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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
This article is sponsored by Natural Calm Canada.
In health, Dr. Dylan Cutler
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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.