What are the top 10 PCOS supplements that we recommend at FUTURE WOMAN?
Firstly, what is PCOS?
Before we talk about our top 10 PCOS supplements, let’s first understand what PCOS is.
PCOS stands for polycystic ovarian syndrome, and it is an endocrine-metabolic disorder.
You may be surprised to know that PCOS is not in fact just one disease, but a disorder with different underlying factors. Typically, it is defined as androgen excess when all other causes of androgen excess have been ruled out.
Symptoms of PCOS typically include weight gain, irregular or missing periods, fertility issues, acne, excess body and facial hair growth and head hair loss.
Do you definitely have PCOS?
Before considering any of our top 10 PCOS supplements, it’s important to know whether or not you have PCOS. This is because there are a lot of similarities between the symptoms of PCOS and other syndromes or disorders such as hypothalamic amenorrhea (HA). PCOS and HA have different root causes and therefore require different treatment and supplements.
At FUTURE WOMAN we believe that a proper PCOS diagnosis, should include ALL of the following:
- Androgen excess either in a blood test or via symptoms of androgen excess such as hirsutism, acne and weight gain, AND
- Irregular periods or polycystic ovaries on an ultrasound, AND
- Exclusion of any other conditions that would cause high androgens
For this reason, we believe the term “anovulatory androgen excess” (AAE) is a more appropriate and accurate name for PCOS.
It is important to note that polycystic ovaries on a scan are not sufficient by themselves to indicate PCOS, as they are very common in younger women. If you have polycystic ovaries on a scan and irregular (or missing) periods but without signs or hormone test results indicating androgen excess, you could have hypothalamic amenorrhea. This is why hormone testing is so important – we always recommend our Advanced Hormone Test for clients with PCOS, or suspected PCOS.
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What are the top 10 PCOS supplements?
If you’ve tested your hormones with FUTURE WOMAN, and we’ve confirmed you have raised androgens, then these are the top 10 PCOS supplements we are likely to recommend.
It’s important to take note of your PCOS type, as this will provide us with further information as to the underlying drivers of your PCOS. Your FUTURE WOMAN practitioner will be able to support you in identifying your PCOS type as part of your personalised plan (free with all our hormone tests) or in a 1-1 consultation.
Let’s talk about our top 10 supplements for PCOS.
Inositol is a star supplement for PCOS, but only if it is right for you!
Myo-inositol in particular has been shown to be hugely beneficial for insulin resistant PCOS. Research has shown that 2-6 grams daily can help to improve FSH signalling and promote regular ovulation, both of which are extremely important in PCOS. It can also help reduce cravings, support healthy egg quality for ovulation and fertility and reduce inflammation.
But be careful! For many people inositol may not be right and can in fact worsen hormonal symptoms. This is due to the fact that PCOS is often misdiagnosed or occurs in conjunction with hypothalamic amenorrhea (HA).
HA shares many of the same symptoms as PCOS, including missing periods, polycystic ovaries and even hirsutism and therefore can often be misdiagnosed as PCOS.
Inositol can lower your testosterone (which can be a problem in hypothalamic amenorrhea when hormone levels are already low) and impact regular periods, ovulation and even impact egg quality for fertility. So it’s really important to test or speak to a practitioner to determine if this is appropriate for you.
NAC is the precursor to the body’s master antioxidant glutathione. Research has shown that NAC is hugely beneficial for those with PCOS. Those taking NAC had increased rates of regular menstruation, pregnancy and ovulation in comparison to the placebo.
NAC can also help to improve insulin sensitivity, so this PCOS supplement works well for those with insulin-resistant PCOS. This supplement also reduces inflammation and supports our body’s natural detoxification processes, often making it a great supplement for those with all other types of PCOS as well. We can test your need for glutathione in our Advanced and Advanced+ hormone tests and therefore can determine if NAC is the right supplement for you.
3. White Peony & Liquorice
White peony and liquorice are herbal medicines that have been shown to help with PCOS. They work by bringing balance to the ratio between LH and FSH from the pituitary gland. They can help to reduce inflammation, regulate ovulation, reduce testosterone levels and help with symptoms such as head hair loss.
In combination with white peony, liquorice has also been shown to be helpful for adrenal PCOS, because it can reduce levels of DHEA-S and support healthy cortisol and cortisone levels.
It is very important to test with our Advanced or Advanced+ hormone tests before using these medicinal herbs. For example, liquorice helps to convert cortisone into active cortisol. This may be a problem if you already have high cortisol or poor cortisol metabolism and may worsen your symptoms. Quality is also extremely important for efficacy, therefore it is better if a practitioner prescribes these for you.
Zinc can help specifically with PCOS. This is because it helps to support blood sugar balance, reduces acne, supports skin health, supports healthy ovarian follicles and supports mood as well.
Importantly, zinc inhibits the 5-alpha reductase pathway which in turn reduces 5a-DHT (a potent androgen). 5a-DHT is up to three times more potent than testosterone. Therefore zinc both lowers androgens and supports optimal androgen metabolism therefore not only reducing symptoms of PCOS but also supporting the root drivers of PCOS too.
Once you test your hormones with any of our tests, we can determine the right dosage of high quality zinc that you need to take in order to help support overall androgen levels and also to correctly support your androgen metabolism too.
Magnesium is one of our favourite minerals and can be so beneficial for many with PCOS. This wonder mineral can help to support all types of PCOS.
Magnesium is responsible for over 300 enzymatic processes in the body and this supplement can support adrenal gland function, increases insulin sensitivity, the nervous system, supports hormone detoxification and balance, supports mood, sleep and more.
As there are different types and dosages of magnesium to help with different aspects of your hormone health and general health, we need to first test your hormones and gather more information from you about your stress, digestion and sleep to determine which type and dosage of magnesium is best for you. For example, we like magnesium glycinate for someone who is also struggling with sleep as the glycinate means glycine is attached to the magnesium and acts like GABA in the brain which is calming and promotes deep restful sleep.
6. Saw Palmetto
This medicinal herb helps to reduce overall androgen levels, while also supporting a shift of androgens from the 5a pathway towards the 5b pathway, which in turn can reduce nearly all symptoms of PCOS.
High androgens can cause a problem with the brain communicating to the ovaries and cause PCOS symptoms. Saw palmetto works well alongside zinc. Some promising research has shown this supplement may be effective in treating head hair loss.
It is very important to test your hormones before using saw palmetto as it has been shown to decrease the effects of oestrogen and oestrogen receptors in the body, which can be a problem if you already have lower oestrogen levels. Some women with PCOS have low levels of oestrogen and most women with hypothalamic amenorrhea have very low oestrogen.
Curcumin is a wonderful supplement for many women with PCOS. It is the active ingredient in turmeric and helps to lower inflammation (including neuroinflammation). In the right therapeutic dosage, this is a helpful supplement for those with all types of PCOS, especially inflammatory PCOS. It can help to reduce symptoms such as excess body hair growth and head hair loss.
Another benefit to curcumin is that it can also help to block the 5a androgen preference pathway to reduce symptoms of androgen dominance such as acne.
As with all supplements there are some contraindications. For example, those with with PCOS are up to 3 times more likely to suffer from gallbladder issues and curcumin has been contraindicated in some gallbladder issues, as well as on certain medications like blood thinners. Therefore it is vital to test first and our practitioners always ensure your supplements do not contraindicate any medications or medical history.
Berberine is a chemical/ compound found in many plants such as golden seal. It helps to balance blood sugar, balance gut bacteria, support weight loss, lower androgens, reduce acne, reduce facial and body hair growth and support regular periods. In two recent studies, berberine was shown to outperform metformin, a commonly prescribed drug for PCOS.
There are many benefits of berberine for PCOS and it can also help to reduce anxiety, which can be common in PCOS as a result of the lack of ovulation and associated low levels of progesterone.
Berberine again like all supplements is not for everyone. This supplement has some medication interactions, and also should not be used long-term. Therefore it is important to use berberine under the supervision of your FUTURE WOMAN practitioner if it is right for you.
Ashwagandha is an adaptogenic herb supports the balance of the HPO and HPA axis. These are the communication pathways from the brain to the ovaries and adrenal glands. This herb can help many PCOS symptoms such as reducing fatigue, improving sleep, reducing anxiety and it can boost energy. Ashwagandha can also help to reduce cortisol, balance blood sugar and regulate a healthy libido.
Although wonderful for supporting many symptoms of PCOS, especially in adrenal PCOS, Ashwagandha can also boost DHEA production from the adrenal glands and in turn increase testosterone. This is especially true if it is not prescribed appropriately and in the appropriate dosage. Therefore it is important to first test your hormones and consult with a practitioner before taking Ashwagandha.
Vitamin B12 is a very important vitamin for health in general, including energy, memory, sleep, hormone production, detoxification and more. If you follow a plant-based, vegan diet you are more likely to be deficient in B12.
B12 is especially important in PCOS as it helps to reduce insulin resistance and boost insulin sensitivity. In fact research has found that low B12 is common in those with insulin resistance and abdominal obesity in those with PCOS.
There are many forms of B12 and depending on your health picture we may recommend different types. The most common type of B12 we prescribe is methylfolate as this is the active form. But before taking B12 it is important to understand if you need it and in what dosage.
Key Takeaways for our top 10 PCOS supplements
- If you suspect you have PCOS, test your hormones with the Advanced Hormone Test first to confirm you really do have raised androgen levels.This test comes with a personalised supplement protocol prepared by a FUTURE WOMAN nutritionist.
- Always work with an experienced practitioner to identify supplements that are right for you and your PCOS type.
- Prioritise high quality supplements, free from fillers and excipients.