Women living with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) often have to deal with symptoms caused by problems with their hormone levels, such as irregular periods, skipped or infrequent ovulation, and insulin sensitivity. Though some women may use medication to help manage their PCOS symptoms, many have been able to achieve hormonal balance and regulate their menstrual cycles by making lifestyle changes, such as exercise, healthy dietary changes, weight loss, and stress management (1).
If you’re on board with making healthy lifestyle changes and you’re looking for additional help balancing your hormones and regulating your menstrual cycles, these 3 natural PCOS remedies may be able to help.
1. Ask your healthcare provider about natural supplements.
Medications, such as hormonal birth control or Metformin, may be prescribed to help manage PCOS symptoms. However, they’re not your only option. If you prefer more natural treatments, nutritional supplements may be the answer you’re looking for. According to scientific research, the following supplements may help reduce PCOS symptoms in some women:
Magnesium: PCOS is often associated with insulin resistance, which may make it difficult to lose weight, decrease your ovarian function, and raise your risk for heart disease, diabetes and stroke (2). One 2010 study found that taking a magnesium supplement may help overweight patients improve insulin sensitivity and help prevent type 2 diabetes (3).
Inositol: In addition to insulin sensitivity, many women with PCOS also experience hyperandrogenism (above-average levels of male hormones). The two conditions often go hand-in-hand, and they work together to impair ovary function and affect ovulation (2). Inositol may help with this by balancing blood sugar levels, reducing hyperandrogenism, and supporting ovulation (4).
Omega-3 fatty acid: A recent review and meta-analysis of scientific research found that omega-3 fatty acid supplementation may help improve symptoms in women with PCOS. Omega-3 fatty acids play an important role in immune health, insulin sensitivity, and ovulation. Taking an omega-3 supplement may help reduce insulin resistance and support regular ovulation in women with PCOS (5).
Berberine: This supplement has been linked to improvements in insulin sensitivity and decreases in obesity in women with PCOS. It may also help decrease the risk of heart conditions and diabetes that comes with the hormonal imbalances associated with PCOS (6).
Cinnamon: Preliminary research has shown that daily cinnamon supplements may help regulate menstrual cycles in women with PCOS. However, more research is needed to determine exactly why cinnamon has this effect (7).
Before you start taking any new supplement, make sure to check with your healthcare provider. They’ll be able to tell you whether the supplement is a good idea with your symptoms, medical history, and current medications as well as guide you on the dosage needed.
2. Care for your gut health.
PCOS is complex, and its effects can be seen in many different systems within your body. Though we typically think of PCOS in relation to ovulation, insulin resistance, and metabolism, recent research has shown that it may be linked to gut microbiota as well (8).
When we say “gut microbiota,” we’re referring to the microorganisms that live in your digestive tract. You’ve probably heard them referred to as “good bacteria.” These microorganisms are responsible for a lot more than just aiding in digestion. They also work to regulate your immune system, help your body absorb nutrients from foods, and keep your digestive system healthy and functioning well (9).
Findings from recent studies suggest that the bacteria in your gut may also affect insulin sensitivity and androgen production. Studies done with both rats and humans suggest that probiotic and synbiotic (a mixture of probiotics and prebiotics) supplements may help reduce the effects of PCOS and improve fertility in women with PCOS (8, 9, 10).
There’s still a lot left to learn about the relationship between PCOS and gut microbiota. However, your gut health is important, and caring for it is always a good idea. Your healthcare provider should be able to help you find the right probiotic or synbiotic supplement for your specific situation.
3. Reduce your exposure to environmental toxins.
The chemicals in your environment can affect your hormone levels more than you may realize. Certain chemicals are known endocrine disruptors, which means that they can interfere with your endocrine system’s ability to create and secrete hormones. They can cause both over- and underproduction of hormones, as well as reduce the effect of different hormones within your body (11).
Because PCOS can impact production of both female and male hormones, its symptoms may be affected by endocrine disruptors in the environment. For example, one of the most well-known endocrine disruptors, Bisphenol A (BPA), has been linked to PCOS in multiple scientific studies. More research is needed to understand the relationship between BPA and PCOS, but researchers have found that women with PCOS tend to have higher BPA levels in their blood than women without PCOS (12,13).
Endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) can be found in pesticides, cosmetic products, some plastics, processed foods, soy-based products, and even household dust. According to the Endocrine Society, some tips for reducing your exposure to EDCs include (14):
Wash all fruits and vegetables before eating to remove pesticide residue
Avoid using plastic containers designated #3, #6, and #7
Reduce the amount of canned and processed foods you eat
Choose organic produce, meat, and dairy products when possible
Avoid outdoor activities on days when air pollution levels are high (you can check the current air quality in your area on AirNow.gov)
Look for soaps, hair products, and cosmetics labeled “Phthalate-Free”, “BPA-Free”, and "Paraben-Free"
Avoid products with synthetic fragrances
When you’re searching for lifestyle changes and natural treatments to help you manage your PCOS, try to look at them as a way to address the imbalances in your life. The main issues PCOS patients deal with are insulin sensitivity, hormone imbalances, and irregular or skipped ovulation. As you’re considering any new treatment, try to determine how it will help in one or more of those areas. And remember, always check with your healthcare provider before taking any new medications or supplements.