12 PCOS Supplements & Vitamins to Help You Body + Hormones
PCOS is an incredibly common hormonal condition that can wreak havoc on a woman’s health and reproductive system. Irregular cycles, ovulation issues, acne, excessive hair growth, and weight issues are all common among those who experience PCOS, but there’s more to this hormonal condition than meets the eye.
As a metabolic disorder, the first line of defense against PCOS always involves nutritional and lifestyle intervention and research has shown that several vitamins and supplements may help those with PCOS manage the condition.
In this post we’ll review some of the most common and effective PCOS supplements and how they help combat certain symptoms. Supplements can be a way to support healthy hormones but they can also be a recipe for expensive urine or even cause additional problems. We’ll help you figure out what works, why it works, and what the science says about common PCOS supplements.
What is PCOS? (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome)
Polycystic ovarian syndrome is a hormone and metabolic condition that affects nearly 1 in 10 women of reproductive age and is among the leading causes of infertility. PCOS is characterized by abnormal hormone levels and blood sugar regulation problems. Women with PCOS have high levels of androgens, or male sex hormones, as well as higher levels of estrogen.
The hormonal imbalance that accompanies PCOS can lead to cystic ovaries and a chronic lack of ovulation, making it hard to get pregnant. The condition is notoriously hard to diagnose, though common symptoms include irregular periods, excessive hair growth on the face and body, acne, infertility, and weight gain.
It’s not clear what causes PCOS and likely involves a mix of genetic and environmental factors. However, when diagnosed, PCOS is highly manageable through fundamental lifestyle changes and dietary supplements.
Can supplements really help PCOS?
The most common treatments for PCOS are usually based on lifestyle modifications like exercise and diet, but this also includes nutrient supplementation therapy. It’s important to note though that dietary supplements are regulated differently around the world and can actually interfere with other treatments and medications. It is always best to speak to your doctor before taking any supplement especially if you are trying to conceive or hope to conceive in the future.
Safety aside, several vitamins and supplements help regulate hormonal imbalances and promote ovulation which can be especially helpful for those with PCOS. They can be an excellent addition to your PCOS management plan but it’s important to look at the research to understand how they can help and whether they will work for you.
The following supplements are commonly used to help women with PCOS and have the most evidence-based support behind them. Most work to manage insulin resistance, metabolism, and hormone balance but can have a range of other health benefits.
Inflammation and insulin resistance are two key factors in PCOS and both can negatively impact fertility as well as your general health. Fish oil has anti-inflammatory properties and can improve insulin resistance making it a key supplement for those with PCOS. Research has also demonstrated that supplementing with fish oil can help improve ovulation, ovarian reserve, and overall fertility.
Aside from helping with PCOS treatment, fish oil has a host of other health benefits for women including brain and eye development as well as preventing heart disease and declining mental function.
Research has found an association between PCOS and the gut microbiota but the underlying link is still unclear. Probiotics are one way to create a healthier balance of gut bacteria by introducing live bacteria and yeasts that support a healthy colony of bacteria and other microorganisms in the gut. This can help those with PCOS and studies show that your gut microbiome plays a role in metabolism, although the effects are modest.
Probiotics also help improve hormonal balance and reduce inflammation, a key contributor to insulin resistance. Research has shown that taking probiotic supplements can help women with PCOS and may help with other symptoms by stabilizing the menstrual cycle and balancing hormone levels.
Zinc is an essential mineral for all humans and plays a role in many bodily functions including cell growth, hormone release, and reproductive functions. In fact, it is essential for proper functioning of the reproductive system in both males and females and zinc deficiency can have serious health implications. Less is known about its impact on the female reproductive system but studies have suggested zinc deficiency could play a role in several conditions that affect the area like issues with menstruation.
Women with PCOS have shown positive results from zinc supplementation especially in terms of insulin resistance, but it’s also been shown to help other PCOS symptoms like acne, hair growth, hair loss, as well as improve hormonal imbalances and ovulation.
Vitamin D isn’t found in the foods we eat, so most people need to supplement it in some other way. Whether that’s through getting adequate sunshine or vitamins, getting enough vitamin D may lower inflammation, improve insulin resistance and regulate your menstrual cycle.
Studies show that up to 85% of women with PCOS suffer from vitamin D deficiency so adding this to your treatment plan may be particularly helpful. Vitamin D is critical to your endocrine system and also helps regulate the absorption of calcium. Supplementing with vitamin D can help with menstrual regularity and ovulation for women with PCOS in addition to its many other benefits.
Up to 70% of women with PCOS have some level of insulin resistance. Insulin is the hormone that helps regulate blood sugar levels and your body depends on those receptors working properly for a balanced metabolism. While most know about insulin’s role in blood sugar regulation, it also plays a role in signaling the ovaries to produce certain hormones.
When the signaling system isn’t working properly, the body reacts by producing even more insulin which in turn causes a host of knock on effects that can impair follicle development and disrupt ovulation. Inositol is well known for its ability to improve insulin resistance and has been well studied. It’s host of other benefits like promoting egg quality and improving ovarian function make it one of the best supplements for women with PCOS.
You’ve likely heard much of the hype around this supplement from headlines claiming the benefits of red wine for cardiovascular health. A compound found in various plants, resveratrol acts like an antioxidant as a defense against free radicals and oxidative damage in the body. Oxidative stress is linked to many disorders and certainly plays a role in PCOS, though the exact relationship is still unclear.
In women with PCOS, supplementing with resveratrol has shown benefits for hormone balance and fertility, as well as improving insulin resistance. Although it’s well tolerated as a supplement, not much is known about the risks to pregnant women or babies in utero and it could interact with other supplements or medications.
Another antioxidant, carnitine, or Acetyl L-Carnitine (ALC) helps the body turn fat into energy. Low levels may be linked to several common traits of PCOS like insulin resistance and higher levels of androgens. Carnitine has proven to be effective at managing issues with inflammation and glucose metabolism. Although more research is needed in the area, researchers are impressed with carnitine’s impact on PCOS markers and it is a popular supplement used for weight loss.
Like other antioxidants, NAC works to reduce inflammation and oxidative stress in the body. Because women with PCOS tend to have higher levels of both, this is a great supplement to consider for treatment. NAC has also been shown to lower testosterone levels, improve insulin resistance, and boost fertility. It works by increasing the production of glutathione, an important antioxidant that helps reduce inflammation and protect cells from damage.
NAC helps regulate your menstrual cycle by promoting hormone balance and liver detoxification. Even if you’re not trying to get pregnant, your menstrual cycle can say a lot about your health and an irregular cycle should be checked out.
This herbal extract known for treating inflammation, diabetes, high cholesterol, and infertility can be particularly helpful for women with PCOS. Aside from health benefits like decreasing cholesterol and improving insulin resistance, it can also increase ovulation rates and improve fertility treatment outcomes.
Commonly used in the treatment of metabolic diseases, some studies have even shown it to be as effective as metformin, a drug used to treat high blood sugar that is also prescribed to many women with PCOS for similar reasons. Berberine may help to balance your body’s endocrine responses and while most people can tolerate it, you should always consult with your healthcare provider before taking berberine. It can interact with other medications and is not intended for long term use.
Some people call magnesium the miracle mineral due to its involvement in over 300 chemical reactions in the body and role in the proper growth and maintenance of bones. It also affects heart health and muscle function along with a host of other processes in the body. Getting enough of this mineral is not only critical for your overall health, but especially important for women with PCOS as they are more likely to be magnesium deficient than the general population. Not only can it help with the insulin resistance common to PCOS sufferers, but it can also reduce inflammation and minimize PMS symptoms.
Vitamin B12 helps lower inflammation in the body by breaking down the amino acid homocysteine. Not only are homocysteine levels often elevated in PCOS patients, those higher levels are associated with reduced fertility, low birth weight, poor egg quality, miscarriage, and hypertension. Supplementing with Vitamin B12 targets these levels to correct hormonal imbalances and improve fertility. Some medications prescribed for PCOS, like metformin, can even drain your body of B vitamins making it an essential supplement with a wide range of benefits for anyone with PCOS.
Vitamin B9 (Folate)
Folate or Vitamin B9 also helps break down the amino acid homocysteine and lower inflammation. It is essential to egg quality and growth, implantation, fetal growth, and organ development. It is especially useful if you’re trying to get pregnant and helps with mood and fatigue in addition to reducing high homocysteine levels. Addressing underlying inflammation with B vitamins can reduce your risk for heart disease and even help reproductive issues.
How to treat PCOS
PCOS is very treatable and supplements can play an important role in your treatment plan by filling in nutritional or mineral differences. But supplements won’t work alone, for them to have the biggest impact, it’s important that you also focus on real dietary and lifestyle changes. Fundamental lifestyle issues such as managing diet, sleep and stress levels, getting enough exercise, and improving gut health should all be addressed as they will have the biggest impact.
Ultimately, to treat PCOS you need to address the root cause. Medications may mask symptoms but PCOS is a complex hormone disorder and treatment will be highly specific due to the role genetics, behavior, lifestyle, and environment all play. Because the condition can look so different from one woman to the next, no two treatment plans will be the same. Treatment must address a variety of factors with the end goal of regulating hormonal imbalances. When it comes to managing PCOS, any treatment plan should focus on managing your individual concerns like infertility, hirsutism, and acne among others.
Because ovulation issues and irregular periods are a hallmark of PCOS, it’s important to track your cycle and ovulation especially if you plan to get pregnant at some point. Hormonal imbalances mean ovulation may not always take place and levels may not follow predictable patterns making it a challenge to track.
There are low tech methods you can use to help predict ovulation, but they can be misleading or overly simplistic. Digital fertility analyzers like Mira track actual hormone concentrations and use smart learning to better understand your specific cycle. The hormone data alone can be extremely useful for those with PCOS regardless of your fertility goals.
PCOS supplement FAQ
Which supplements should I take for PCOS weight loss?
It can be especially difficult to lose weight caused by hormonal imbalances and insulin resistance. The best supplements for PCOS weight loss usually specifically target insulin sensitivity. Myo-inositol in particular is a form of inositol that helps improve insulin sensitivity and is commonly used by those with PCOS in supplement form.
Carnitine is another supplement that may help those with PCOS lose weight. Although the research is promising and it is commonly used for this purpose, more research is needed to fully understand how taking carnitine can help with PCOS weight loss.
What vitamins do you lack with PCOS?
Even if you are eating a healthy and balanced diet, PCOS can still rob you of certain nutrients. A number of nutrient deficiencies have been associated with the condition and studies show that common deficiencies include potassium, magnesium, B vitamins, and Vitamin D. The best fertility supplements for PCOS will usually include vitamins and minerals like these.
Can you cure PCOS permanently?
PCOS can’t be cured permanently but you can manage and regulate your symptoms. You may even be able to practically eliminate the symptoms of PCOS through lifestyle changes, medication, or a combination of both.
PCOS is a complicated endocrine condition that can affect your overall health and fertility. Supplements can play an important role in managing the condition, but there is no one size fits all approach to treatment.
Hormones are the core of our health and a hormonal imbalance like PCOS may need supplementation to help the body rebalance. But supplementation is just that, supplemental to your regular diet. Lifestyle changes will always have the biggest impact in preventing and managing symptoms. Remember to always consult with your healthcare provider if you plan to add supplements to your PCOS treatment approach.