PCOS is a complex endocrine disorder that affects between 5-10% of women of reproductive age. The underlying cause of PCOS is not yet fully understood, but it is believed to be related to insulin resistance, inflammation, and genetic factors. Some of the common symptoms of PCOS include irregular periods, excessive hair growth, acne, weight gain, and difficulty getting pregnant. In this article, we will discuss the role of PCOS supplements in managing this condition and improving overall health.
What are the most common PCOS symptoms?
PCOS can cause a range of symptoms that vary from person to person. Some of the most common symptoms of PCOS include:
Irregular periods or no periods at all
Excessive hair growth on the face, chest, back, or buttocks
Acne or oily skin
Weight gain or difficulty losing weight
Dark patches of skin on the neck, arms, or thighs
Thinning hair or hair loss on the scalp
Difficulty getting pregnant
Mood swings, depression, or anxiety
Why it’s important to treat PCOS?
It’s important to treat PCOS because it can lead to a variety of long-term health problems if left untreated. Women with PCOS have an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure), high cholesterol, and heart disease. They are also more likely to experience infertility, miscarriage, and complications during pregnancy.
The best lifestyle interventions for treating PCOS
While there is no cure for PCOS, there are several lifestyle interventions that can help manage the symptoms and improve overall health. These include:
Eating an anti-inflammatory, blood sugar balancing diet can help manage PCOS symptoms and improve insulin resistance. Women with PCOS should aim for a diet that is high in fiber, protein, and healthy fats and very low in processed foods, sugar, and refined carbohydrates.
A low-glycemic or low-carb diet can be key in preventing significant spikes in blood sugar levels. This is important because women with PCOS are at a higher risk of developing insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. It's also crucial to find your carb threshold, which is the amount of carbohydrates your body can tolerate without causing a spike in blood sugar levels. When choosing carbs, opt for fiber-rich complex carbs instead of simple carbs that are easily digested and can cause blood sugar spikes. In addition to carbs, it's essential to focus on adding an adequate amount of fiber, lean protein, and healthy fats to your diet. Some examples of fiber-rich foods are vegetables, low-glycemic fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes, and whole grains if they don’t raise your blood sugar too much. Examples of lean proteins include eggs, poultry, wild caught fish, grass-fed meat and legumes. Healthy fats can be found in foods such as avocado, nuts, seeds, and fatty fish.
Women with PCOS benefit greatly from a consistent exercise routine as it can help manage their symptoms by improving insulin sensitivity and promoting weight loss. A balanced exercise routine for PCOS should include a combination of both aerobic exercise and strength training.
Aerobic exercise (both endurance such as steady-pace cardio and Vo2 max such as sprints or HIIT) can help improve insulin sensitivity by increasing glucose uptake into muscle cells and improving insulin signaling. It can also help reduce body fat, particularly abdominal fat, which can contribute to insulin resistance and other metabolic problems.
Strength training, such as lifting weights helps improve insulin sensitivity by increasing muscle mass and reducing body fat. It can also help improve bone density and reduce the risk of osteoporosis, which is more common in women with PCOS.
What are some of the best supplements that can help with PCOS?
While lifestyle interventions are the foundation of PCOS management, some supplements can also be helpful in managing symptoms and improving overall health. Here are some of the best PCOS supplements:
Inositol is a type of sugar that has been shown to improve insulin resistance and promote ovulation in women with PCOS. Inositol is found naturally in fruits, beans, grains, and nuts, but it is also available in supplement form. Studies have shown that supplementing with inositol can lead to improvements in insulin resistance, menstrual regularity, and ovulation frequency. Inositol may also help to reduce symptoms such as hirsutism, acne, and hair loss. It's important to note that inositol supplements come in two forms: myo-inositol and d-chiro-inositol. While both forms have been shown to be effective in treating PCOS, myo-inositol is generally the preferred form due to its superior clinical evidence and safety profile.
Vitamin D is an essential nutrient that plays a crucial role in many bodily functions, including bone health, immune function, and hormone regulation. Research has shown that vitamin D deficiency is common in women with PCOS and that supplementing with vitamin D can improve insulin resistance, menstrual regularity, and fertility. In addition, vitamin D may help to reduce inflammation and improve mood, both of which can be affected by PCOS. It's important to have your vitamin D levels checked before supplementing, as excessive vitamin D intake can have negative health consequences.
B vitamins, especially B12, are important for energy metabolism, nervous system function, and DNA synthesis. Women with PCOS may be at increased risk of vitamin B12 deficiency due to insulin resistance and gut imbalances. Supplementing with a B complex vitamin can help to ensure adequate intake of all B vitamins, including B12. In addition, some studies have shown that supplementing with B12 can improve insulin resistance and reduce inflammation in women with PCOS.
Fish oils or omega-3 supplements are rich in EPA and DHA, two types of essential fatty acids that are important for cardiovascular health, brain function, and hormone regulation. Women with PCOS may benefit from supplementing with fish oils due to their anti-inflammatory properties, which may help to reduce symptoms such as acne, hirsutism, and hair loss. Omega-3 supplements may also improve insulin resistance and lipid profiles in women with PCOS.
Berberine is a compound found in several plants, including goldenseal and barberry. It has been shown to have many health benefits, including improving insulin sensitivity and reducing inflammation. Berberine may also help to lower cholesterol levels and improve lipid profiles in women with PCOS. Studies have shown that supplementing with berberine can lead to improvements in insulin resistance, menstrual regularity, and ovulation frequency.
N-Acetylcysteine, commonly known as NAC, has been found to have numerous benefits for women with PCOS. Studies have shown that it can be just as effective as, if not better than, metformin, a commonly prescribed medication, for improving insulin resistance and cholesterol levels in PCOS patients. Furthermore, NAC is a powerful antioxidant that can help lower androgen levels and improve cervical mucus quality, which can be beneficial for fertility. Adding NAC to your treatment plan may provide additional benefits for managing your PCOS symptoms and improving your overall health. It's important to consult with your healthcare provider before adding any supplements to your routine to ensure it's safe and effective for you.
Magnesium is an essential mineral that plays a role in over 300 biochemical reactions in the body, including energy metabolism, muscle function, and hormone regulation. Women with PCOS may be at increased risk of magnesium deficiency due to insulin resistance and poor diet. Supplementing with magnesium may help to improve insulin sensitivity, reduce inflammation, and improve mood in women with PCOS.
Zinc is a trace mineral that is important for immune function, DNA synthesis, and wound healing. Zinc deficiency is common in women with PCOS, and supplementing with zinc may help to improve insulin sensitivity, reduce inflammation, and improve ovarian function. Studies have shown that supplementing with zinc can lead to improvements in menstrual regularity and ovulation frequency in women with PCOS.
Note: while these supplements can be beneficial for women with PCOS, it's important to speak with a medical provider before starting any new supplement regimen. Your healthcare provider can help you determine which supplements are right for you and ensure that they do not interfere with any other medications or treatments you may be receiving. Additionally, supplements should not be used as a replacement for a healthy diet and lifestyle, which are the foundation of PCOS management.
Other Helpful Tools For Managing PCOS Symptoms
Blood sugar monitoring
Monitoring blood sugar levels is crucial for women with PCOS to understand how their diet and lifestyle choices impact their insulin resistance. By using a blood glucose meter, they can measure their blood sugar levels at home and make necessary changes to their diet and exercise routine accordingly. However, using a continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) device can offer more detailed insights into how different foods and activities affect blood sugar levels throughout the day. CGMs provide real-time glucose readings and can help identify patterns and trends in glucose levels, allowing for more precise adjustments to diet and exercise.
Tracking symptoms like menstrual cycles, weight fluctuations, acne, and mood changes can be an essential tool for women with PCOS to understand their bodies better and identify potential triggers for their symptoms. By keeping a record of their symptoms and changes in their body, women with PCOS can have a better understanding of how their body responds to various interventions, including diet, exercise, and medication. This can help them make more informed decisions about their treatment plan and lifestyle choices, leading to a greater sense of empowerment and control over their health.
Tracking your blood sugar, symptoms and supplement intake with kahla
The kahla app can be a helpful tool for women with PCOS who want to manage their symptoms and improve their overall health. With features like blood sugar tracking, symptom tracking, and personalized recommendations, the app provides a comprehensive approach to managing PCOS. By tracking symptoms and correlating them with lifestyle factors, you can identify patterns and make informed decisions about your treatment plan. The kahla app also allows you to easily add your supplements to your daily journal, along with other lifestyle factors. This can help you see the effects of your supplement regimen over time and make adjustments as needed.
PCOS is a hormonal disorder that affects many women and can lead to a range of symptoms, including irregular periods, acne, weight gain, and infertility.
Lifestyle interventions such as nutrition, exercise, blood sugar monitoring, and symptom tracking can be effective in managing PCOS symptoms.
Inositol, Vitamin D, B Complex (especially B-12), Fish Oils/Omega 3, Berberine, Magnesium, and Zinc are some of the best supplements for managing PCOS symptoms and improving overall health.
These supplements can help regulate hormones, reduce inflammation, and improve insulin resistance and glucose control.
It is important to speak with a healthcare provider before starting any new supplement regimen.
By working closely with a healthcare provider and listening to your body, you can discover the best strategies for managing your PCOS symptoms and living your life to the fullest.