If you’ve been wondering if PCOS meditation has any real health benefits, you’re in the right place. With more people looking for more natural PCOS treatment options, meditation is definitely one that comes to mind to consider.
If you’re new here, hi! I’m Alyssa, a registered dietitian and fellow PCOS-er. My goal is to cut through the BS and give you research-backed info to manage your PCOS effectively with nutrition and lifestyle modifications.
Before we dive into how medication can benefit PCOS, let’s briefly talk about what PCOS and meditation are.
What Is PCOS?
Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is a common hormonal disorder that affects up to 20% of women of reproductive age worldwide (1). Although the exact cause of PCOS remains unknown, it’s commonly linked to insulin resistance, chronic inflammation, and high androgen levels (aka male hormones like testosterone levels).
Some common symptoms of PCOS include irregular periods, infertility, weight gain, hair loss, acne, carb cravings, mood swings, and fatigue. The physical symptoms and effects of PCOS can lead to an emotional roller coaster, resulting in higher rates of mental health concerns such as anxiety and depression.
Ok, now that we covered some of those PCOS basics, let’s talk about what meditation is and how it may help with some of your PCOS symptoms.
What Is Meditation?
Meditation is an ancient practice that involves using physical and mental techniques to focus and clear your mind. This practice brings mindfulness, awareness, and calmness to the mind.
The effectiveness of meditation for the brain and overall health continue to be shown in research studies. There are several types of meditation that you can choose to practice, such as transcendental meditation or mindfulness meditation.
Is Meditation Good For PCOS?
In short, yes, meditation is good for PCOS. This practice has several potential health benefits with few known side effects to it (2).
Let’s look at some benefits of meditation that can be applied to PCOS.
Lowers Stress & Anxiety Levels
Cortisol is a stress hormone that’s released by the activity of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. It has been suggested that those with PCOS may struggle with dysfunctional HPA axis, which puts them at higher risk for high cortisol levels and anxiety disorders (3). This makes sense since we know that women with PCOS have higher rates of anxiety, which is perceived chronic stress.
In the general population, a recent study showed that salivary cortisol levels decreased with meditation. Additionally, in those with PCOS specifically, studies have found that mindfulness-based stress reduction or 30 minutes of daily sun salutation yoga poses along with meditation reduces anxiety in those with PCOS (4, 5).
Reduces Insulin Resistance
Up to 80% of women with PCOS have insulin resistance, with about half of those with PCOS going on to develop type 2 diabetes before the age of 40 years old. So it’s no wonder that managing blood sugar levels and improving insulin sensitivity is important.
A recent study compared women with type 2 diabetes who did aerobic exercise along with deep breathing exercises and meditation versus a control group who only did aerobic exercise. They found that those who also implemented deep breathing exercises and meditation had a significant improvement in fasting glucose and cortisol levels.
For additional ways to lower insulin resistance with your diet, check out this post: A Dietitian’s 7 Day PCOS Diet Plan (PDF Included).
Sleep disorders like sleep apnea and insomnia are common in PCOS. Meditation may be an effective approach to improve sleep quality.
One study found that those who struggled with insomnia and used sleep medications had a significant reduction in insomnia after 8 weeks of a meditation program. Although this study used a small sample size, 21 of the 24 participants were able to reduce or eliminate their sleep medications after the 8 week period.
Also be sure to check out this post on magnesium, a common supplement to aid in sleep.
Lowers Blood Pressure
Women with PCOS are at a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome. Meditation and mindfulness-based stress reduction can lower blood pressure levels, which can improve your overall health (6).
Inflammation is one of the core driving factors of PCOS symptoms and other chronic health conditions. Recent studies have shown a reduction in acute and chronic inflammation and oxidative stress with routine meditation practices.
For more ways to lower inflammation through your diet, check out this food list: Anti-Inflammatory Foods List PDF.
Improves Gut Health & IBS
Gut issues, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), are higher in women with PCOS. This could be for several different reasons that aren’t fully explained yet, but meditation may also help alleviate some of these gut symptoms.
A recent systematic review found that meditation significantly improved quality of life and decreased pain associated with IBS.
Improves Quality of Life
A recent randomized controlled trial found that those with PCOS who utilized diet counseling and meditation, and those who additionally included exercise, all saw a statistically significant difference in their health-related quality of life (7).
How To Practice Meditation
If the idea of where to start feels overwhelming, you’re not alone. Meditation may seem like a foreign idea to you, but fear not, there are many easy-to-use online tools to help you. I’d recommend you download a free meditation app to your smartphone!
There are many free meditation apps available such as:
- Healthy Minds Program
- UCLA Mindful
- Insight Timer.
It also doesn’t have to be something that takes a lot of your time either. Many tools include meditation options that are only 5 minutes long – start small to build your confidence!
You can also combine meditation and mindfulness with other relaxation techniques that may align with your fitness goals, such as yoga or walking. Yoga has also been shown to help with lowering free testosterone levels, in addition to improving anxiety and depression symptoms and promoting weight loss (8).
The Bottom Line
Along with a healthy diet and other lifestyle changes, meditation is an excellent way to improve your symptoms.
Meditation has many beneficial effects. It can lower stress levels, anxiety, insulin resistance, inflammation, IBS symptoms, and blood pressure levels. It can also improve sleep and quality of life.
Since meditation can be performed anywhere, it offers an easier access point for anyone to get started. Healthy Minds Program, UCLA Mindful, Calm, Headspace, or Insight Timer are some of the popular free meditation apps you can download to get started.
Disclaimer: this is not intended to substitute for or replace medical advice for polycystic ovary syndrome or any other medical condition. Always consult with your healthcare provider for personalized care recommendations.