There is no cure for PCOS. We can only treat the symptoms of the disease with lifestyle changes, medication, and supplements. I know it’s hard. Weaning myself off of sugar was hard; I was used to dumping three spoonful’s of sugar in my tea and coffee. I didn’t like to exercise and I loved junk food. But that all had to change if I was going to improve my health. I knew I had to do it because I was miserable where I was.
If you suspect you have PCOS, see an endocrinologist. They will do a test for your thyroid levels but I also suggest you push for tests for your vitamin levels too. You are most likely deficient. Another underlying symptom of PCOS it the body’s inability to absorb or produce that right amount of vitamins, hormones, and other things that keep your body running. They will most likely put you on synthroid for low thyroid, metformin for blood sugar control, and spironolactone for high blood pressure and to help with over production of hormones. (Spironolactone is a diuretic. It will make you pee.) A doctor might give you other medications or drop one of the ones I’ve listed based on your test results. Each person is different. These are what my doctor put me on.
Now we come to supplements. I want to point out that I am not a doctor. I am just a person who has been dealing with PCOS for the last two decades and this is what works for me. I’ve done research online, just like you are doing, and I’m passing on my accumulated knowledge. Talk with your doctor about the supplements you wish to take. (If they says you don’t need to take supplements, find a new doctor. If they say this particular supplement might be a bad idea or not be beneficial to you, listen to them.)
One of the symptoms of PCOS is that your body is either not producing or absorbing certain nutrients in the correct amount. Thus, even with a healthy diet, you probably need to take supplements. Again, we are treating the symptoms of PCOS. Different supplements are going to treat certain symptoms. If something upsets your stomach, lower your dosage and see if that helps. If it continues to upset your stomach after a couple weeks or so (I know, but you gotta stick with it.), then discontinue and bring it up with your doctor the next visit. They may have some suggestions.
- Saw Palmetto. Taken to treat the hair loss associated with PCOS.
- Spearmint tea. Taken to treat the hair loss associated with PCOS. 2 cups per a day.
High levels of testosterone in the female body due to PCOS is converted by the enzyme 5-alpha-reductase into DHT (dihydrotestosterone). DHT is more powerful than testosterone. It attaches to the same sites as testosterone, but more easily. Once there, it remains bound for longer. It is this DHT that is attaching to hair follicles , weakening them and causing them to fall out, and causing growth to slow down.
Testosterone and DHT are both androgens, most commonly called ‘male hormones’, although women normally do produce them in smaller amounts. In women, androgens are produced in the ovaries, adrenal glands and fat cells. Women may produce too much or too little of these hormones––disorders of androgen excess and deficiency are among the more common hormonal disorders in women. Androgen excess is PCOS.
Saw Palmetto and spearmint tea hinder testosterone from being converted into DHT.
- DHT Blocking Shampoo.
- Minoxidil. Stimulates hair growth.
Of course, the shampoo and minoxidil are not a supplements. Do not ingest these. The shampoo will help block DHT and remove build up from the hair follicles. I like Nizoral Shampoo or Pura d’or. They can be found at Walgreens and Target, respectively, or Amazon. Minoxidil is to stimulate hair growth and is found in such hair growth products as Rogaine. Make sure to use it morning and night. Walmart sells their version of minoxidil for about $20. I suggest using the 5% male version.
- Hair, Skin, & Nails.
This is a multivitamin and usually I would be apposed to a multivitamin. It’s much better to target symptoms with a specific vitamin then scatter across a broad spectrum, in my opinion. But with a Hair, Nails, & Skin vitamin everything in there is targeted to help with hair loss and other complaints PCOS sufferers have. It has a host of vitamins and minerals that women lack because of PCOS. Including vitamin D, Iron, Selenium, Zinc, and a range of vitamin B. I prefer Nature’s Bounty Hair, Skin, & Nails multivitamin.
That being said, I still take individual vitamins that are in the hair, skin, & nails multivitamin. At first this was just to use up the supply I had when I first purchased the hair, skin, & nails multivitamin but then I continued to take them because of my body’s positive reaction. This may vary for you. Maybe that will be too much and your body won’t react positively. If you aren’t getting the results you are looking for after a couple months, adjust. I also take as an individual vitamin Vitamin D, Selenium, Magnesium, Potassium, Vitamin B Complex.
- Cinnamon. Increases insulin sensitivity and boost calorie burning.
- Chromium. Increases insulin sensitivity.
I want to point out again, that the only surefire way to help insulin resistance is to limit your intake of sugar. But there are supplements that will help your body better process the sugar is does take in. You’d be hard pressed to eat the amount of cinnamon you would need to get any benefits, so I suggest taking cinnamon caplets. Chromium is also another supplement that will help your body better process sugar.
- Turmeric Helps with body and muscle aches.
Almost everyone I’ve spoken with that has PCOS complains of body and muscle aches. You are just sore. If you happen to ingest gluten, the joint pain and aches are even worse. I find that a turmeric supplement helps with that body pain. Like cinnamon, you’d be hard pressed to eat enough turmeric to get any benefits, so I suggest taking turmeric caplets. They can be found at any store that sells supplements, such at Walgreens or Target.
All of these supplements can be found at common stores. I buy all my supplements either from Walgreens or Target. There is no need to make a special trip to a health store or buy them online.
I hope this helps with treating your PCOS. These are just suggestions but they are what works for me.
For further reading:
How I Hacked PCOS! This video gives a good overview of the symptoms of PCOS and how to treat it.
I have PCOS; Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. PCOS is a health problem that affects 1 in 10 women of childbearing age. But even then PCOS can cause problems from puberty onward. As a child, I was overweight and had horrible acne much younger than my peers. When puberty hit, my menstruation cycle was completely out of whack. I would have 2 or 3 periods a year and those periods were heavy and painful. I was put on birth control pills when I was 14 years old. The pill didn’t do anything for my weight or complexion but it forced my menstrual cycle into line.
I didn’t know I had PCOS back then. I kind of coasted through my teenage years and early 20’s without much change. I was unhealthy; verging on type 2 diabetes, and already with high blood pressure and high cholesterol, and very overweight. I wasn’t eating that bad and I was at least moderately active but nothing budged. Then, in my mid-20’s, I decided to go off my birth control pills. (I wasn’t sexually active and I was sick of paying for them.) Huge mistake. My body freaked out.
My weight skyrocketed to the heaviest I’ve been in my life. I had acne constantly. Periods were nonexistent but I still had horrible cramps. I started having problems with my joints and muscles aching. But the worst, emotionally, was my hair starting to fall out. I would find big clumps of hair on my bathmat after showering and there was hair all over my clothing. It was devastating. My part and the crown of my head began to get thin. I could see my scalp. I had always had thick, wavy hair and to see most of it end up on the floor was heartbreaking.
Signs you may have PCOS…
I had no idea what was happening. I went to the doctor and she did tests on my thyroid but said they came back normal. I had to keep pushing and even then I pretty much diagnosed myself and contacted an endocrinologist. He repeated the test and more. Found out my thyroid was a little low, just not low enough for my regular doctor to bother with. I was put on synthroid, metformin, and spironolactone. The synthroid helped my low thyroid numbers, the metformin helped with the blood sugar issues, and the spironolactone helped with the high blood pressure. This is pretty much the trifecta of medicines a doctor will put a PCOS patient on.
For about 5 months, this worked. My hair stopped falling out and I just felt better. My skin cleared a little and my weight stopped going up. Unfortunately, the metformin tore my stomach apart. I had a constant upset stomach and with some foods I’d get horrible pains, that I later found out was from extreme bloating and gas. Apparently, the metformin can do that to some people. I was taken off the metformin but then all of the benefits stopped too. I was right back where I started.
I tried so many things and it took about two years of adjustments before I found something that really worked. Here is what I did…
• Sugar. There are lots of ways to try and control the insulin resistance that comes with PCOS; like metformin, cinnamon, or chromium. But the only sure fire way and the most effective is to limit your sugar intake. The goal is to get yourself down to 4 teaspoons of additional sugar a day. I’ve since stopped drinking soda and only lightly sugar my coffee and tea. It took time to wean myself off the sugar but it was worth it.
• Diet. I had a terrible diet when I was a teenager. A picky eater in the extreme and then I ate junk and too much of it. It was only in my upper 20’s that I branched out and started to vary my diet. Avoid junk food and processed food. Shop the outer ring of the store; fresh fruit, veggies, and meats, before going for anything in the center of the store. Whole foods are much better for you and your body.
• Gluten free. I only saw great improvement in my health when I went gluten free. My joints and muscles stopped aching. My headaches lessened and my stomach issues declined. I was also able to start taking metformin again without it upsetting my stomach. Also, I began to have periods again. If I eat gluten, I can instantly feel it. A headache within 20 minutes, upset stomach by an hour, and joint and muscle soreness by the next morning. I used to have to wear an ankle brace on my left ankle just to be able to walk without pain. I no longer have to do that and it was only after going gluten free. I also won’t have a period that month if I eat gluten, even though I take birth control pills again.
• Exercise. As in you have to do some. Many of the symptoms of PCOS can be helped with moderate exercise and strength training. I try to get up and walk as often as I can at work and then at home I use a small floor cycle and a set of weights to focus on my arms. I have lost and kept a good amount of weight off and it helps your body in many, many ways. I can’t stress how much a sedentary lifestyle will hurt you in this situation.
- Anxiety/Depression. Mental health problems almost always come hand and hand with PCOS. Maybe you think you’re coping, maybe you think you can handle it. But let me tell you that you will feel a world of difference if you take your concerns to your doctor. I’d always been a shy, introverted, and anxious person but I never thought I had depression or a mental health problem. When I started having panic attacks at night last spring, I had to admit to myself that I needed help. It’s made me feel so much better and really lowered my stress level.
Along with the prescribed medications, I also take several supplements to counteract the symptoms of PCOS, which I will address in my next post. There is no way to cure PCOS, but we can manage the symptoms. Lifestyle change, diet, and exercise will be the fundamental foundation that you will build your PCOS treatment on.
Links for some further reading: