PCOS, or polycystic ovary syndrome, is a hormone imbalance that affects 1 out of 10 women of childbearing age. Women who suffer from PCOS have metabolic and hormone problems that can negatively affect their mood & appearance. It causes ovarian cysts and menstrual irregularity which make it more difficult to get pregnant, and even worse, can cause up to a 3-fold increase in the risk of uterine cancer. Many women with PCOS are overweight or obese. According to Dr. Bomi Joseph of the Peak Health Center in California, losing excess body fat is one of the best things overweight women can do for their health and it may help manage problems with blood sugar and help regulate ovulation. The best way to get started on losing weight is to cut sugar completely out of your diet and avoid starchy foods, especially processed grains like flour.
Metformin is a pharmaceutical drug, originally designed for Type 2 Diabetes, that is commonly prescribed for women with PCOS. Many women with PCOS are insulin resistant and metformin helps improve your cell’s response to insulin. But many patients and even doctors are not aware there are herbal and natural supplements that can be used to support better health and fertility in women with PCOS. Here are 4 natural supplements that you should ask your doctor about:
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Inositol is a vitamin-like compound that is abundantly found in our brain tissue. In supplement form, it is a white, powdery, mildly-sweet sugar that is known for helping people with OCD and anxiety. In a 2017 study, Italian gynecologists found that approximately 50% of women with PCOS improved their symptoms after taking inositol for 6 months. The study concludes that inositol can help women lower body mass index and insulin sensitivity while improving the regularity of their menstrual cycle. It has also been shown to improve egg quality and pregnancy rates in women with failed in-vitro fertilization.
“This is one of the most classic herbs in the history of Ayurvedic (Indian) herbal medicine,” says Dr. Bomi Joseph. Also known as winter cherry, it is an adaptogen or herb that helps the body respond to stress. A wide number of published studies suggest that it can support healthy hormone levels as well as help lower anxiety and stress. Studies on female mice show that it significantly increases ovarian weight and ovarian follicles. A study of 52 humans concluded that ashwagandha extract reduced body weight, food cravings and stress eating.
Curcumin is a bright yellow antioxidant, anti-inflammatory compound produced by the turmeric plant. Since most women with PCOS suffer from chronic inflammation, it can be very soothing and helpful to them. It may also increase estrogen levels. A 2018 study found that rats fed turmeric had both an increased quantity and increased diameter of ovarian follicles. Piperine, or black pepper extract, can increase the absorption of turmeric into the bloodstream and it can also affect insulin levels by itself, so you may want to look for a turmeric supplement that contains piperine.
When you develop PCOS, you become at a much higher risk of calcium deficiency. In a double-blind study of 66 female students with PMS, those who took calcium reported less physical discomfort and emotional swings. Excellent sources of calcium include poppy & chia seeds, cheese, yogurt, canned sardines, almonds, and dark leafy greens like collards, spinach, and kale. If you don’t regularly consume leafy greens or dairy, it may be worth taking a modestly-dosed calcium supplement of around 500mg per day.
Many people who live in non-tropical climates don’t get enough vitamin D, and women with PCOS tend to test much lower in vitamin D levels than average. Assorted studies have found that as many as 67 – 85% of women with PCOS have low serum levels of Vitamin D, which can make the symptoms of PCOS like insulin resistance and menstrual irregularity even worse. The best way to get vitamin D is from the sunshine: by exposing your skin to the mid-day sun for at least 30-minute per day and spending at least a few hours per day outdoors. If it is winter or you are otherwise unable to get sun, you might want to ask your doctor if it’s OK to take 5000 I.U. of Vitamin D for up to 3 months. Then get your levels checked and adjust your sun and supplements accordingly!
PCOS is a condition that can usually be improved by living a better lifestyle. By eating healthy, unprocessed food and losing weight, controlling inflammation, taking supplements for PCOS, and getting regular exercise and moderate sun exposure… most women with PCOS can improve their health, self-image and happiness. Living this kind of lifestyle will also lower your risk for heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and high blood pressure.
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