What is PCOS?
PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) is a metabolic, endocrine, and reproductive disorder, affecting between 5–10% of all reproductive-age women around the world. Additionally, about 30% of women exhibit some characteristics of the syndrome.
It is also the most common cause of ovarian dysfunction, menstrual disorders, and infertility in women of child-bearing age.
Common symptoms found in women with PCOS include:
- Ovarian cysts
- Weight gain (~80% of women with PCOS are overweight or obese)[2,5]
- Irregular menstrual cycles
- Thinning of the hair on the head
- Growth of hair on the face and body
Other metabolic and physiological complications that can occur in women with PCOS, include insulin resistance and androgen excess.
More alarming is that PCOS has been associated with several long-term health conditions, including:
- Type 2 diabetes
- Cardiovascular disease
- Psychological distress
Furthermore, researchers don’t exactly know what causes PCOS. At present, researchers are considering a trio of factors -- hormones, genetics, and inflammation.
They believe that high levels of male hormones (androgens) prevent the ovaries from producing hormones and eggs normally.
There is also a genetic component to PCOS as research shows that PCOS runs in families.
Finally, women with PCOS often have higher levels of inflammation in their body.
As you probably know carrying around excess body fat contributes to inflammation, and research notes a link between high levels of inflammation and higher androgen levels.
If you think you have PCOS, you should consult with a medical professional as they can discuss what options there are for treatment of PCOS-related symptoms.
There is no one-size-fits all approach to treatment, but in general, treating PCOS is done through a combination of lifestyle modifications (diet and exercise) along with physician-guided nutrient intakes (supplements or medications).
In fact, research states that reducing body weight between 5-10% may help regulate menstruation and improve PCOS symptoms.
Let’s now look at some of the natural ingredients that have been identified in research to help alleviate symptoms of PCOS.
Best Supplements for PCOS
Myo-Inositol is a vitamin-like compound (though not technically a vitamin) that can be produced endogenously glucose. It is also readily found in such foods as grapefruit, peanut butter, beans, and Brussels sprouts.
Myo-inositol is the precursor of inositol triphosphate.
Inositol functions as an intracellular messenger and regulates a number of important hormones in the body, including thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), and insulin.
Inositol also affects how neurons (brain cells) communicate by modulating neurotransmitters, which can affect mood, motivation, and metabolism.
Supplementation with a combination of myo-inositol and folic acid has been noted to help improve PCOS symptoms, improve insulin function, and reduce blood triglycerides, and improve insulin function.
Additional studies indicate that supplementing with a combination of myo-inositol and folic acid may encourage ovulation in women with fertility issues due to PCOS.[7,8]
Chasteberry (Vitex Agnus Castus) is the fruit of the chaste tree, which is commonly found in the Mediterranean and Central Asia. Historically the fruit was used to promote chastity (hence its name) and for reproductive disorders.
Chasteberry contains a variety of compounds which are capable of binding to dopamine receptors in the brain and reduce cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP).
Clinical trials examining chasteberry has found it may help lower prolactin as well as improve menstrual regularity and infertility.
Other studies also find the plant may be a useful natural supplement for women with PCOS if they are also experiencing low progesterone levels.
Progesterone is an important hormone involved in the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, and embryonic development.
Vitamin D (aka the “sunshine vitamin”) is an essential fat-soluble vitamin that aids calcium absorption in the gut and hormone production.
It’s also needed for optimal bone growth and development by osteoblasts and osteoclasts.
Unfortunately, many individuals are deficient in vitamin D due to not spending enough time outdoors in direct sunlight. You see, our bodies can naturally produce vitamin D when exposed to sunshine (hence vitamin D’s nickname as the sunshine vitamin).
Fortunately, supplementation with Vitamin D (in the form of cholecalciferol) is effective in raising vitamin D levels in the body.
Moreover, research notes that supplementation with vitamin D in those with PCOS may help improve markers of inflammation.
Lastly, it’s also worth mentioning that (when paired with primrose oil), vitamin D supplementation has been found to help regulate menstruation and promote ovulation.
Dong Quai (Angelica Sinensis) is one of the lesser known natural remedies used for women’s sexual health, but intriguing nonetheless.
Also known as “female ginseng,” Dong Quai has a long history of use in traditional Chinese medicine for helping boost the immune system and promote normal endocrine function in women.
This powerful botanical is known to possess analgesic (pain-relieving), tonic, and anti-inflammatory properties.
Based on these properties, it is believed that dong quai may act as a uterine tonic to reduce the pain associated with menstrual cramping.
3,3’-diindolylmethane (DIM) is the active metabolite of Indole-3-Carbinol (I3C), a compound found in cruciferous vegetables, such as kale, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and broccoli.
DIM has been found to improve estrogen metabolism by altering liver function such that “bad” estrogens are metabolized into inactive forms, which helps reduce excess estrogen in the body.
This is especially noteworthy for women with PCOS as most PCOS-affected women have a relative estrogen dominance.
In addition to its effects on estrogen metabolism, DIM is also being researched for its anti-inflammatory effects as well as its ability to stimulate the immune system.
Ashwagandha (“Indian ginseng”) is a staple remedy of Ayurveda used to enhance vigor and vitality as well as support the function of the CNS and reproductive system.
It’s also been used on occasion to enhance immune function since the plant possesses antioxidant and immunomodulatory properties.
Ashwagandha’s most well-known benefit is its ability to reduce cortisol and decrease feelings of stress and anxiety due to its apoptogenic properties.
Adaptogens are non-toxic plants that improve the body’s ability to perceive, interact, and recover from stress.
Supplementing with ashwagandha can help reduce stress and balance cortisol levels, which could help with symptoms of PCOS since chronic stress is known to cause systemic inflammation in the body.
Moreover, ashwagandha supplementation has also been shown to assist in body weight management in chronically stressed adults. Excess body weight is another contributing factor to widespread inflammation in the body and a cofactor of PCOS in women.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3s are a type of essential fatty acid found in fatty fish like salmon, mackerel and sardines. It’s also found in certain plant foods like walnuts, chia seeds, and flax seeds.
Omega-3 fatty acids have been extensively researched and noted for their anti-inflammatory effects, and there’s also data to suggest they may help improve insulin sensitivity and lower total cholesterol.
Together, these properties make omega-3 fatty acids a prime supplement for individuals with PCOS.
A recent meta-analysis also concluded:
“Based on current evidence, omega-3 fatty acid may be recommended for the treatment of PCOS with insulin resistance as well as high TC (especially LDL-C) and TG”
1UP Omega-3 supplies 2,000mg of high-quality omega-3 fatty acids per serving.
PCOS is an endocrine and reproductive disorder affecting a significant portion of women around the globe.
A number of natural supplements have been found to help with symptoms of PCOS; however, it is best to consult with a physician regarding the symptoms you may be experiencing to verify whether you have PCOS or not.
As always, the most effective combination comes from diet and exercise and applying the right supplements where needed.
1UP Hormone Support Plus is a 5-in-1 women’s health supplement formulated to support mood, metabolism, skin health, and menstrual regulation.
It also contains many of the natural ingredients discussed in this article to help with symptoms of PCOS.
- Regidor PA, Schindler AE. Myoinositol as a Safe and Alternative Approach in the Treatment of Infertile PCOS Women: A German Observational Study. Int J Endocrinol. 2016;2016:9537632. doi:10.1155/2016/9537632
- Polycystic ovary syndrome. https://www.acog.org/clinical/journals-and-publications/clinical-updates/2016/07/polycystic-ovary-syndrome
- Diamanti-Kandarakis, E., Kandarakis, H. & Legro, R.S. The role of genes and environment in the etiology of PCOS. Endocr 30, 19–26 (2006). https://doi.org/10.1385/ENDO:30:1:19
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- Teede H, Deeks A, Moran L. Polycystic ovary syndrome: a complex condition with psychological, reproductive and metabolic manifestations that impacts on health across the lifespan. BMC Med. 2010;8:41. Published 2010 Jun 30. doi:10.1186/1741-7015-8-41
- Arentz S, Abbott JA, Smith CA, Bensoussan A. 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. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2014;14:511. Published 2014 Dec 18. doi:10.1186/1472-6882-14-511
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- Akbari, M., Ostadmohammadi, V., Lankarani, K. B., Tabrizi, R., Kolahdooz, F., Heydari, S. T., Asemi, Z. (2018). The Effects of Vitamin D Supplementation on Biomarkers of Inflammation and Oxidative Stress Among Women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Hormone and Metabolic Research = Hormon- Und Stoffwechselforschung = Hormones et Metabolisme,50(4), 271–279. https://doi.org/10.1055/s-0044-101355
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