Polycystic ovary syndrome is a hormonal disorder often treated with birth control.
But Dr. Fran Haydanek, an ObGyn, said supplements can also help the symptoms of PCOS.
Supplements she recommends for PCOS include inositol, zinc, and cinnamon.
An ObGyn shared the supplements that she recommends to her patients to ease the symptoms of polycystic ovarian syndrome.
PCOS is a hormonal disorder thought to affect between six to 12% of US women, where the ovaries produce unusually high levels of hormones called androgens (known as hyperandrogenism). People with PCOS may have small cysts on their ovaries, irregular periods, insulin resistance, excess hair growth, and infertility.
Depending on a person's symptoms, PCOS can be treated with medications to encourage regular periods, block the effects of androgens, and — because insulin resistance can be a feature of the condition — help the body process insulin.
But taking supplements can also "definitely improve" people's daily experiences of PCOS, Dr. Fran Haydanek, an ObGyn who works at Rochester Regional Health in New York, told Business Insider.
If a PCOS patient doesn't have major concerns about their symptoms or wants to try to manage their symptoms through lifestyle changes, she recommends supplements such as inositol, zinc, calcium, vitamin D, and spearmint. Which supplements are most appropriate depends on the PCOS symptoms a patient has, she said.
Haydanek said that inositol "treats underlying causes" of PCOS, while zinc, calcium, and vitamin D are more of an "adjunct to therapy" with evidence suggesting that they could help patients ovulate or have a higher chance of becoming ovulatory again.
Haydanek said to consult your doctor before taking supplements to ensure they're right for you and don't interact with any medications you're taking. If you try a new supplement, it will take three to six months to see if it works, especially inositol, she said.
Haydanek said inositol, which is a type of sugar found in the body, is the main supplement she recommends to patients with PCOS.
An imbalance of inositols promotes insulin resistance and the production of androgens, which are two of the underlying mechanisms of how PCOS develops, Haydanek said.
Inositol supplements are thought to restore the correct ratio of inositols in the body, helping to reverse some of the signs and symptoms of PCOS.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, as well as improving blood sugar levels, inositol can reduce blood pressure and promote ovulation in people with PCOS.
Haydanek said that recent studies have suggested that inositol is as effective in treating insulin resistance in PCOS patients as metformin, the "current gold standard."
Clinical trials in people with PCOS suggest that cinnamon may reduce their insulin resistance, testosterone levels, and weight, as well as help regulate their menstrual cycles. A 2021 review of studies found that the research on cinnamon's effects on the above symptoms of PCOS was "promising," but that more needs to be done to know for sure.
Calcium and vitamin D
Haydanek said that vitamin D and calcium can help with PCOS symptoms as well as general health, as most people don't get enough vitamin D.
A 2022 review of studies concluded that calcium and vitamin D show promise for improving PCOS symptoms such as irregular periods, high testosterone levels, and hirsutism (excessive hair growth).
However, the review said that the findings of multiple studies suggest that these improvements aren't solely down to calcium and vitamin D supplementation — instead, they act in tandem with metformin and other micronutrients such as magnesium, zinc, vitamin K, and vitamin E.
Research suggests that zinc could help insulin resistance in women with PCOS, according to a 2020 review of studies, but it's unclear whether it helps with hormonal balance. There's some limited evidence that it is an anti-androgen, but it doesn't seem to affect the hirsutism that is a result of hyperandrogenism in people with PCOS, the review found.
"Spearmint has been shown to be helpful with some of the androgenic symptoms of PCOS, such as the acne and the facial hair," Haydanek said.
One 2010 study found that participants who drank spearmint tea noticed improvements in their hirsutism, but the author said that while spearmint does appear to have anti-androgenic properties, the trial was not long enough for researchers to see an objective change.
A 2014 review of the limited number of studies done into PCOS and spearmint found most were small and short, so more research is needed.
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