Yesterday we took a very brief tour through some of the medical drug treatments available for managing PCOS symptoms but there are a lot of countries where these treatments are either financially out of reach of the average woman or just not available. There is also a significant proportion of PCOS warriors that just can’t take the medical treatments for one reason or another. To that end, I plan to share some of the alternative therapies I’ve researched that are available over the counter or online.
Again, please let me reiterate that I am not a medical professional. Any information I share is entirely from my own research or experience and is not to be taken as advice or guidance. Please research for yourself and/or discuss with a medical professional that you trust. The sole purpose of this post is to let you know what is available out there so that you can make up your own mind which path to take.
Probably the first thing I would suggest is a magnesium supplement. Studies have shown that it can increase insulin sensitivity and reduce systemic inflammation. It has also been shown to reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes which, as we have already explored, is a common secondary comorbidity with PCOS. There is also evidence that it reduces stress, depression and anxiety and can aid sleep which, as you will see later this month, is a serious issue for many sufferers of PCOS.
Melatonin is an interesting topic of conversation in the PCOS world. Primarily it is sold over the counter as a sleeping aid and I’ll discuss it a little more later in the month in relation to sleep issues with PCOS, but the scientific community is divided over whether it’s a useful supplement or not. Some studies have linked elevated levels in the blood to excess testosterone in the blood, which is a bad thing. At the complete opposite of the spectrum, scientists are looking at melatonin as a potential treatment for improving menstrual regularity in women with PCOS. It’s up to you what you make of the available research, but it’s definitely something to watch in future as more research is carried out into the biochemistry of PCOS.
Herbal tea was probably the surprise treatment that I stumbled across quite by accident. I drink a lot of tea so this was one I was more than happy to test out and I quite enjoy the taste of the different fresh herbs. I’ll often blend them together to give me variation. Luckily science is getting on board with this as a concept and there’s some really interesting research coming out about teas.
The one I usually suggest is spearmint tea. It has significant anti-androgen effects and has been suggested as a treatment for reducing hirsutism in women suffering from PCOS. To the best of my knowledge, the recommended daily dosage is two mugs a day which has been steeped for 5 minutes.
Sage tea is another great one. It has quite a savoury flavour which I like in the evenings when I don’t want caffeine but I want that full bodied flavour. It has been shown to have an effect similar to Metformin on regulating blood glucose levels.
Lemon Verbena tea is another of my favourites. It has anti-inflammatory properties as well as a really pleasing light, citrus flavour. While I couldn’t find any studies linking it directly to PCOS, since we’ve already established that there’s an element of chronic low-grade inflammation to PCOS, teas with anti-inflammatory properties can only be a good thing. There is evidence in non-human clinical trials that lemon verbena tea can reduce inflammation in the digestive tract which will assist with the diet in reducing general inflammation in the body.
Liquorice (licorice) root has been shown to have anti-androgen properties, reducing the amount of free testosterone in the blood stream. The study cited used a supplement and liquorice root supplements are widely available, but liquorice root tea is even more widely available and you can also buy the root for chewing purposes.
Moving away from teas, lysine is an interesting supplement to discuss. There’s a significant volume of anecdotal evidence out there about the benefits of it for helping acne, improving sleep and also reducing stress and anxiety. I’ve seen articles that break down the science of it and explain why it works, but I have yet to find a single relevant scholarly article on the subject. It’s important to note that this doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not scientifically supported; it just means that specific research studies haven’t been carried out yet. Lysine is a widely available supplement but can also be increased in the diet by eating lysine rich foods such as chickpeas, nuts, eggs, seeds, beans and lentils.
I have seen a number of places recommending Vitex as a supplement for PCOS to assist with pre-menstrual symptoms which are often distressing to sufferers of PCOS. I’ve also seen anecdotal evidence from several PCOS warriors in the forums that it has helped them and for that reason I am including it here as a potential alternative therapy. Unfortunately the medical information regarding this is mixed, from reviews that claim a positive effect, to reviews that claim the effects have been overestimated. Both reviews state a definitive need for better clinical research studies for the use of Vitex to treat pre-menstrual disorders. This is a common theme in this arena of medicine, as in the preceding paragraph about lysine. Hormonal issues including PMS and acne are sorely lacking in decent exploratory clinical research and this is something that needs to change.
The final supplement I wanted to talk about today is Inositol. This is something I have seen mentioned time and again in PCOS forums, but I confess I have not tried it myself, although it is on my list of supplements to trial (we are trying things slowly, one at a time over a few months). There are two kinds of inositol – myo-inositol (MI) and d-chiro-inositol (DCI). To the best of my understanding, inositols form a component of a hormone signalling pathway, including insulin and FSH. There is a pretty good scientific review here which gives a breakdown of the current research that has been carried out. If you look to the right hand side of the screen (when viewed on a desktop or laptop), there are a number of links to other scientific articles about inositol in the treatment of PCOS. The long and short of it is that the research is very promising. Both variations have been shown to reduce weight, improve menstrual regularity, produce better eggs and increase chances of conception, and the results are improved even further by combining the two. Inositol supplements are widely available for purchase but because the research is relatively new (see this article from June 2017), an optimal dose or ratio of combination of the two drugs has not yet been established. A study in January 2017 tried using them in normal plasma ratio of 40:1 MI to DCI with promising results but concluded that further research is required to confirm their results. Again, it’s another interesting one to watch.
In conclusion, I hope it’s clear that there are a number of options available to those for whom the current accepted standard medical practice cannot apply. As you can see from those last two articles I posted, the science is changing all the time. More research is being carried out and people are asking more questions. Whatever your approach to treating your PCOS, I do hope that you will keep up to date with new research as it’s carried out and perhaps even volunteer for clinical trials if any are happening in your area. The more data they can access, the better the results will be.