How BPA Impacts PCOS and Infertility (And What To Do About It)

Women with PCOS have higher levels of BPA. Learn how to decrease exposure to this estrogenic chemical.

What is BPA?

Bisphenol A (BPA) is an environmental endocrine disruptor with estrogenic activity commonly found in plastics, water bottles, canned goods, receipts, and the packaging of our personal care products.

Research shows that BPA exposure alters the functioning of our reproductive, metabolic, and neuroendocrine systems. Specifically, even low levels of exposure have been linked to increased triglycerides, cholesterol, insulin resistance, and infertility. Sperm concentrations are continually decreasing, and evidence shows BPA may be contributing.

How Does BPA Affect PCOS?

PCOS is the leading cause of female anovulatory infertility. It also puts us at greater risk of type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and heart disease.

A systematic review and meta-analysis reviewed 9 studies with a total of 493 women with PCOS and 440 women without PCOS as the control group. The researchers found that women with PCOS had increased amounts of BPA in their bodies. Eight of these studies assessed BPA in blood while one study assessed follicular fluid. These higher BPA levels were also associated with insulin resistance and hyperandrogenism (increased androgenic hormones like testosterone, body/facial hair, acne, etc).

So, what can we do about this? We can start with reducing exposure in our homes.

Steps to Reducing BPA Exposure

  1. Switch to glass containers instead of plastic. Even if a plastic container says “BPA-free” there are other chemicals used instead, so glass is altogether safer.
  2. Say no to receipts. If you work with receipts often, wear gloves.
  3. Limit canned goods. Most canned goods can be found in other forms of packaging.
  4. Switch to safer personal care products that are BPA-free.
How to Reduce BPA Exposure for Infertility and PCOS

What Do Personal Care Products Have to do with BPA?

BPA-polymers are known to be used in some cosmetic products, and more readily, in cosmetic containers. BPA in plastic containers can leach into our cosmetics, especially over time and when heated, thus further exposing ourselves through our skin. Much of what we put on our skin is absorbed and enters our bloodstream.

The cosmetic industry in both Canada and the U.S. is quite unregulated. Even though ~600 chemicals are banned from cosmetics here in Canada, Health Canada does not thoroughly check that each product on the market is compliant to the Cosmetic Ingredient Hotlist, unless a request is made. According to the Government of Canada’s website, “Health Canada will prioritize compliance and enforcement in response to the level of risk posed by a product and any complaints/incidents received.” PS. in the U.S., only ~30 of these chemicals are banned!

What do I use to avoid BPA?

I feel confident using BeautyCounter cosmetics because they are a certified B corporation and exclude over 1,800 harmful and questionable chemicals from all their cosmetics, skincare, and all packaging, too! BPA is on this ‘Never List’. They also ensure all products are tested for heavy metals and then make this data available for the public. Transparency is critical in an unregulated industry, such as cosmetics.

For the rest of October only, all new BeautyCounter customers can get 20% off almost all products using the code CLEANFORALL20.

Email me if you would like guidance finding the right product for you.

In health,

Dr. Dylan Cutler, Ph.D.

Disclaimer: As the sole author of Phruitful Dish, I have based my posts on my own experiences and knowledge obtained through lived experience and during my doctoral degree (PhD). However, I am not a medical doctor. The information in this blog is not intended as medical advice. Nutritional and supplemental choices should be made in consultation with your health care provider. This blog is intended to inspire and encourage readers to educate themselves on how nutrition and lifestyle are important and often overlooked aspects of health. Therefore, please use the information at your own risk. Occasional links may be provided leading to third party websites. The existence of these links does not infer a responsibility or an endorsement of the linked site, its operator, or its contents.

Top 3 Supplements for PCOS

Find out which three supplements Dr. Cutler recommends the most frequently for her clients with PCOS, and why.

FAQ: What supplements Should I take for PCOS?

This is one of my most frequently asked questions from women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) in my private practice and on social media. My answer will depend on the type of PCOS you have, your symptoms, your lifestyle, possible deficiencies, and other factors. However, there are three supplements that come out on top in terms of high-quality research, benefits, and little likelihood of harm.

It is important to state that managing PCOS is complex and therefore requires a combination of supplements and lifestyle changes. As their name implies, supplements are merely a ‘supplement’ to a healthy lifestyle grounded in sound nutrition, daily movement, adequate sleep and rest, stress management, a support network, and mindset work.

MAGNESIUM

Women with PCOS are up to 19 times more likely to be deficient in magnesium than the rest of the population. While we’re not sure why this is, it is concerning because low levels of magnesium can increase our risk of type 2 diabetes. Women with PCOS are already at increased risk of developing diabetes!

During my PhD I published a clinical study in Food Science & Nutrition which assessed dietary intake in women with and without PCOS. One of the findings was that magnesium intake was decreased in women with insulin-resistant PCOS. Also, the more magnesium that women with PCOS consumed, the lower their testosterone and inflammation were.

Supplementing can benefit in several ways. There is plenty of research on the benefits of magnesium for the general population which may also apply for PCOS. Studies have shown magnesium can help address insulin resistance, reduce inflammation, improve sleep, reduce anxiety, improve PMS symptoms, and lower blood pressure. These are all commonly seen and experienced by women with PCOS.

Natural Calm Magnesium Iced Tea
Photo by Dylan Cutler

I supplement with Natural Calm magnesium citrate to ensure I am consuming enough magnesium each day. The raspberry-lemon flavor makes a delicious hot or iced tea (recipe here)! The recommended daily amount of magnesium for a women over 19 is 320 mg a day.

Omega-3

Along with the brain and mood-boosting benefits that omega-3 fats are known for, like reducing anxiety and depression (previously discussed here), they also have specific implications for women with PCOS.

Supplementing with omega-3 may help regulate periods and decrease testosterone. Omega-3 can also lower reproductive hormones such as LH and the LH to FSH ratio (typically increased in PCOS). Finally, omega-3 has been shown to increase adiponectin which is an anti-inflammatory cytokine.

Photo by Tatyana Nekrasova

I recommend an algae-based omega-3 supplement instead of a fish oil supplement as fish oil can be contaminated with environmental pollutants, such as mercury and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).

Vitamin D

Women with PCOS are more likely to have lower levels of vitamin D than women without PCOS. These low levels have even been linked to insulin resistance, obesity, infertility, and hirsutism associated with PCOS.

Studies show that when women with PCOS supplement with vitamin D, insulin and glucose levels seem to improve, inflammation subsides, and testosterone decreases.

While the best source of vitamin D is the sun, this option is limited if we live in the Northern hemisphere, wear sunscreen, or stay indoors. Therefore, supplementing can help.

Photo by Brian Garcia

When choosing a vitamin D supplement, look for D3 and at least 1500-2000 IU a day (recommended by The Endocrine Practice Committee). For vegans, be aware that some D3 supplements are vegan while others aren’t. I take a vitamin D plus B12 together (15% off code: DylanCutler15) as B12 is a must to supplement for vegans (and even some vegetarians and carnivores).

This article is sponsored by Natural Calm Canada.

In health, Dr. Dylan Cutler

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Top 3 Supplements for PCOS

Disclaimer: As the sole author of Phruitful Dish, I have based my posts on my own experiences and personal knowledge. However, I am not a medical doctor. The information in this blog is not intended as medical advice. Nutritional and supplemental choices should be made in consultation with your health care provider. This blog is intended to inspire and encourage readers to educate themselves on how nutrition and lifestyle are important and often overlooked aspects of health. Therefore, please use the information at your own risk. Occasional links may be provided leading to third party websites. The existence of these links does not infer a responsibility or an endorsement of the linked site, its operator, or its contents.

How to Naturally Boost Your Immune System with Magnesium, Meditation, and More

Learn how your daily habits can support your immune system.

When cold and flu season rolls around each year, we can often feel fearful and helpless. As someone with health anxiety, I know these feelings very well.

However, the best way I’ve found to stay healthy, both physically and mentally, is to act on what I can control, and let the rest go.

I do this by supporting my immune system on a daily basis. Our immune system can be compromised under several circumstances including:

  • not sleeping enough,
  • eating suboptimally,
  • with young or older age,
  • having underlying health conditions, or
  • when experiencing high stress.

Yes, the stress and fear of getting sick could contribute to us actually getting sick!

What are some daily habits for boosting immunity?

  • aim for 7-9 hours of sleep a night
  • regularly exercise lightly to moderately
    • strenuous exercise can weaken our immune system
  • manage stress through yoga or meditation
    • studies have found that people who regularly practice mindfulness meditation get sick less often
  • avoid excessive alcohol and caffeine
  • stay hydrated
  • eat lots of fruits and vegetables
  • avoid processed foods
  • quit smoking

Vitamins and Minerals to Support Immunity

Whole food, plant-based nutrition plays a big role in supporting our immune system. I’ve listed key immune-boosting vitamins and minerals along with their food sources. In some cases, vitamins and minerals can be depleted and therefore, supplementation can be helpful.

Whole Foods to Boost Your Immunity

Vitamin A

  • found in carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, cantaloupe, & squash
  • supplementation may be important for people with conditions like pancreatic disease, eye disease, or measles
Vitamin A for Our Immune System

B Vitamins

  • B6 found in garlic, chickpeas, potatoes, bananas, bulgar, avocado, & squash
  • B9 (or folate) found in beans, peas, leafy greens, & enriched grains
    • supplementing with folic acid is important during pre-conception & pregnancy
  • B12 found in fish, fortified cereals & fortified mylk
    • vegans/vegetarians often require a B12 supplement since B12 is only found in animal products
Vitamin Bs for Immunity

Vitamin C

  • found in oranges, grapefruit, strawberries, bell peppers, spinach, kale, Brussel sprouts, & tomatoes
  • people with metabolic syndrome may need more vitamin C
  • for additional support during flu season, I supplement with Herbaland Gummies Immune Plus which has vitamin C, vitamin D, zinc, echinacea, and elderberry extract (code: DylanCutler15)
Herbaland Immune Gummies
via Herbaland Gummies

Vitamin D

  • the best source is the sun
  • not highly abundant in food so supplementing is recommended for most people who don’t get daily sun exposure
Vitamin D to Boost Your Immune System

Vitamin E

  • found in nuts, sunflower seeds, spinach, broccoli, & avocado
  • more than 90% of Americans do not consume adequate vitamin E

Magnesium

  • found in avocado, leafy greens, almonds, brown rice, soy, & tofu
  • depleted by stress, exercise, high saturated fat intake, high sugar intake, excess calcium, some diseases & aging
  • I supplement with Natural Calm magnesium powder before bed to help relax and improve my sleep
Vitamin E for Immunity

Zinc

  • found in beans, chickpeas, lentils, root vegetables, chia seeds, hemp seeds, quinoa & almonds
  • depletion can occur in people with digestive disorders, diabetes, and other conditions
Zinc for Immunity

Iron

  • found in beans, broccoli, kale, lentils, cashews, quinoa, & raisins
  • often depleted from menstruation so supplementing is advisable if you have anemia

Selenium

  • found in garlic, broccoli, barley, brazil nuts, & walnuts
  • depleted by living near soils of low selenium, digestive disorders (like Crohn’s), dialysis, or having HIV
Garlic to Boost Immunity

So try adding these foods into your diet, unwind, get a good night’s rest tonight, and remember to reach out for support if feeling overwhelmed.

In health,

Dr. Dylan Cutler

This article is sponsored by Natural Calm Canada.

How to Naturally Boost Your Immune System with Magnesium, Meditation, and More

Disclaimer: As the sole author of Phruitful Dish, I have based my posts on my own experiences and personal knowledge. However, I am not a medical doctor. The information in this blog is not intended as medical advice, and it is not endorsed by my employers or institutions I am affiliated with. Nutritional and supplemental choices should be made in consultation with your health care provider. This blog is intended to inspire and encourage readers to educate themselves on how nutrition and lifestyle are important and often overlooked aspects of health. Therefore, please use the information at your own risk. Occasional links may be provided leading to third party websites. The existence of these links does not infer a responsibility or an endorsement of the linked site, its operator, or its contents.