by Amy Medling, founder of PCOS Diva
Every woman’s body has different requirements. There is no magical PCOS supplement. You must consider your diet, metabolism, and signals that your body is sending when choosing your supplement regimen. The choices, information, and marketing can be overwhelming, I know. Below are the four essential PCOS supplements I recommend for most women to build a strong foundation for any other supplements you may choose to add.
Studies indicate that most Americans take vitamins. Why is it then, that most of us are still vitamin deficient? There are several reasons, actually.
- Supplements are designed to be just that- supplements.A healthy person uses high quality supplements to fill in the gaps in their whole food, nutrient rich diet. If your diet is vitamin poor, no supplement is going to replace everything you need.
- Modern intensive agricultural methods have stripped increasing amounts of nutrients from the soil in which the food we eat grows. We often aren’t getting as many nutrients from the food we are eating as our grandparents did.
- Many people take medications that deplete vitamins in our bodies. For example, Metformin depletes B-12 and the birth control pill depletes vitamin B, folic acid, vitamin C, magnesium and zinc.
- Finally, many people suffer chronic conditions, such as PCOS, which themselves rob the body of nutrients.
Where to Start
Even those of us that follow a PCOS Diva diet and lifestyle have gaps here and there to fill. The dilemma is how to choose the right supplements for PCOS. There are piles of research out there on this topic. Where do we begin?
Consider the grade of supplement you need. There are essentially three grades of supplements available.
Nutritional Grade (Drug Store)
This grade of supplements is the type widely consumed and available on the shelves of your drug store/megamart. They typically advertise one tablet per day to cover all of your vitamin needs. The problem with this grade is that no one is monitoring the contents and effectiveness. Also, since it is often cheaper and takes up less space, companies will pack the pills with harder to digest varieties of the vitamins and minerals you need. In most cases, your body disposes of most of the supplement without digesting it at all.
Medical Grade (Nutrition Store)
This grade is usually slightly better quality than the drug store supplements. While they contain less filler and often contain more useable (bioavailable) nutrients, they are also rarely third party tasted and also have a wide variance in their actual contents.
Pharmaceutical Grade (Health Care Professionals)
This grade is the gold standard for supplements. These are the highest quality supplement, which means that the purity, dissolution and absorption meet the high standards of an independent third-party tester. These supplements are often available without a prescription, but only through health care professionals who understand the potency and efficacy of the supplements they suggest.
What’s the main difference between grades? When taking pharmaceutical grade supplements, you are consistently consuming and absorbing the vitamins and minerals listed on the bottle.
The 4 Essential Supplements for Women with PCOS
A high-quality multivitamin helps fill in the vitamin and mineral gaps in your PCOS diet. For women with PCOS, it is imperative that this multivitamin include elements which promote insulin (blood sugar) balance and cholesterol levels and supports conversion of carbohydrates. It should also contain folates instead of folic acid since many of us are unable to convert folic acid into the necessary components. Be sure to choose a multi with methylated B vitamins, as well as bioavailable and chelated minerals. A complete multi will provide the support you need for maintaining optimal glucose, insulin, and leptin levels while helping your body efficiently convert carbohydrates into energy and managing your metabolism, which can mean even blood sugar levels and less belly fat. Look for a multi which includes zinc, chromium, and green tea extract. You can find all of these nutrients and more in my PCOS Diva Essentials Multivitamin.
Be sure that your multivitamin uses chelated minerals. Chelated minerals are minerals (like chromium) that have been combined using a special process with amino acids to form complexes. The greater absorption and bioavailability of amino acid chelated minerals compared to non-chelated minerals has been well-documented. Yes, you will have to take more than one pill per day. The fact is that you cannot fit all of the quality ingredients your body craves into one capsule.
We need vitamin D to support a healthy immune system, promote bone and artery health, as well as to support reproductive health by promoting healthy estrogen levels. While there has recently been a flurry of positive research on vitamin D and PCOS, we already knew that it may increase fertility, reduce insulin resistance and inflammation, alleviate mood disorders, boost your glucose metabolism, and support adrenals. Now, a recent study has investigated the effects of vitamin D supplementation on infertility in women with PCOS and insulin resistance and concluded that vitamin D supplementation is correlated with improved embryo quality and a higher pregnancy rate.
Since 3 out of 4 women with PCOS have low vitamin D levels, it’s is critical that we have our levels tested and, if necessary, supplement with a high-quality vitamin D paired with vitamin K1 and K2 for maximum efficacy. The PCOS Diva Super D supplement checks all these boxes.
Fish Oil/Omega-3 (DHA & EPA)
Fish oil is one of the most heavily researched and prescribed supplements in the world. For women with PCOS, benefits may include increased fertility, reduced insulin resistance and inflammation, boosted your glucose (sugar) metabolism, adrenal support, lower testosterone, reduced fatty liver, cholesterol, triglycerides, and lower blood pressure, managed mood, improved depression and heightened brain function. Two areas where I have seen the most improvement is in hair and skin quality.
Unfortunately, many women with PCOS are unable to efficiently process the Omega 3s found in food sources because our bodies require an enzyme called D6D to convert them into a usable form. Conditions such as elevated cholesterol, caffeine or alcohol consumption, saturated fat or trans-fat consumption, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, and hormonal abnormalities, including stress hormones, insulin resistance, and hypothyroidism can inhibit the performance of the D6D enzyme and thus reduce the body’s ability to change omega-3 benefits into useable components (DHA, EPA). Luckily, you can essentially skip this conversion step by taking a fish oil supplement in a form that most everyone can utilize such as the PCOS Diva Ultra DHA.
*Note for those trying (or planning) to conceive: You should know that a new study found that co-supplementation of vitamin D and fish oil for women with PCOS is likely to yield benefits when it comes to general health, depression anxiety, and stress scales, decreasing serum total testosterone, and increasing plasma total antioxidant capacity levels. In addition, research indicates that co-supplementing vitamin D and fish oil can play a key role in minimizing the risk of pre-eclampsia, a pregnancy-specific condition characterized by hypertension and proteinuria. Lastly, a recent study took a closer look at the specific effects of vitamin D and fish oil co- supplementation on inflammation, oxidative stress, and pregnancy outcomes in female patients with gestational diabetes. It was found that those who received vitamin D and fish oil as co-supplementation over a 6-week period registered fewer instances of hyperbilirubinemia and hospitalization among newborns, lower levels of high-sensitivity C-reactive protein, a higher total antioxidant capacity, and increased levels of glutathione. In other words, taking vitamin D and fish oil during pregnancy has been strongly linked to better health, not just for the mother but also for the child.
Ovasitol is one of the most popular and effective supplements for women with PCOS. It is specifically formulated to promote menstrual regularity and normal ovarian function. It includes both myo inositol (MYO) and D-chiro (DCI) inositol in the ratio naturally found in the body, mimicking healthy blood plasma. This optimal combination will improve insulin sensitivity and promote normal hormone levels. New research concluded that myo-inositol and the commonly prescribed drug, metformin can perform on the same level when it comes to treatment of insulin resistance, but myo-inositol showed a lower tendency to produce adverse reactions.
The Last Word
I highly suggest investing in supplements which are checked by an independent third party to be sure of their purity and effectiveness. They should not contain binders, fillers, dyes, excipients, or other unknown substances. They should also be checked to be certain that the amounts of vitamins and minerals contained in each dose are consistent and effective across each batch. For example, PCOS Diva supplements are produced and distributed from NSF-registered (National Sanitary Foundation) facilities, as we recognize the importance of third-party validation of our Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs). NSF-registration provides assurance to consumers that our products are manufactured and distributed from facilities following the highest standards of quality control and assurance.
Amy Medling, best-selling author of Healing PCOS and certified health coach, specializes in working with women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), who are frustrated and have lost all hope when the only solution their doctors offer is to lose weight, take a pill, and live with their symptoms. In response, Amy founded PCOS Diva and developed a proven protocol of supplements, diet, and lifestyle programs that offer women tools to help gain control of their PCOS and regain their fertility, femininity, health, and happiness.