PCOS Review Newsletter #161
1) Are Artificial Sweeteners Raising Hell Inside Your Body? And Making You Fatter Too?
I discovered something today that might relieve some suffering for many of you.
Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles recently reported that women with PCOS had more irritable bowel syndrome (IBD) than other women. It was a very small study but the numbers were surprising. 42% of the PCOS women had IBD compared to 10% of the other women in the study. Among the PCOS women, the heavier ones had more IBD than the lean ones.
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By the way, IBD is a chronic inflammatory condition in your intestines that has all kinds of bad consequences for your health. Variations of IBD would include Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. The cause of these very unpleasant disorders is thought to be some combination of genetic predisposition and environmental factors. To a large extent, the cause of IBD is regarded as a "medical mystery".
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I'm not sure "why" you're 4 times more likely to have IBD than someone else, or why you're more likely to have IBD if you're heavier.
But I have a clue. If you're concerned about your weight, what are you likely to do? The obvious thing is to cut calories, right? And what's the easiest and quickest way to do that? Based on the evidence I've seen, I think you're going to switch over to no-calorie or low-calorie beverages and foods.
But -- as you cut calories, you don't want to sacrifice your sweet tooth. The obvious solution is to buy beverages and foods that contain no-calorie artificial sweeteners. Not only are artificial sweeteners a great way to control your weight, they taste good and they're completely "safe", according to the Food & Drug Administration.
So here's my question to you. Do you fit the pattern I've just described? Like 50% of all Americans, are you presently consuming beverages or foods that contain artificial sweeteners, thinking that you're doing the right thing?
If so, you're walking on quicksand.
The UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School in New Jersey just came out with a blockbuster article that no one is talking about. The author of the article performed an extensive historical review of the use of saccharin (Sweet 'n Low) and sucralose (Splenda) in relation to IBD. He found a tight correlation between the artificial sweeteners and IBD all across the globe, including at the local level.
For example, the diagram below shows what happened to the rate of IBD in Oslo, Norway when sucralose was legalized. Notice how the rate of IBD was essentially flat for 14 years prior to increased consumption of sucralose, and then it spiked upwards when sucralose was approved by the EU.
It appears that these artificial sweeteners can reduce the beneficial bacteria in your gut, which has the effect of compromising the integrity of your gut wall. This is called "intestinal permeability". When your gut wall is compromised, bacteria in your gut leak through into your body, which stimulates an immune reaction. In addition, larger food particles can also leak through. Your immune system perceives these particles as "foreign" object to be destroyed, thus increasing systemic inflammation.
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Back in November 2011 I wrote an article about the association between "intestinal permeability" and visceral abdominal fat and fatty liver disorders in women. It may be that intestinal permeability is an under-recognized contributor to abdominal fat accumulation. The researchers of the study I cited in the article said: " impaired gut barrier function with increased leakage of gut-derived antigens may drive visceral lipid deposition".
So if you have an issue with weight, do everything you can to improve the health of your GI tract.
I gave you some advice on what to do in that article. But back then, I didn't know about the artificial sweeteners.
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I urge you to stay completely away from any and all artificial sweeteners, whether you have IBD or not. None of these "sweet" chemicals are going to help you escape from PCOS prison. Please keep in mind that any chronic inflammation, including IBD, is going to worsen your PCOS symptoms and make your life much more difficult.
If you must have an added sweetener, use stevia. Better yet, have a piece of fresh fruit. Avoid table sugar.
A healthy gut is absolutely essential for long-term control of polycystic ovary syndrome and for avoiding future degenerative disease. No joke.
Mathur R et al, Polycystic ovary syndrome is associated with an increased prevalence of irritable bowel syndrome. Dig Dis Sci. 2010 Apr;55(4):1085-9.
Qin X, Etiology of inflammatory bowel disease: a unified hypothesis. World J Gastroenterol. 2012 Apr 21;18(15):1708-22
2) Taking Birth Control Pills or Metformin? These Vitamins Will Help.
Did you know that taking birth control pills will increase "oxidative stress" and "lipid peroxidation"? This is what the Shiraz University of Medical Sciences in Iran discovered with they studied 120 healthy women who were taking a low-dose oral contraceptive.
Oxidative stress and lipid peroxidation are medical terms to describe two mechanisms for cell damage. This type of cell damage is highly undesirable and is a problem for many women with PCOS. The result is an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
In this study, the women were given antioxidant vitamins C and E, which reduced the rate of cell damage.
Vitamin C is also desirable if you're taking metformin, according to research from the Indira Gandhi Government Medical College in India.
It appears that supplemental vitamin C combined with metformin is more effective than using metformin alone. In this study, 70 diabetics were given either metformin with vitamin C, or vitamin C alone.
After 12 weeks, the vitamin C group showed improved blood sugar control compared to the group not taking vitamin C.
Although this was a study of diabetics, women with PCOS have similar metabolic problems. In fact, one of the long term outcomes of uncontrolled PCOS is likely to be diabetes or diabetic complications. So what's good for diabetics may also be good for you.
So if you taking either birth control pills or metformin, the medical research indicates that you will benefit by also taking a potent multi-vitamin.
Zal F et al, Effect of vitamin E and C supplements on lipid peroxidation and GSH-dependent antioxidant enzyme status in the blood of women consuming oral contraceptives. Contraception, 2012 April 9; [Epub ahead of print].
Dakhale GN et al, Supplementation of vitamin C reduces blood glucose and improves glycosylated hemoglobin in type 2 diabetes mellitus: a randomized, double-blind study, Adv Pharmacol Sci, 2011; 2011:19527.
3) The Power of Listening
Do you find it frustrating when people don't really listen to you? After all, you're trying to communicate something important -- but you can sense the other person isn't paying close attention. Maybe you sense the other person is just waiting for you to finish so that he or she can start speaking.
It's like two people competing for air time. Unfortunately, both of you may end up feeling frustrated and not understood. The subtle stress of ineffective communication can only make PCOS more of a problem than it already is, since stress is proven to make your symptoms worse.
If this dynamic happens frequently in your life, here's something to think about.
Thirty years ago, Stephen Covey wrote a book called "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People". Have you heard of that book?
One of the seven habits is to "seek first to understand, then to be understood". The only way to understand someone is to empathetically listen to them.
Try to get outside your frame of reference and get inside their frame of reference. In other words, attentively and fully listen as you try to put yourself into their shoes and understand the conversation from their perspective, not yours.
Once the other person truly feels understood, he or she can relax and be more open to listening to you and understanding you.
It takes courage to deeply understand the other person before trying to make yourself understood. But try it anyway. See what happens.
"The day will happen whether or not you get up" -- John Ciardi
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