of the microbiome.
“Our analysis indicates women with PCOS tend to have less diverse populations of gut bacteria, a trend which appears to be linked to elevated testosterone levels.”
The link between hormones and microbiomes
She adds that not only hormones likely play a large role in the diversity of our microbiomes, but the changes PCOS causes could have a cyclical effect.
“Our findings suggest testosterone and other androgen hormones may help shape the gut microbiome. These changes may influence the development of PCOS and the impact it has on a women’s quality of life.
“Additional research is needed to determine whether specific gut bacterial species contribute to the development of PCOS and whether the microbiome offers potential pathways for treating the condition.”
PCOS sufferers have a combination of cysts on their ovaries, high levels of testosterone which can cause symptoms like excess body hair, and irregular periods. They are at increased risk of other health issues like diabetes, infertility, and depression.
This study was published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.