Updated: Nov 30, 2022
Vitamin deficiencies are extremely common amongst women with PCOS. Often times, prescribed PCOS medication have the ability to lower important nutrients and minerals within the body as well.
By Roxi Thiam
Vitamin deficiencies are extremely common amongst women with PCOS. Often times, prescribed PCOS medication have the ability to lower important nutrients and minerals within the body as well. Vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants have vital functions. To illustrate, low vitamin D has been repeatedly linked to insulin resistance, heart disease, and depression. In addition, research shows that folate and vitamin B12 aid insulin resistance and can decrease your risk of diabetes.
Tackling the root causes of your specific PCOS type is essential to eliminating your symptoms. Western medicine does a great job of treating symptoms, but I encourage you to seek treatment for your condition from the core.
Common PCOS Medication and Related Vitamin Deficiencies
Many medications commonly prescribed for PCOS can lead to nutrient deficiencies. So, if you’re taking any of the below medications, be sure to test for these deficiencies and work with your healthcare practitioner to determine a plan to get you back to optimal levels.
Oral Contraceptive pills : folate, magnesium, selenium, zinc, vitamin B12, vitamin B2, vitamin B6, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin A
Spironolactone : folate, calcium, potassium, vitamin B1, vitamin C, magnesium, zinc
Additionally, many SSRI antidepressants also deplete folate
Wow. What a list! Now, let’s get to the fun part, my top 10 herbs and supplements for PCOS.
Remember Cysters, if you’re currently taking prescription medication, please consult with your physician before beginning a new treatment routine.
Top 10 Herbs and Supplements
(This list is in no particular order)
Magnesium is a mineral that is largely found within the human body and found naturally in many foods. It plays an essential role in over 600 enzyme reactions that affect muscle and nerve function, metabolism, blood sugar levels and blood pressure. Deficiency in magnesium is common in women with PCOS and those with type 2 diabetes. Additionally, women who take birth control pills who do not include a magnesium supplement, have reduced levels of this nutrient as well. Magnesium supplementation is known to improve insulin resistance, decrease the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, improves inflammation and redresses adrenal hormones.
Foods High in Magnesium:
Seeds (pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds)
Nuts (almonds, hazelnuts)
Legumes (peanuts, black beans, soybeans)
Grains (brown rice, oats, sorghum, barley, teff)
Vegetables (spinach, potatoes)
Raw cacao (my favorite source of magnesium!)
67–85% of women with PCOS are deficient in Vitamin D; and your risk increases if you don’t get much sunlight. Vitamin D plays a vital function in reproductive hormone regulation and impacts anti-mullerian hormone (AMH), follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), and progesterone levels. It’s also important for blood sugar and insulin regulation. Research has shown that vitamin D supplementation improves fertility, lowers testosterone levels, and lowers inflammation (as measured by hs-CRP levels) in women with PCOS (1). Vitamin D
Low levels of vitamin D is a sign of insulin resistance and obesity in women with PCOS.
Foods High in Vitamin D:
Fish (swordfish, salmon, tuna)
Cod liver oil
Zinc is a trace nutrient involved in hundreds of functions and reactions in the body. It is necessary for controlling the menstrual cycle and fertility. Women with PCOS may be lacking in this essential metal. If you are zinc deficient you may notice cravings for salt and sugar foods, a sign of insulin resistance.
Studies have shown that zinc supplementation in women with PCOS improves fertility and reduces the effects of high testosterone, including acne, hirsutism, and hair loss (2, 3). Zinc, in combination with magnesium, has also been shown to decrease inflammation in women with PCOS (4). You should take Omega 3’s when taking zinc supplements to help with absorption.
Foods High in Zinc (5):
Meat (beef, bison, lamb, turkey)
Legumes (black beans, azuki beans)
Seeds (pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds)
Vitamin B12 is required for red blood cell formation, DNA synthesis, and nerve function. This vitamin is predominantly found in animal foods, so the risk for deficiency is higher in vegetarians and vegans. Studies have shown that metformin use and oral contraceptives significantly reduce serum B12 levels (6, 7), so daily supplementation is essential. Vitamin B12 deficiency causes infertility, skin conditions, insomnia, and irrational behavior.
Vitamin B12 supplementation may improve fertility and fatigue in women with PCOS (8).
Foods High in Vitamin B12 (9):
Shellfish (mussels, oysters, crab)
Fish (herring, salmon)
This is also known as B-9 vitamin. It may help treat ovulatory infertility (10), one of the major complications of PCOS. It is also good for any woman trying to conceive as it has a protective effect against neural tube defects that occur in early pregnancy. It also greatly improves ovulaiton in women with PCOS and raises high-density lipoprotein (HDL) levels, “good” form of cholesterol when combined with inositol (11). Folic acid supplements have also been found effective in the treatment of high homocysteine levels (12). Elevated homocysteine levels have been linked to heart disease, stroke and endocrine disorders like hyperinsulinemia.
Foods High in Folate (13):
Legumes (lentils, black beans, soybeans)
Vegetables (asparagus, beets, spinach)
Fruits (mangoes, oranges)
Berberine is shown to be as effective as metformin at reducing blood sugar levels, lowering excess androgens, and decreasing body weight & BMI - which is key for women with PCOS. (14). It is also shown to improve and eliminate inflammation, reduce insulin levels, improve metabolism, and drop cholesterol and blood pressure levels. (15) Taking 500 mg of berberine 3 times per day (1500 mg total) shows to improve glucose control and other markers of type 2 diabetes just as well as taking 1500 mg of the diabetes drug Metformin. (16) Another analysis has shown berberine combined with lifestyle changes is more effective in lowering blood glucose than lifestyle alone. (17) Berberine also has some anti-fungal and antibiotic properties.
Chromium is key to reducing insulin resistance and excess androgens; which is often a problem for women with PCOS. (18) Taking this supplement helps control cravings and reduces hunger. Chromium also helps to control fat and cholesterol in the blood. It is a powerful supplement when it comes to natural PCOS treatment. (19) Chromium in combination with myoinositol, L-tyrosine, and selenium have been shown to restore the menstrual cycle, improve hirsutism, and restore ovulation. (20)
Foods high in chromium: (21)
Whole grains (like oat and barley)
Inositol is a Vitamin B derivative which improves PCOS symptoms by lowering insulin resistance and promote insulin sensitivity. It is also known as vitamin B8. Research shows inositol to be as effective as metformin in combating insulin sensitivity in women with PCOS. (22) Along with folic acid, myoinositol has shown phenomenal results in improving ovulatory function. It also reduces testosterone, lowers blood pressure, and increases the frequency of ovulation. (23) Numerous also conclude that Myo-inositol is either equally or more effective than metformin at achieving pregnancy, weight loss, menstration, and in PCOS women. (23, 24, 25, 26) Assumption is, women with PCOS lack the proper function to use inositol properly, which could probably be the reason for elevated insulin levels.
Foods high in inositol: (27)
Fruit (like oranges, peaches, pears, and banana)
Whole grains (not refined grains)
Vegetables (like bell peppers, tomatoes, potatoes, leafy greens, and asparagus)
Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Omega 3’s help improves the sensitivity to insulin and has been found to reduce testosterone levels associated with androgen excess (28). Its properties can also reduce insulin resistance, inflammation and high blood pressure. Omega 3 supplements combined with vitamin E has been proven to significantly improve severe menstrual cramps, known as dysmenorrhea. (29) They can normalize the heartbeat and when combined with the correct amino acids, can reduce blood pressure, improve blood flow, and prevent clogging of the arteries. (30)
Foods high in omega 3s: (31)
Fish (mackerel, salmon, cod liver oil, oysters, sardines)
Seeds (flax seeds, chia seeds)
Ashwagandha is an ancient form of medicine that provides numerous benefits to the body and brain. It acts as a natural stress reliever; proven to lower blood sugar and cortisol levels. Random trials demonstrate why Ashwagandha is known as the hormone balancing superhero. This powerful herb has a wonderful effect on PCOS women who live with anxiety, depression, and stress. (32, 33, 34)
This is just a small list of amazing supplements and herbs to reverse or limit your PCOS symptoms. Which are you willing to try? Can’t wait to hear from you!