The Relationship Between PCOS and Inflammation

Hero Images/Getty

Question: What is the Relationship Between PCOS and Inflammation?

I heard that PCOS is sometimes associated with inflammation. What does that mean and how does it affect PCOS?


Inflammation occurs when the body’s natural immune system, composed of white blood cells and other factors, reacts to a foreign substance to protect the body from a perceived threat. The problem is that sometimes the inflammation response gets triggered inappropriately and causes the immune system to react to its own tissues and cells.

The inflammatory response can cause different symptoms in people such as swelling, pain, fatigue and headaches. Inflammation isn’t just associated with the joints and muscles, as is commonly seen in rheumatoid arthritis or gout, but can also occur in the internal organs. Examples of systemic conditions caused by inflammation include colitis (inflammation of the colon) and myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle).

In addition to imaging studies, like x-rays or CAT scan, a blood test looking for a protein called C-reactive protein (CRP) is also used to detect inflammation. When elevated, CRP can indicate that an inflammatory response is occurring in the body, though it can’t identify exactly where. 

PCOS and Inflammation 

Several research studies have found that women with PCOS are more likely to have elevated levels of CRP compared to women without the condition, showing that some form of inflammation is happening in the body.

Many women will also have high levels of other markers for inflammation like oxidative stress, inflammatory cytokines, and white blood cells called lymphocytes and monocytes. All of these factors are involved in the immune response and are also found during inflammation.

Elevated levels of CRP are also known to be associated with diabetes, insulin resistance and heart disease.

This likely contributes to the complications often seen with PCOS.

What You Can Do About It

Women with PCOS can fight inflammation with lifestyle changes. A healthy diet that includes anti-inflammatory foods is important.

Women with PCOS who followed a Mediterranean style anti-inflammatory diet for 3 months lost 7% of their body weight and showed significant improvements in their cholesterol, blood pressure, and inflammatory markers. This diet was designed to be low calorie, low-fat, low-saturated fat, low glycemic index and moderate-to-high fiber and emphasized anti-inflammatory foods such as fish, legumes, nuts, olive oil, herbs, spices, and green tea.

Supplementing your diet with omega-3s in the best absorbed form of fish oil can also help to reduce inflammation. Getting regular exercise and.practicing mindfulness can also help to reduce the inflammation seen in PCOS. 

Lastly, make sleep a priority. Getting in an ideal 8 to 9 hours sleep each night will also help your body flight inflammation. 


Agacayak ELevels of Neopterin and other Inflammatory Markers in Obese and Non-Obese Patients with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome.Med Sci Monit. 2015 Aug 20;21:2446-55.368.

Amany A. Anti-Inflammatory Dietary Combo in Overweight and Obese Women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome.

N Am J Med Sci. 2015 Jul; 7(7): 310–316.

Continue Reading