by Amy Medling, founder of PCOS Diva
People with PCOS are increasingly turning away from pharmaceutical treatments for PCOS and looking for natural alternatives which can treat the root cause of their symptoms, but also avoid unintended side effects of the drugs. While natural supplements such as Ovasitol are often helpful, I am increasingly asked about medicinal mushrooms.
What is PCOS?
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is one of the most common endocrine disorders, affecting approximately 5-10% of women worldwide, with less than 50% of them diagnosed. The syndrome persists from puberty through post-menopause and affects women of all races and ethnic groups. Those with PCOS wrestle with an array of possible symptoms including obesity, irregular menstrual cycles, infertility, depression, acne, hair loss, and more.
There is no cure for PCOS, but there are a wide variety of treatments available. All research indicates that diet and lifestyle upgrades are the first line of treatment, followed by natural supplements, and then if necessary, pharmaceuticals.
Fortunately, research in natural supplementation and treatments are advancing, and recently, medicinal mushrooms for PCOS have been in the spotlight.
Medicinal Mushrooms for PCOS
The word “maitake” means dancing in Japanese. It’s said people danced when they found this mushroom in the wild because it is believed to have powerful healing properties. Technically speaking, the maitake mushroom is considered an adaptogen as it positively affects mood. It’s also known to help the body maintain homeostasis or a state of balance, explaining its benefits for hormones, especially in those with PCOS.
Recent research found that taking maitake mushroom may induce ovulation in women with PCOS. Maitake was compared to a known drug called clomiphene citrate (CC), which can help stimulate ovulation. However, the drug comes with side effects such as hot flashes, weight gain, mood swings, dizziness, and abdominal discomfort. It may also thicken the cervical mucus, which can lower the chance of pregnancy.
“The present study suggests that MSX alone may induce ovulation in PCOS patients and may be useful as an adjunct therapy for patients who failed first-line CC treatment.”
In the study, 77% of patients who took maitake ovulated compared to 93.5% of those who took CC. The difference is quite significant, but given the “natural” background of maitake, it was cited to have no observed side effects, making it an appealing alternative treatment.
Although the study is too small to form any solid conclusions, it shows that Maitake might just be a more tolerated treatment for anovulation.
Reishi mushroom is a common ingredient in Eastern medicine. Research finds that it can help boost the immune system, lower the risks of cancer, and in the case of PCOS, can help reduce androgens.
A study published in the International Journal of Endocrinology Metabolism mentioned Reishi as a medicinal mushroom with one of the most robust anti-androgenic properties in all mushrooms.
“Reishi mushrooms had the strongest action in inhibiting testosterone. That study found that reishi mushrooms significantly reduced levels of 5-alpha reductase, preventing conversion of testosterone into the more potent DHT.”
Hyperandrogenism or having too much androgen can lead to acne, hair loss, increased facial hair, and irregular menstruation. Because of its antagonizing effect on androgens, reishi mushrooms can help manage the symptoms brought about by hyperandrogenism.
White Button Mushroom
White Button Mushrooms (Agaricus bisporus) constitute around 90% of the mushrooms people eat in the US. When they mature and grow big enough, they’re then called portobello mushrooms.
Like many mushrooms, White Mushrooms are low in calories, but are incredibly nutrient-dense. They can be a good source of selenium, phosphorus, folate, and even vitamin D.
For those with PCOS, the vitamin D in white button mushrooms can be helpful for a regular menstrual cycle. It can enhance glucose tolerance as well as increase insulin sensitivity. For maximum vitamin D levels, choose white button mushrooms dried in the sun. If in supplement form, make sure the vitamin D levels are correctly indicated.
More than the insulin and glucose benefits, white button mushroom consumption might also lead to improved cardiovascular health, especially when it comes to managing common blood markers of heart disease.
“Decrease in total cholesterol, LDL, and total triglycerides concentrations was accompanied by a significant increase in plasma high-density lipoprotein concentrations. It was concluded that A bisporus mushroom had both hypoglycemic and hypolipidemic activity…”
While medicinal mushrooms for PCOS will not address all of your root causes and symptoms, they may be useful as a supplement to other treatments and lifestyle upgrades.
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.