The Best PCOS Supplements For Naturally Treating PCOS
PCOS supplements are an increasingly common method by which to deal with PCOS symptoms (which often include hair loss, weight gain, acne, insulin resistance, and irregular periods, to name a few). But this solution can soon seem overwhelming when you’re looking at the hundreds of options at the drugstore, with zero idea of which PCOS supplements are going to really move the needle on your health.
So where should you begin? Exactly which PCOS supplements are scientifically-supported to help manage this hormonal imbalance? And finally, which ones are going to be most effective for you and your body?
These are the questions we’ll be answering in this article. Let’s dive in.
What is PCOS?
Before we explain which PCOS supplements are going to help mitigate symptoms and manage PCOS pain, we should first explain a little about PCOS and how it works. PCOS (otherwise known as polycystic ovarian syndrome or polycystic ovary syndrome) is a relatively common hormonal imbalance that affects 6-12% of women in the United States who are of reproductive age.
In a nutshell, women with PCOS usually have higher levels of androgens (a male sex hormone), and the knock-on effects of this imbalance leads to ovarian cysts, irregular periods (thanks to halted or inconsistent ovulation), acne, thinning hair on the scalp, excess hair on other areas of the body, insulin resistance, and weight gain.
Women with PCOS often go on to develop even more serious health problems, especially if they are overweight, including diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, sleep apnea, and even stroke.
Now, the above symptoms and implications of PCOS are common results of this hormonal imbalance, but it’s not a definite sentence. Just because you are diagnosed with PCOS doesn’t mean you’re going to suffer from every problem that we just mentioned - because there are ways you can naturally treat PCOS using a carefully curated set of supplements (decided alongside input from a physician), alongside an intentional diet and lifestyle.
7 Great PCOS Supplements (And Why)
Before we dive into which supplements are best to help aid PCOS, we need to understand that finding quality and safe supplements that are a good fit for your body is of the utmost importance.
This means opting for supplements that are National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) certified, as well as United States Pharmacopeial Convention (USP) certified. This is because, currently, the US Food and Drug Administration does not test or approve dietary supplements before they’re marketed. As such, by opting for supplements backed by the above-mentioned organizations, you can ensure the products you’re purchasing pass the objective measures and strict criteria the NSF and USP demands of products that bear their marks of approval.
Inositols like myo- and d-chiro inositol B-vitamins (which should be combined in a 40:1 ratio), are a type of of carbocyclic sugar naturally found in foods like fruits, beans, nuts, animal foods, and grains, and they offer antioxidant properties. Interestingly, inositol used to be considered a vitamin, but it has since been declassified since most people make enough of it internally. The catch here? Those with PCOS do not, so they may need to supplement.
As we mentioned earlier, PCOS is a metabolic condition, which is often aggravated by inflammation, insulin resistance, and/or increased androgen levels. So how does inositol work in controlling insulin levels? Myo and d-chiro inositol work in a complex set of reactions that help run your metabolism, as well as key reproductive pathways, and ultimately assist in the regulation of insulin levels.
The end story here? Research suggests that inositols help lower high insulin levels and improve blood sugar levels in women with PCOS. In addition, a meta-analysis of studies evaluating the effects of MI and DCI inositols on women with PCOS concluded that: 1) MI inositol is helpful in lowering testosterone levels overall, and 2) it takes 6 months and longer to see the positive effects of inositols on androgen profiles and acne.
So pick up your inositol supplements soon to start seeing results!
When to take this supplement?: 2 hours outside of meal times (minimum)
Interested in trying inositol? Allara offers a high quality, PCOS inositol supplement that you can shop here.
2. Vitamin D
It’s not just women with PCOS that have low levels of vitamin D - research indicates that around 42% of Americans are deficient in this essential vitamin.
That being said, research indicates that supplementation of vitamin D in women with PCOS improves menstrual regularity (after 3 months of supplementation), while it also has been shown to improve fertility and pregnancy rates during assisted reproduction therapy. If these results aren’t enough, vitamin D supplementation has also been shown to improve mood and reduce likelihood of depression in women both with and without PCOS!
When to take this supplement?: With food (particularly high-fat foods like avocados, nuts, and salmon!).
3. B Complex
B vitamins such as B12 and folate are among the most helpful in treating PCOS naturally. Specifically, they’re thought to help fight insulin resistance in those with PCOS. And that’s not all they do - these water soluble nutrients come with a list of benefits as long as your arm!
For instance, B6 is a high-powered supplement that is purported to support mood regulation (it helps in the production of serotonin and dopamine, essential for feelings of happiness and contentment), while B12 is also thought to aid in mood regulation (since this vitamin plays a key role in synthesizing and metabolizing serotonin).
B12 supplementation may be particularly important for women with PCOS to help offset the effects of Metformin, which may reduce levels of B12 in the body.
When to take this supplement?: 2 hours outside of meal times (minimum)
4. Fish Oils/Omega 3
Next, we have fish oil supplements, which are heavy in Omega 3s. (Here, it’s important to keep in mind that fish-based omega 3’s are preferable to plant-based sources, thanks to increased bioavailability of the former!)
Omega 3s are so powerful thanks to their anti-inflammatory properties, especially when it comes to treating inflammatory and autoimmune conditions. Placebo-controlled trials of fish oils through supplementation demonstrate that Omega 3s offer “significant benefit” over placebo, and often result in decreased disease activity and a lowered use of anti-inflammatory drugs.
So we know Omega 3 is good for you in general, but what does it do for managing your PCOS symptoms? Well, in a recent meta-analysis of Omega 3s’ impact on women with PCOS in particular, results indicate that these fatty acids are particularly helpful for fighting insulin resistance and treating high levels of total cholesterol (TC) in the blood.
So if nothing else, these omega 3-rich tablets are a good fortifier to pick up and consume alongside natural omega 3 sources, such as fish (particularly salmon, mackerel, and herring), nuts (walnuts, flaxseeds, and chia seeds), and plant oils (like canola oil, flaxseed oil, and walnut oil)!
When to take this supplement?: when you’re eating your food!
Berberine is an alkaloid extracted from herbs, and it can be taken in liquid or capsule form.
When it comes to naturally treating PCOS, it’s particularly noteworthy for its role in improving insulin resistance through better insulin signal transduction.
For instance, in one small study of 89 women with PCOS, compared to metformin or a placebo, berberine supplementation proved to be just as effective as metformin at lowering insulin and glucose levels, while also reducing levels of LDL (otherwise known as bad cholesterol), and increasing levels of HDL (otherwise known as good cholesterol).
But berberine doesn’t stop there. It’s also known to reduce the secretion of the hormone leptin, which works to stimulate appetite. As such, losing weight may become a lot easier through berberine supplementation, as cravings are reduced, and the enzyme lipoprotein lipase, (responsible for fat storage) is inhibited at the same time.
Finally, apart from the positive effects on improving the metabolic implications of PCOS, berberine may also improve fertility in women suffering from this condition. In one pilot study, ovulation improved by 25% after 4 months supplementing with berberine, while another study indicated that women with PCOS taking berberine had higher pregnancy rates (compared to metformin or placebo) and fewer side effects when taking berberine 3 months prior to their fertility treatment.
When to take this supplement?: Take just before meals.
Did you know that whether you’re considered a healthy weight, overweight, or obese on a BMI scale, that if you have PCOS, there’s a high chance you have insulin resistance?
According to recent research, 70-95% of obese individuals diangosed with PCOS have insulin resistance, while 30-75% of lean individuals with PCOS are found to also have insulin resistance. So why is this symptom in particular such a big deal? And how does it impact your PCOS?
Well, insulin resistance leads to Type 2 Diabetes (which comes with a plethora of other health implications affecting the circulatory, nervous, and immune systems), while recent data indicates that insulin resistance is not only a symptom of PCOS, but that it also may be a driver of the hormonal imbalance.
Magnesium is a cofactor of many enzymes involved in glucose metabolism, and in those with Type 2 Diabetes, there appears to be a much lower intracellular magnesium concentration. In other words, there’s deficient levels of magnesium in insulin-resistant patients, and it’s suspected that low levels of magnesium are spurring insulin resistance and heart disease.
So consider topping up on magnesium through magnesium rich foods - like spinach, cashews, almonds, pumpkin seeds, and whole grains - as well as magnesium supplements. In general, you can expect that nuts, seeds, beans, and legumes are generally high in magnesium, so feel free to expand beyond the range of this list. Just keep in mind that not all supplements are created equally - some forms of magnesium are better processed by our bodies than others. Opt for magnesium citrate or magnesium glycinate, and avoid magnesium oxide (which is insoluble in water and thus has low absorption rates in the human body).
Finally, if you choose to increase your magnesium intake through the aforementioned foods, then we recommend not supplementing, to reduce chances of hypermagnesemia (a term used to describe too-high levels of magnesium in the blood).
When to take this supplement?: Anytime!
Zinc is a critical micro element that is responsible for the regulation of cell growth, hormone release, reproduction, and immunological response. It appears that women with PCOS may have lower levels of zinc than women without it, and because of this, women with PCOS may see impaired hormonal, lipid, and glucose metabolism, in addition to “increased concentrations of oxidative stress biomarkers” - yikes. So low levels of zinc means you’re at risk for insulin resistance, oxidative stress, and impaired hormonal metabolization.
So how can zinc help you naturally manage your PCOS symptoms? And does it actually work?
Well, in a review of 36 randomized, controlled studies of the effect of zinc supplementation on reproductive symptom disorders (such as PCOS), it was concluded that zinc has a positive effect on insulin resistance and lipid balance. This means that it helps fight against insulin resistance. As an added bonus, when dosed before and during each menstrual cycle, it may also reduce the intensity of pain associated with menstruation - which means if you suffer from PCOS pain, then you may want to pick up some zinc as part of your regular drugstore shop.
Finally, other studies have shown that zinc may help fight acne, reduce inflammation, and prevent hair loss, as well as protect against chronic conditions like heart disease and diabetes.
Just keep in mind that like magnesium, the form you consume your zinc supplement in matters. For the best absorption rates, opt for zinc picolinate, zinc acetate, and zinc glycerate, and avoid zinc sulfate since it has a low absorption rate.
When to take this supplement? 2 hours outside of meal times (minimum)