5 nutrients to add to your diet
- Vitamin D and omega 3 can help with PCOS because they can improve insulin resistance.
- A study found that 50 milligrams of zinc can reduce PCOS symptoms like alopecia.
- Myo-inositol is a sugar alcohol that can help reduce androgens or male sex hormones.
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a condition that develops due to an imbalance of reproductive hormones. This causes a variety of symptoms like acne or irregular menstrual cycles.
Although there is no single remedy, certain nutrients can help relieve some of these symptoms.
Many of them work by improving two key effects of PCOS:
- Insulin resistance: This is a condition in which your body does not react as it should to insulin, the hormone that regulates blood sugar. In people with PCOS, it can cause symptoms such as weight gain and hirsutism, which is excessive hair growth.
- Excess androgens: People with PCOS produce abnormally high levels of androgens, which are male sex hormones. This can cause symptoms such as acne and alopecia,
Although you may be tempted to take a supplement, the best way to absorb nutrients is primarily through food. Here are five different nutritional compounds that can help you manage your PCOS symptoms.
1. Vitamin D
Vitamin D plays a role in glucose metabolism, or the process by which the body breaks down carbohydrates into simple sugars to provide energy, says Jennifer Bridenbaugh, registered dietitian nutritionist and assistant professor at the Rutgers School of Health Professions.
Since it helps with your body’s sugar-regulating processes, a 2019 literature review found that vitamin D may also improve insulin resistance in people with PCOS.
You can get vitamin D in your diet by eating the following foods:
- Liver oils from fish like cod
- The flesh of fatty fish such as tuna, salmon and mackerel
- Milk fortified with vitamin D
- Canned sardines in oil
“Sun exposure after a good walk outside is another great way to get vitamin D,” says Dr. Emily Jungheim, chief of reproductive endocrinology and infertility at Northwestern Medicine. .
You can get enough vitamin D by exposing yourself to the sun for 15 minutes a few times a week.
2. Omega 3 fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of fat that the body needs but cannot produce on its own, which means you need to get them from your diet.
They have anti-inflammatory properties, which help with PCOS because inflammation can lead to insulin resistance and excess androgens, according to Jungheim and Bridenbaugh.
Omega-3 fatty acids are found naturally in many foods, including:
- Fatty cold water fish such as salmon, tuna and sardines
- Vegetable oils like soybean and canola oil
- Seeds like chia seeds and flax seeds
Supplements can be helpful, but incorporating omega-3 fatty acids into your diet — such as replacing red meat or poultry with oily fish — is generally recommended, Jungheim says.
The human body generally needs zinc for immune function and metabolism, but for people with PCOS, this nutrient may have an added benefit.
A small 2016 study found that supplementing with 50 milligrams of zinc daily for eight weeks can reduce some of the symptoms of PCOS, such as alopecia and hirsutism.
There are many rich sources of zinc, such as:
- Seafood like crabs and lobsters
- Red meat
- Beans and nuts
Although zinc is good for you, too much can lead to impaired taste or copper deficiency.
Myo-inositol is a sugar alcohol that regulates certain hormones in the body.
It helps improve insulin sensitivity, so it may benefit people with PCOS who have insulin resistance, Jungheim says. It can also help reduce androgen levels.
According to Bridenbaugh, myo-inositol can be taken as a supplement, but it’s also found in the following foods:
Carnitine is a substance that the body produces naturally to turn fat into energy. It is necessary not only for the body’s energy production, but also for its glucose metabolism.
A small 2016 study found that 12 weeks of oral carnitine can reduce insulin resistance and body weight in overweight people with PCOS.
Decreased blood L-carnitine levels may also be associated with insulin resistance and high androgen levels in non-obese people with PCOS. Therefore, this group of people could also benefit from supplementation.
You can get carnitine from a variety of sources, including:
- Beef steak
- Ground beef
There are many supplements that could help you manage your PCOS symptoms, but you should talk to a healthcare professional before taking anything.
Not everyone with PCOS has the same symptoms, so symptom management is individualized for each patient, Bridenbaugh says.
For example, if your concern is infertility or abnormal periods, talk to your OB/GYN or get referred to a specialist in reproductive endocrinology and infertility. But if your concern is weight loss and you’ve tried strategies that don’t seem to work, you can try talking to a PCOS dietician, Jungheim says.