10 Best Supplements for PCOS
Learn about the 10 best supplements for improving polycystic ovary syndrome and relieving symptoms of PCOS.
Note: this post is for informational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. Please consult your healthcare provider for recommendations related to your individual situation.
What is PCOS?
PCOS, or polycystic ovary syndrome, is a hormonal imbalance typically characterized by cysts on the ovaries, incomplete or unsuccessful ovulation, and excess male hormones in women. While there is no official “cure” for PCOS, it can be managed and even reversed with a PCOS diet and lifestyle as well as careful supplementation.
The best PCOS supplements help manage insulin resistance, improve detoxification efforts, and encourage normal ovulation and balanced hormone levels. Often, women with PCOS also have insulin resistance as a result of abnormal insulin function.
Insulin resistance is a condition in which cells don’t respond to insulin, so they’re unable to use the glucose in your blood–thus, prompting the pancreas to secrete more insulin. Your body’s inability to process glucose causes blood sugar instability, a key factor in hormonal imbalance.
Along with managing insulin resistance through diet and supplementation, women with PCOS can manage their condition with adequate sleep, a healthy gut, and optimal detoxification.
10 Best Supplements
I personally take most of these and have done the research showing effectiveness for managing polycystic ovaries. But, as always, please check with your healthcare provider before making any changes to your diet or supplement routine.
1. Inositols (myo-inositol and d-chiro-inositols)
Inositol is a type of sugar that has effects on insulin response in the body, among other processes. It is particularly helpful for those with insulin resistance or prediabetes, as it helps manage insulin response and decrease fasting blood glucose.
In women with PCOS, supplementation with d-chiro-inositol was found to regulate insulin levels, drastically reduce androgen levels in the blood, and even reduce elevated blood pressure and triglycerides.
Melatonin isn’t just helpful for sleep! This hormone has been found to act as a crucial component of healthy follicle development. Insufficient levels of melatonin lead to immature or incorrectly formed follicles, which leads to unsuccessful ovulation (and therefore, unsuccessful hormone production throughout a woman’s cycle.) Melatonin acts as an antioxidant to protect follicles and ovaries from oxidative stress, which is often a factor in women with PCOS.
A bonus of melatonin supplementation is that it can help with sleep. Adequate sleep is important for women with PCOS or any kind of hormonal imbalance, as it allows the body to rest, restore, and detoxify. Supplemental melatonin should not be taken forever, though, as it can affect the body’s ability to produce its own melatonin. See my other healthy sleep tips.
3. Fish Oil
Fish oil, when sourced sustainably from wild-caught coldwater fish, is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids. A balanced ratio of omega-3 fatty acids to omega-6 fatty acids is crucial, as having adequate omega-3s reduces inflammation in the body and contributes to healthy hormone function.
4. Chromium Picolinate
Chromium is an essential mineral that can only be obtained through diet or supplementation. One of its roles in the body is to help insulin perform its duties, which is why this supplement can be especially helpful for women with insulin-resistant PCOS.
Chromium picolinate, which is simply the best-absorbed form of supplemental chromium, has been found to reduce insulin resistance and stimulate ovulation in women with PCOS.
5. Cinnamon for Insulin
Cinnamon not only tastes great, but it’s also a master at balancing blood sugar levels. While cinnamon consumption without dietary and lifestyle intervention won’t be effective in treating insulin resistance or reducing blood glucose levels, it has been shown to affect carbohydrate metabolism and lower blood glucose levels.
DIM, or diindolylmethane, is a supplement with concentrated forms of the phytochemicals present in cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, kale, and cauliflower. Cruciferous veggies are amazing for overall health, but they’re especially helpful for supporting detoxification of excess sex hormones.
DIM is usually used to reduce symptoms of estrogen dominance. Some women with PCOS also experience estrogen dominance or excess levels of estrogen-independent of, or in relation to other hormones. DIM can help women with PCOS process and eliminate excess estrogen.
Vitex, also known as Chasteberry, is an herbal supplement that helps to raise progesterone levels and regulate menstrual cycles. This makes it a great option for women with PCOS. Research has found Vitex supplementation to be helpful in regulating irregular menstrual cycles and improving fertility in women with PCOS.
Keep in mind, though, that Vitex raises progesterone by raising LH (luteinizing hormone) levels. If LH levels are already high, as they are in some women with PCOS, you should avoid Vitex. Your doctor can help make sure that your LH levels don’t get too high with a blood test.
NAC, or N-acetyl-cysteine, is the supplement version of cysteine, which is a precursor amino acid to the antioxidant glutathione. NAC has been shown to improve fertility and ovulation rates in women with PCOS. NAC achieves this by reducing circulating insulin, thus reducing testosterone levels, and by ameliorating the damage done to the ovaries by free radicals.
9. Calcium D-Glucarate
Calcium D-Glucarate is a form of glucaric acid. Calcium D-Glucarate can support your liver’s detoxification, regulate estrogen metabolism, and lower lipid levels. All three of these applications are helpful for women with PCOS. Excess levels of estrogen and testosterone can be tough for the liver to process, and insulin resistance often leads to dyslipidemia.
Probiotics can be found in certain foods, but women with PCOS should also consider a quality probiotic supplement. We know that the health of the gut microbiome affects countless other processes in the body, so ensuring that the gut has an optimal balance of good bacteria to bad bacteria is important for overall health. One way to populate the gut with good bacteria is through probiotic supplementation or eating foods with natural probiotics.
Research found that women with PCOS often have some type of gut dysbiosis or simply a less diverse gut microbiome, which affects lipid levels, androgen levels, and insulin levels. Another factor of gut health in PCOS treatment is the inflammation that an unhealthy gut can cause.
Since PCOS can be partially attributed to chronic low-level inflammation, a healthy gut is crucial in managing PCOS. Supplementing with probiotics can improve and diversify gut flora, therefore improving symptoms of PCOS.
While all of these supplements can help manage PCOS, they cannot “cure” or reverse PCOS on their own. Managing and even reversing PCOS is possible through a healthy, anti-inflammatory diet, a low-stress lifestyle, and careful supplementation. Be sure to focus efforts on a healthy, nourishing clean eating diet and lifestyle and add in supplements when appropriate.
You might want to check out my other article about managing PCOS naturally:
- The Best PCOS Diet
- Natural Resources for PCOS
- Interview with PCOS Diva Amy Medling
- Best Supplements for PCOS