PCOS is a nuanced condition that involves anovulatory cycles (lack of ovulation) and androgen excess and subsequent symptoms. Androgens are male hormones. We need them in small amounts for healthy libido, muscle tone, heart and bone health, but when the concentrations are too high, symptoms like hair loss, hair thinning, acne, body and facial here arise.
PCOS is an inflammatory condition that is very responsive to diet and lifestyle shifts as well as supplementation.
I always suggest starting with your diet and lifestyle BEFORE supplementing. Supplements are meant to SUPPLEMENT. You can’t supplement your way out of a substandard diet and stress-promoting lifestyle.
Please focus on whole foods, high quality nutrition, nutrient dense foods, and eating enough (every 3-4 hours) first.
FOOD IS MEDICINE AND PROMOTES HEALING, CELLULAR REPAIR, RENEWAL, AND REGENERATION WHEN ITS PRIORITIZED!
Food first, supplements second!
The following supplements are powerful for lowering inflammation and improving insulin resistance that often accompanies PCOS. Some are attainable from food sources, which I will list below.
Supplements for PCOS
Berberine is helpful for infertility because it controls blood sugar and normalizes metabolism. In two large studies, berberine was shown to outperform metformin. You can check out those studies here and here. It facilitates weight loss and helps to lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Berberine has a beneficial effect on gut bacteria, it promotes ovulation, and it prevents the ovaries from making too much testosterone. Berberine is the active constituent in a number of different herbs including goldenseal, barberry, and phellodendron amurense.
**Because of berberine’s antimicrobial effects, do not take for more than 8 weeks. This is best taken under the guidance of a professional.**
Melatonin is the hormone produced by your pineal gland and increases in concentration as the sun goes down and we get ready for sleep. It is also made in our ovaries. What’s interesting is that our ovaries have melatonin receptors on them, so supplementing with melatonin can increase pregnancy rates in women with PCOS. It restores regular ovulation, and protects the ovarian follicle from oxidative stress. Food sources of melatonin are found in tart cherries, goji berries, raw milk, bananas, and pomegranates.
Curcumin is the active ingredient in turmeric, and it is a potent polyphenol revered through the ages for its anti-inflammatory properties. Curcumin has positive effects on the whole body because it lowers the risk for diabetes by reducing insulin resistance, and it reduces high blood pressure. It has warming properties and has been found to increase circulation of mineral and oxygen-rich blood to the vasculature in the pelvis and the ovaries, increasing fertility and thereby preparing the body for pregnancy.
N-ACETYL CYSTEINE (NAC)
NAC is an antioxidant. It has been shown to improve egg quality, normalize ovulation, and increases the changes of live birth in women with PCOS. It supports healthy glucose metabolism, improves insulin sensitivity, and is a precursor to the master antioxidant and detoxifier in the body – glutathione. NAC reduces inflammation and promotes the detoxification of environmental toxins. NAC is the supplement form of cysteine, an amino acid that helps the body create and use protective antioxidants
Myo-inositol is a sugar alcohol that has an important role in glucose metabolism. Studies show that is just as effective (and more effective in some studies) as the diabetes drug metformin, one of the most commonly prescribed drugs for PCOS. Myo-inositol reduces insulin resistance and increases insulin sensitivity more effectively than Metformin without any of the side effects. It also improves egg quality, supports regular ovulation, and reduces androgens. It also reduces your lifelong risk of developing diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Myo-inositol acts as an intracellular messenger for insulin.
Quercetin is an flavonoid antioxidant found in a variety of fruits and veggies, including apples, onions, leafy greens, tomatoes, broccoli, citrus fruits, cacao, raw asparagus, peppers, and grapes. It decreases testosterone and improves ovarian health and function. It also improves insulin resistance.
Magnesium is one of the most amazing minerals in our body. Operating with suboptimal levels of magnesium is like trying to run a power tool with the power turned off. It has a role in almost every metabolic process in the body. And its extremely easy to be magnesium deficient because when we are stressed, we dump our magnesium. We experience magnesium loss, and this loss day after day, without proper replenishment, leads to problems throughout the whole body. Magnesium is an important supplement for women with PCOS because it helps improve insulin sensitivity. This study proposes that magnesium deficiency is one of the root causes of insulin resistance. It also helps to regulate the HPA axis, which is the entire communication system between our master hormone glands in the brain (the hypothalamus & pituitary glands), and the adrenals, which are responsible for our stress hormone production. Magnesium is found in a wide variety of foods but is highest in leafy green vegetables, dark chocolate, cashews, flaxseeds, avocado, quinoa, spirulina, yogurt, black beans, and figs.
Zinc is a powerful mineral for menstrual health in general, and zinc deficiency has been found to be correlated to higher risk of PCOS 24664271. Zinc works by nourishing the ovarian follicles for healthier, more regular ovulation. It also supports the growth and development of the corpus luteum, the endocrine gland that forms after ovulation. The corpus luteum secretes progesterone for the entirety of our luteal phase and is essential in adequate amounts in the event of a pregnancy. Zinc reduces inflammation and also improves hirsutism, facial and body hair associated with androgen excess. Good food sources of zinc include: hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, chickpeas, grass-fed beef, oysters, avocado, spinach, mushrooms, lamb and lentils.
Make sure you are nourishing your body FIRST with nutrient dense, whole foods based diet that includes seasonal fruits and veggies, pasture and sustainably raised meats (including organ meats), wild caught seafood, raw cream and/or raw dairy if you can tolerate these, soaked and sprouted nuts and seeds, soaked grains, and high quality fats in the form of butter, ghee, tallow, and duck fat. All of these foods help build a strong body, reduce inflammation, and supply the raw genuine replacement parts your body needs to repair, rebuild, regenerate, and renew!
Sometimes though, no matter how diligent we are with our diet, there are many times where these foods come up short due to the sad nature of our farming practices, the use of the NPK fertilizers, GMO seeds, pesticide use, etc. Supplements are meant to fill in the gaps of our diet, lifestyle, and our increasingly toxic environment. In a perfect world, we would all eat whole foods that were grown in fertile, gorgeous, microbe rich soil, without the use of toxic pesticides. And the animal products we consume would come from animals who were free to graze happily beneath the sun and eat bugs and grass rather than be confined to unsanitary and sad living conditions for their whole lives. Because it's nearly impossible for us to live like our ancestors did, we do need to supplement with high quality supplements on top of our healthy, nutrient dense, whole foods-focused diet.
I want to hear from you! To my PCOS ladies out there -- which of these supplements do you take/have you taken in order to manage your PCOS? Tell me below!
Yours In Abundant Health