PCOS Supplements: The Ultimate Guide (2020)
With over thousands of supplements to choose from, it can be difficult to know which are right for your PCOS.
I get it, when I was first diagnosed with PCOS I had no idea which supplements I should be taking.
So, I did some research. I learnt a lot about how the right supplements can improve and alleviate many of the PCOS symptoms women struggle with on a daily basis. In this post, I have distilled everything I have learnt and picked out the best 14 PCOS supplements that can help to naturally reverse the symptoms of PCOS.
In this post, you will find out how these 14 supplements that have been scientifically shown to help PCOS. And I will share three tips on how to choose high-quality supplements to reap the benefits.
14 PCOS Supplements
- Omega 3
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin C
- Coenzyme Q10
What are Supplements?
Supplements are substances that can be added to your diet to support your health. They can help by increasing your nutrient intake and lowering the risk of chronic disease.
A supplement may contain one or more vitamins, minerals, herbs, enzymes, amino acids. They can be bought in capsule, tablet and liquid form.
While eating a healthy diet is key to getting in your nutrients, taking supplements can also help. For instance, if you struggle to get enough of a certain nutrient from your food, taking a supplement can be beneficial. But they should not be used to replace meals or good nutrition.
Now, let’s find out which supplements are best for PCOS.
Magnesium is a mineral required for different functions in the body. It is used to manage cortisol and blood sugar levels. As well as help muscle and nerve function.
Increases Insulin Sensitivity
Women with PCOS produce too many male hormones. One of the causes of this is insulin resistance. This is a condition where the cells in the body have become unresponsive to the effects of insulin. As a result, there is a build-up of sugar in the bloodstream.
Magnesium may help improve insulin resistance. A study found taking 2.5g of magnesium improved insulin sensitivity. Meaning less insulin will be needed to lower blood sugar levels. So, less insulin in the blood means the ovary won't be producing excess testosterone.
When buying magnesium choose magnesium glycinate because it is the most absorbable form.
Ashwagandha, also known as ‘Withania Somnifera', is a popular adaptogenic herb. Adaptogens are plant based supplements known for their ability to support adrenal function.
The ashwagandha plant is native to India and North Africa. It is an ancient medicinal herb that has a history of being used in traditional Indian Ayurveda.
Chronic stress is yet another possible cause of high male hormones in PCOS women.
Here’s the thing.
When we are stressed we go into fight or flight mode. The adrenals respond by releasing cortisol into the bloodstream. In addition to cortisol, male hormones including DHEA, DHEA-S, and androstenedione are produced. These male hormones try to protect the body from the damaging effects of too much cortisol.
Inositol is a substance that is often referred to as Vitamin B8. There are nine forms of Inositol, but Myo and D-Chiro Inositol are most common in the PCOS community.
Lowers Blood Sugar Levels
As discussed above, lowering high blood sugar levels is important for PCOS women who suffer from insulin resistance.
Inositol has the ability to act like insulin and help it to work better. A study found Myo-inositol lowered insulin and testosterone levels.
PCOS is one of the leading causes of infertility in women. A study found that taking Myo-Ins, alone or in combination with D-chiro, can help restore ovulation and improve fertility in PCOS women.
Now, the inositol I personally use is Ovasitol. This is because it is a combination of both Myo-Inositol and D-chiro Inositol found in the body’s normal ratio of 40:1. Such a combination is more beneficial than taking either alone.
The combined approach significantly reduced free testosterone and fasting insulin. But it also increased insulin sensitivity in PCOS women.
I love Ovasitol so much I became an affiliate. Because I am now affiliated with Theralogix's Ovasitol. You can use discount code 144N11 for $10 off your order!
Omega 3 fatty acids is a type of fat and a healthy addition to any PCOS diet. It's found in plant foods, like flax seeds, and fish such as salmon, mackerel, sardines and herring.
Researchers have found that most women with PCOS suffer from chronic inflammation. Many factors can cause it including insulin resistance and high cortisol. This then leads to high testosterone levels. So, the level of inflammation in the body must be lowered. Omega 3 has anti-inflammatory properties that can help lower inflammation in the body.
Decreases Testosterone Levels and Regulates the Menstrual Cycle
As discussed, women with PCOS have high male hormones. A study found omega-3 (3g/a day) may help reduce testosterone levels. But also regulate the menstrual cycle in PCOS women. The results are encouraging for women with PCOS who are looking to lower their testosterone and regain a healthy menstrual cycle.
But the researchers state that more and longer studies must be done to reveal the full effectiveness of omega 3 supplementation.
Increases SHBG Levels and Helps With Hirsutism
Sex Hormone Binding Globulin (SHBG) is a protein made by the liver. Its role in the body is to bind together with three sex hormones; estrogen, testosterone and dihydrotestosterone (DHT). SHBG then carries these hormones throughout the body to reduce the level of free hormones.
Testosterone bound to SHBG isn’t used by the body. Women with PCOS, however, have low levels of SHBG. So more testosterone than normal is used by the body. Leading to PCOS symptoms like infertility, hair loss and excess hair growth.
Here is where omega 3 can help. Results from a study show non-obese PCOS women who took 1,500mg of omega 3 a day for 6 months increased their SHBG levels. But also reported an improvement in their hirsutism (excess hair growth).
So, the increase in SHBG lowered free testosterone and improved hirsutism.
Vitamin D is needed for the absorption of calcium, magnesium and phosphate. It is also needed for strong bones and muscles.
But unfortunately, vitamin D is yet another key nutrient many PCOS women are deficient in. A study found 67-85% of women with PCOS have low vitamin D levels.
Increases Insulin Sensitivity
So, we have discussed the link between insulin resistance and PCOS, as well as the importance of lowering blood sugar levels in this post. Now, one the ways of improving insulin resistance is by increasing insulin sensitivity. A study found women who took vitamin D increased their insulin sensitivity and lowered their male hormones.
So, vitamin D may help reduce insulin resistance and improve PCOS symptoms.
Helps With PCOS Hair Loss
Hair loss is a symptom some women with PCOS experience. Researchers found a link between a deficiency in vitamin D3 and female pattern hair loss. So, supplementing with vitamin D may help stop PCOS hair loss.
As discussed, women with PCOS have high levels of inflammation. Researchers have found a link between low levels of vitamin D and high levels of inflammation in the body.
Soo, taking vitamin D may help decrease levels of inflammation in the body and reverse PCOS.
Vitamin C is needed for the formation of collagen and a healthy immune system. As well as the maintenance of bones and teeth.
Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin. This means it is carried to the bodies tissue but is not stored as it quickly dissolves in the body.
Source of Antioxidants
Women with PCOS have increased levels of oxidative stress. Meaning there is an imbalance of free radicals (cause the body harm) and antioxidants (protect the body). Many dietary, lifestyle and environmental factors (e.g. pollution) can cause oxidative stress.
But get this.
Vitamin C is a source of antioxidants that can help protect the body from free radicals. A study found taking vitamin C led to an increase (of up to 30%) in blood antioxidant levels.
Supports the Adrenal Glands
The adrenal glands contain high levels of vitamin C. When stressed, vitamin C is released into the blood along with stress hormones. This then causes Vitamin C levels to become severely depleted. The more stress your body is under, the more vitamin C your body uses.
But when your body is deficient in vitamin C, your adrenals panic and release cortisol.
So including vitamin C in your diet will help replenish low levels and may help with hormonal and blood sugar imbalances.
Chromium is an essential trace mineral humans need in very small quantities. It helps the body’s metabolism (how we use energy) and helps it to use glucose correctly.
Reduces Insulin Resistance
A study found PCOS women who took chromium picolinate (a form of chromium), at a dose of 200-1,000mcg a day, improved their insulin levels.
So, chromium may be an effective PCOS supplement that can help insulin work better. Which can, in turn, reduce insulin resistance.
As discussed, most women with PCOS suffer from chronic inflammation in the body.
Curcumin has anti-inflammatory properties which means it can reduce inflammation in the body.
However, curcumin is not easily absorbed by the body on its own. So, to increase the absorption, buy curcumin that also contains piperine. Taking 20 mg of piperine per 2.2 pounds of body weight, increased the absorption of turmeric by 2000%.
Zinc is a mineral that is found throughout the body. It is needed for a healthy immune system, the breakdown of carbohydrates and more.
The high male hormones interrupt the natural ovulation cycle. But supplementing with zinc can help encourage ovulation. This is because zinc helps the pituitary gland to increase the release of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH).
FSH stimulates the growth of the follicles in the ovary and encourages ovulation.
Helps with Hair Loss
The high male hormones associated with PCOS can cause male pattern balding in women. A study found the group of PCOS women who took 220 mg zinc sulfate for 8 weeks showed an improvement in hair loss.
A deficiency in zinc causes the protein structure of hair follicles to decline. This leads to new hair falling out.
Hypothyroidism is a hidden cause of PCOS. It is a condition where the thyroid is not producing enough of the hormones.
Research shows zinc may play a role in the conversion of T4 to T3. T4 (the inactive thyroid hormone) must convert to T3 (the active hormone) before the body can use it. So, zinc is a mineral needed for the thyroid.
N-acetyl Cysteine (NAC)
N-acetyl Cysteine (NAC) comes from an amino acid called L-cysteine. NAC and l-cystine is important for building and replenishing antioxidants like glutathione levels. It is also said to help with fertility, detoxification and brain health.
Increases Insulin Sensitivity and Lowers Testosterone Levels
NAC is yet another supplement that can increase insulin sensitivity and lower testosterone.
NAC is said to improve blood sugar and insulin levels better than metformin (a drug used to treat insulin resistance). This does not mean you should come off your metformin medication. You must discuss this with your doctor.
Improves Oocyte Quality
Research shows that women with PCOS may produce lower quality oocytes (egg cell in the ovary). As a result experience a decrease in the rate of fertilization. But a study found NAC may help improve oocyte quality.
As discussed NAC helps to build antioxidants. Because of its strong antioxidant capabilities, it has been shown to improve the number and the quality of oocytes. It does this by reducing the rate of degeneration of ovarian follicles.
The fact that NAC can increase insulin sensitivity, reduce the level of male hormones. As well as improve the quality of oocytes is great news for women with PCOS.
DIM is a phytonutrient and antioxidant. It has been found to be effective in helping to remove excess estrogen from the body.
Lowers Estrogen Levels
Women with PCOS tend to have high estrogen levels due to low progesterone. So, finding ways to lower estrogen is critical for hormonal balance. Here is where DIM comes in.
So here’s the thing.
The liver breaks estrogen down into different forms of estrogen. These forms can be ‘good’ and protective for the body, like 2-hydroxyestrone. Or ‘bad’ and carcinogenic to the body like 16-α-hydroxyestrone.
In order for estrogen to be eliminated from the body, it must be broken down into the ‘good’ form of estrogen. This form is inactive in the body.
Taking DIM helps increase the production of ‘good’ estrogen like 2-hydroxyestrone. Researchers have found this form is anticarcinogenic.
Berberine is a naturally occurring compound found in several plants including Oregon grape. It has a history of being used in traditional Chinese and Ayurveda medicine.
Lowers Insulin Levels
Experts suggest berberine may be an effective treatment for insulin resistance. Researchers have found that berberine is able to lower insulin levels due to an increase in insulin sensitivity. But can also improve insulin release in patients with poorly functioning pancreases.
Saw Palmetto, also known as Serenoa repens, is a palm tree. It is native to south-east regions of North America. The tree grows berries which have traditionally been used as medicine by Native Americans.
Saw palmetto contains phytosterols, a phytochemical, believed to have anti-androgen effects. Research suggests it can block the 5-alpha-reductase enzyme (5aR) that converts testosterone to DHT. DHT is the cause of various PCOS symptoms including hair loss and acne.
Because of saw palmetto’s ability to stop the conversion of testosterone to DHT, PCOS symptoms like hair loss can improve.
Folate, also known as vitamin B9, is needed for the creation of DNA and for cell division.
Improves Blood Sugar and Cholesterol levels
Folate is yet another supplement that can reduce high blood sugar levels. Results from a study showed PCOS women who supplemented with 5mg/a day of folate for 8 weeks improved their blood sugar and cholesterol levels.
Reduces Inflammation and Oxidative Stress
As mentioned above, PCOS women suffer from chronic inflammation and oxidative stress. Researchers found 5mg of folate lowered inflammation and oxidative stress in women with PCOS.
Coenzyme Q10 is an antioxidant that the body naturally produces. It is needed for growth and maintenance. Coenzyme Q10 is also involved in the conversion of glucose to energy.
Lowers Blood Sugar and Insulin Levels
As discussed, women with PCOS suffer from high blood sugar and insulin levels. PCOS women who took 100mg of coenzyme Q10 for 12 weeks lowered their blood sugar and insulin levels. As well as this, they increased their insulin sensitivity. Meaning smaller amounts of insulin will be required to lower blood glucose levels
Lowers anti-Müllerian hormone (AMH) Levels
Female ovaries contain follicles (sacs that contain the immature eggs), and they secrete AMH.
AMH in a Normal Ovary
AMH is released to ensure follicles grow at a slow rate to prevent premature development. It does this by reducing the sensitivity of the ovary receptors to follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). FSH is released by the pituitary gland and its job is to stimulate the growth of follicles.
AMH in the Ovaries of PCOS Women
Researchers have found that AMH levels in women with PCOS are 2–3 times higher than in non-PCOS women. So the follicles in women with PCOS are producing high levels of AMH.
As a result, follicles cannot develop into a dominant egg, so this leads to a build-up of small follicles in the ovary. This is what causes the polycystic ovary (one of the criteria doctors use to diagnose PCOS).
However, there is no clear cause for why women with PCOS have high AMH levels. Dr. Fiona McCulloch, a naturopathic doctor, says it may be because of the high levels of luteinizing hormone (LH). I discuss LH in detail in my post ‘Luteinizing Hormone and PCOS: Why It's High and How To Naturally Lower It’ if you would like to find out more.
But the good news is, coenzyme Q10 may be an effective therapy for reducing the AMH level in PCOS women. But the researchers say that the CoQ10 dosage and the optimal duration of treatment should be further investigated.
Keep in mind, however, the AMH level only tells you the number of eggs in the ovaries, not the quality. Meaning a low AMH does not mean bad and high does not mean good.
Fights Free Radicals
As discussed, PCOS women have an imbalance of free radicals (cause the body harm) and antioxidants (protect the body). But because coenzyme Q10 is a source of antioxidants it can help protect the body from free radicals.
Consult your doctor before taking coenzyme Q10. This is because it should not be taken with ‘Warfarin’ an anticoagulant (blood thinner). Or the diabetes drug insulin.
Choosing The Right Supplement
Now, we have discussed what supplements can be helpful for women with PCOS. But not all supplements on the market are pure. Meaning some ingredients may be poor quality or a product may contain additives. The quality of a supplement is important for absorption in the body and for your health.
There are 3 tips to choosing the right supplement.
1. Check what’s in the Supplement
2. Choose from a Trusted Brand
3. Don’t buy the Cheapest
Check What’s in the Supplement
Before buying a supplement always read the label of a supplement. Some companies may use additives, unwanted fillers, bulking agents, binders and dyes.
Binders like magnesium stearate, a white powder, is commonly found in supplements. It is used in the manufacturing process to stop ingredients from sticking together and to machinery. As you can see, it provides no nutritional value to you. So, I suggest trying to avoid supplements that contain binders or any additives.
Also, look out for allergens like dairy, gluten, yeast and soy. These can be added to supplement formulations or during the manufacturing process.
For some guidance in choosing the purest supplements, I suggest visiting ConsumerLab.com. They test each product for quality, purity, ingredient amount, manufacturing practices and more.
Choose from a Trusted Brand
This follows on from the point above. But search for a company that invests in high-quality ingredients and lab testing. Products that display a symbol from the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), the NSF International Public Health. Or the Safety Company or the Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) indicate the product is of high quality.
Also, a product that has been third party tested is a further indicator of its efficacy and quality.
Don’t Buy the Cheapest Supplement
Supplements can be expensive but choosing the cheapest one may not always be best. Some cheap brands may use ingredients that are not well researched. Or an ingredient in a form that the body cannot absorb very well. As a result, the supplement is deemed inefficient.
Now, I understand that not everyone can afford the highest quality supplement brands. So, I recommend you consult a medical professional so they can guide you on which products to choose from.
Do you Need Supplements?
As you can see, these 14 supplements can be a great addition to your PCOS diet. They have been shown to help with hormonal balance and reducing many PCOS symptoms. But this does not mean you need to buy them all. This is because PCOS is not one condition and we are all individuals. So, before buying a supplement consult a medical professional to find out the root cause of your PCOS.
Any supplement you take must be targeted to address your root cause, whether it is insulin resistance, high cortisol levels, inflammation in the body or hypothyroidism. Otherwise it is a waste of money and may even do you more harm than good. To find out what the root cause of your PCOS may be, check out my 'Types of PCOS: Ultimate Guide'.
Additionally, when choosing supplements always read the label. Avoid products that contain bulking agents, binders and other additives. Try to buy supplements from brands that use quality ingredients and manufacturing practices.
Lastly, including these supplements into your diet may help your PCOS but it isn't enough. Achieving hormonal balance and reversing PCOS requires a holistic approach. It is important that you are eating nutrient-dense foods and exercising regularly. As well as managing your stress and getting plenty of sleep.
Just so you know: This post includes affiliate links. If you buy something through one of those links, I will get a small commission, with no extra cost to you. It helps me keep my little website going. Thank you for your continued support!
Hey there! I am Despina Pavlou, founder of PCOS Oracle and online coach. I want to share with you the diet and lifestyle changes I made to naturally reverse my PCOS and achieve hormonal balance. I believe using my holistic approach you too can take back control from PCOS.