PCOS is a little-known disorder that has been plaguing 10% of women with infertility for decades. What does PCOS mean?
PCOS stands for Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, and it causes many unpleasant symptoms for women. For example, women with PCOS will have one or more of the following symptoms:
- menstrual irregularity
- excess hair growth on the face, chest, and back
- thinning hair or hair loss from the scalp
- mood swings
- loss of sex drive
Luckily, each symptom is related to the same cause, which means that this disorder may be reversible.
What Causes PCOS?
PCOS is the result of insulin levels being too high for too long. In women, high insulin levels trigger the production of androgens like testosterone and increase free testosterone and DHT levels. This turns off fertility and causes most of the symptoms of PCOS.
Genetics also play a significant role in the development of PCOS. Most women who develop the disorder inherited genetic variants that increase the likelihood of developing insulin resistance. However, this does not mean that you are doomed to get PCOS if insulin resistance and infertility runs in the family.
Diet, exercise, and stress play the most prominent role in determining whether you develop PCOS or not. If you are a woman who overfeeds on calories and sugar, spends most of your time sitting, and stresses yourself out about life, then you will probably develop PCOS. On the other hand, eating plenty whole plant foods, restricting sugar, exercising daily, and reducing stress (with meditation and quality sleep) will turn off PCOS and turn on fertility.
Oops, did I go over that too quickly? No need to go over it again. Just read below for a quick overview of the ideal PCOS reversing diet and lifestyle.
An Overview of the Diet and Lifestyle that Helps Reverse PCOS
Here’s a simple breakdown of what you should do if you have PCOS:
- Limit sugar and carbohydrate intake
- Eat high-fiber, low-carbohydrate vegetables with each meal
- Eat enough calories to achieve your ideal weight (use MyFitnessPal to assist you with that)
- Exercise for at least 30 minutes every day
- Meditate every night before sleep
- Make sure you are getting 7-9 hours of sleep every night
This diet and lifestyle address PCOS from many different angles, but some of you may need some extra help. This is when supplements can save the day.
The Top Ten Natural Supplements That Help With PCOS
There are plenty of supplements that can help reverse PCOS is many different ways, from reducing testosterone levels to improving insulin resistance. So, without further ado, here are the ten best supplements that help with PCOS:
1. Flax Seeds
Flax seeds are known to increase sex-hormone binding globulin levels and reduce androgen and insulin levels, making it an ideal supplement for women with PCOS.
Here are some ways to add flaxseeds to your diet:
- Put them on top of a salad
- Blend them into your smoothie
- Make a seed and nut butter snack by grinding a couple of tablespoons of flax seeds and nuts into a powder and mixing in some melted coconut oil, stevia, and cinnamon.
Many studies suggest that cinnamon helps reduce insulin resistance and restore ovarian function in women with PCOS. To get these benefits, ½ to 1 teaspoon per day is all you need.
3. Vitamin B9
For women who want to get pregnant, vitamin b9 is essential. To improve fertility, researchers suggest that women who are at a healthy weight should take 400 micrograms of folic acid (one of the many forms of vitamin b9), and obese or overweight women should take 5 mg of folic acid.
However, it is best to supplement with a b-complex that contains all of the b vitamins. You may also feel better by supplementing with b complex that has a more natural form of Vitamin B9 (folic acid isn’t and may cause problems for some). L-methylfolate and 5-methyltetrahydrofolate (5-MTHF) are the most effective form of the vitamin.
4. Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar has been shown to increase insulin sensitivity in several studies, including a trial in women with PCOS. In this trial, seven women with PCOS took one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar per day. After 40 days, four of the women resumed ovulating, and six experienced a measurable reduction in insulin resistance.
For best results, consume 1-2 tablespoons per day. However, this doesn’t mean you have to take shots of pure vinegar. Use apple cider vinegar as the vinegar for your salad dressings instead.
Magnesium deficiencies are the second most common deficiency in developed countries. Magnesium is important for women with PCOS because it improves insulin sensitivity and decreases nerve excitability, leading to less stress, tension, and PCOS symptoms.
When it comes to magnesium supplements, magnesium citrate is most popular. It’s well absorbed but may have a mild laxative effect in some sensitive people. For the people who experience discomfort from taking magnesium citrate, magnesium bisglycinate is the best option.
Regardless of which supplement you choose, make sure you are getting around 310 mg of magnesium per day (if you are a woman).
Related: Homemade Calcium and Magnesium
Zinc is essential for the functioning of enzymes, hormones, and the immune system. A deficiency in zinc can cause a hormonal imbalance and make PCOS worse, while zinc supplementation can reduce some of the symptoms of PCOS.
This was confirmed in one study that found that zinc was able to reverse facial and chest hair growth in women with PCOS. Aim for 50 mg of elemental zinc per day.
One of the most well-studied PCOS supplements is inositol, a sugar alcohol chemical compound found in healthy foods like citrus fruits, cantaloupe, and leafy greens.
Multiple studies have shown that inositol supplementation may improve insulin resistance and decrease male hormones in the bloodstream. Inositol also promotes ovulation and fertility.
All it takes is a dose of 1,200-2,400 milligrams per day for inositol to significantly improve PCOS symptoms.
8. Chasteberry (commonly known as Vitex)
Chasteberry helps lower prolactin levels. Three randomized control trials have found that it can help women with oligo/amenorrhea and infertility. However, some women with PCOS may not benefit from taking chasteberry if their prolactin levels are within normal ranges.
9. Reishi Mushroom
Reishi mushroom can help reduce stress levels and inhibit 5-alpha reductase, an enzyme that converts testosterone to dihydrotestosterone. There are no studies on the effects that reishi mushroom has on women with PCOS, but its ability to inhibit the production of DHT and reduce stress make it a promising supplement for PCOS.
This compound is found in herbs like goldenseal, barberry, and Oregon grape root, and it may be the most effective of all the supplements in this list.
In one impressive study, berberine was found to reduce insulin resistance as effectively as metformin, a medication frequently prescribed for PCOS. Berberine also led to slightly more belly fat loss and lower levels of free testosterone than an equivalent dosage of metformin. Simply put, this natural compound is more effective than metformin — one of the most prescribed PCOS medications.
The recommended dose for berberine is 500 mg taken 2-3 times per day. Try taking it with milk thistle or coconut oil for best results because they may increase the absorption of berberine.
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a common disorder that causes symptoms like acne, male-pattern baldness, mood swings, weight gain, fatigue, and infertility. Fortunately, you can reverse PCOS with the right combination of a plant-based low-carbohydrate diet, exercise, sleep, and meditation.
If you are struggling with the new diet and lifestyle, you can take various supplements that will help. By supplementing with magnesium and Reishi mushroom, you can relieve stress that may be making PCOS symptoms worse. Inositol, zinc, apple cider vinegar, cinnamon, flax seeds, and berberine are other natural dietary supplements that can help improve your health and PCOS symptoms more quickly as well.
Throughout the process of reversing PCOS, make sure you consult with your doctor and check your hormone levels to see how you are progressing.
- Insulin Resistance and the Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: Mechanism and Implications for Pathogenesis — Oxford Academic
- Polycystic ovary syndrome: etiology, pathogenesis and diagnosis — Nature
- Can My Diet Relieve Symptoms of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)? — Healthline
- Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) — Deep Dyve
- Herbal medicine for the management of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and associated oligo/amenorrhoea and hyperandrogenism; a review of the laboratory evidence for effects with corroborative clinical findings. — NCBI
- Chaste tree (Vitex agnus-castus)–pharmacology and clinical indications. — NCBI
- Effects of Zinc Supplementation on Endocrine Outcomes in Women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: a Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial. — NCBI
- Anti-androgenic activities of Ganoderma lucidum. — NCBI
- The Effect of Flaxseed Supplementation on Hormonal Levels Associated with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome: A Case Study — NCBI
- Differential effects of walnuts vs almonds on improving metabolic and endocrine parameters in PCOS. — NCBI
- A clinical study on the short-term effect of berberine in comparison to metformin on the metabolic characteristics of women with polycystic ovary syndrome. — NCBI
- Berberine — Examine
- An Update on Plant Derived Anti-Androgens — NCBI
- The effect of cinnamon extract on insulin resistance parameters in polycystic ovary syndrome: a pilot study — Fertility and Sterility
- Preliminary evidence that cinnamon improves menstrual cyclicity in women with polycystic ovary syndrome: a randomized controlled trial — AJOG
- Sodium caprate augments the hypoglycemic effect of berberine via AMPK in inhibiting hepatic gluconeogenesis. — NCBI
- Magnesium — Examine
- Zinc — Examine