PCOS is a common endocrine disorder that women all over the world experience. While its root cause is unknown, the research largely points to certain lifestyle factors and dietary choices. The symptoms include excess male hormones, irregular periods, and in many cases, infertility. Because there is no known cause, treating PCOS relies on a holistic approach.
Supplements for PCOS are widely available and include anything from minerals to vitamins to plant-based adaptogens, teas, and trace elements. Knowing what’s right your body isn’t easy. If you followed all the PCOS treatment advice out there, you’d be on the birth control pill, taking a diabetes drug, and have at least 20 different supplements stacked in your cupboard. You need to be as direct, realistic, and safe as possible in your approach to treating PCOS. Consider these two important points when you’re shopping for a supplement: your PCOS type and your lifestyle.
In this article, we’ll discuss the four different types of PCOS and what drives each one. We’ll also touch on what lifestyle factors may be exacerbating your symptoms. Then we’ll look at 10 evidenced-based supplements for treating PCOS, and how they impact specific drivers and symptoms of PCOS.
Best PCOS Supplements - 10 Solutions for Hormones, Fertility, & More
You’re on the hunt for a good natural treatment for PCOS. But there are hundreds of PCOS supplements out there, an overwhelming number of blogs, but a shortage of science-backed info that’s not only accessible but relatable. There’s nothing that speaks specifically to your PCOS symptoms (because they’re not the same for all women).
You may have already realized that PCOS isn’t well-defined, so chances are, you’re not even sure that your diagnosis is correct. Further, if you were to follow all the advice out there, you’d be spending six digits a year on PCOS supplements, drowning in synthetic “treatments” or eating kale for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
If you’re on the hunt for the best supplements for PCOS, we’ve got you covered––really. You don’t have the money or desire to take 15 different supplements for PCOS. That’s why we rated each one in order of potency and effectiveness for treating PCOS.
Consider the drivers and the type of PCOS you have when you’re reading this list. In some cases, what works for one type of PCOS well, won’t work for another. You must know what’s driving your PCOS and what the dominant symptoms of PCOS are. Your main goal in treating PCOS, regardless of type, is to restore regular ovulation. That means you have to get hormone happy because your periods aren’t going to regulate unless your hormones are balanced.
What is PCOS?
Polycystic ovary syndrome is a hormonal disorder that affects about 20% of women of reproductive age (1). It’s characterized by excess male hormones and ovulatory dysfunction. In most cases, you’ll recognize those markers as acne or facial hair and irregular periods. Just when you thought life would be easier as a man it turns out that you actually want to get your period. Not only is a regular period a critical sign of overall health (that’s mind-body-soul health), it also means you have a much higher chance of getting pregnant.
Why Your PCOS Type Matters
PCOS has four main drivers: insulin resistance, post-pill side-effects, inflammation, and dysfunctional adrenal glands (2). That’s why some women have PCOS but don’t test positive for insulin resistance, or why some women can have PCOS without having weight issues. To effectively treat PCOS and increase your chances of getting pregnant, you must know what’s driving your condition. Let’s take a look.
Your PCOS type may be the reason why one supplement may be more effective than another.
Insulin Resistant PCOS
This is the most common type of PCOS and the reason many women struggle to maintain a healthy weight. In this type, the two main characteristics of PCOS are present (excess androgens and irregular periods), plus there is insulin resistance. It occurs when the pancreas makes too much insulin in response to too much sugar entering the bloodstream. Excess insulin causes the ovaries to make testosterone instead of estrogen, which impairs ovulation (2).
If you test negative for insulin resistance, you were recently on the birth control pill, and your hormones were fine before you started the pill, you may have post-pill PCOS. Hormonal birth control suppresses ovulation, which can mess with the body’s natural balance and result in a lengthy recovery (2).
Inflammatory PCOS occurs when there are excess male hormones and irregular periods, but no insulin resistance or problems with the pill, and there are clear signs of inflammation. Those signs include unexplained fatigue, digestive issues/food intolerances, joint pain, skin conditions, and headaches (2).
When the base criteria are present, and the three other types have been ruled out, adrenal PCOS may be the issue. This type occurs when the adrenal glands produce a high level of DHEAS, a male hormone, in response to chronic stress and nutrient deficiency (2).
Is PCOS Naturally Treatable?
We tend to think of supplements as additional therapy to synthetic drugs for treating any type of health condition (indeed, supplement literally means extra). Sometimes they’re the last alternative; sometimes they’re used to augment conventional treatments. But the truth is, there isn’t a great deal of faith in natural medicine. People will vow to a life of celibacy from conventional drugs until they develop a serious health condition, and then all that goes out the window. An herb couldn’t possibly cure illness, could it? Prevent maybe, but certainly not treat.
The reality is that conventional medicine is powerful and fast-acting. Natural remedies tend to take more time and produce less consistent results. The difference is that while synthetic drugs may appear to fix a health problem, in many cases, a band-aid effect is taking place. That is, they’re treating the symptoms rather than the underlying cause. Natural treatments, including supplements for PCOS fertility, can provide sustainable and often regenerative results, as well as working to prevent future issues.
So yes, PCOS is naturally treatable using an integrative approach. That means there isn’t a magic pill. Instead, curing PCOS requires a combination of a nutritious low-sugar diet, regular exercise, a healthy mindset, and the right supplements (read: not every supplement under the sun).
How Do PCOS Supplements Work?
There are two ways the following supplements work to treat PCOS. The first is by targeting the hormonal imbalance. The second is to solve potential nutrient deficiency. Keep in mind that supplements won’t be as effective without also implementing a healthy, wholesome diet.
Be assured that even if a supplement doesn’t directly affect fertility, improving the drivers, such as inflammation or insulin resistance, can increase your chances of getting pregnant.
Best PCOS Supplements
Myo Inositol (For Fertility)
This is our number one recommendation for treating PCOS and boosting fertility. Not because we make and offer a high-quality supplement, but because the evidence supports it. Some research even demonstrates that it may be as equally or more effective than taking metformin, a diabetes drug that lowers insulin resistance (3, 4).
In a controlled study comparing the effects of myo inositol versus metformin over six months, researchers found that women achieved a natural pregnancy rate of 30%, compared to just 18% of the women who took metformin (3).
Other studies have shown that myo inositol reduces AMH (anti-müllerian hormone that is made of reproductive tissue). AMH indicates a diminished ovarian reserve, that is, a low number of egg cells (5). While it sounds counterproductive, women with PCOS have a much higher level of AMH than healthy women, that is, they’re AMH levels are too high, creating problems with fertility (6).
Myo inositol may also shrink the size of polycystic ovaries better than the birth control pill (6), lower the risk of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS) in women undergoing fertility treatment, and increase egg quality (7, 8) (when quantity is in rapid decline, quality counts!).
While myo inositol doesn’t appear to have a significant effect on weight loss, acne, or hirsutism, it can help treat anxiety and boost fertility because it improves ovarian function, promotes healthy ovulation, and stabilizes periods (7, 9). It may also improve insulin sensitivity and reduce androgens (10).
When you’re buying supplements for PCOS, quality is your main consideration. Know that you’re buying from a trusted brand. Myo Inositol Plus™ with D-Chiro-Inositol (Caronositol®) from Omnibiotics is a 100% pure vegan source free of GMOs and gluten.
Magnesium (For Insulin Resistance)
It’s almost a guarantee that you’re deficient in this important mineral that maintains proper blood sugar, builds bone and DNA, and regulates muscle and nerve function. Magnesium deficiency affects most of us to some degree. It doesn’t stick around in the body very long, and too many factors interfere with your body’s ability to absorb it.
Magnesium deficiency is bad news for women with PCOS. It’s a required mineral for sugar metabolism, so too little may lead to insulin resistance. Environmental toxins, coffee, cow’s milk, soda, certain medications, age, and calcium levels all affect how well our body absorbs magnesium. As well, the average body only absorbs about 20%-50% of magnesium to begin with, and our soil is deficient in magnesium leading to a deficiency in subsequent crops.
While it can be difficult to accurately determine if you’re deficient in magnesium without a blood test, a supplement will give you way more benefit than food alone (you’d have to eat a lot of raw chocolate!). If you have insulin-resistant type PCOS, consider taking a high-quality magnesium chelate or bisglycinate supplement for one month. Divide your dose and take with meals to avoid any laxative effect.
Zinc (For Fertility and Hyperandrogenism)
Zinc is an excellent PCOS supplement for targeting several symptoms related to excess androgens such as ovulation dysfunction, acne, weight issues, insulin resistance, and imbalanced blood glucose levels. If you’ve been on the birth control pill recently, you may be zinc deficient.
While it doesn’t reduce inflammation or other biomarkers of oxidative stress when taken alone, research has shown that zinc can improve alopecia (male pattern baldness), and hirsutism (facial hair) (11) because it helps reduce the male hormone DHT. This natural androgen blocker helps the body eliminate excess testosterone, improving ovarian function.
Zinc is a crucial element for follicular development and maturation. Supplementing with zinc not only regulates your cycle, but it can also help to boost fertility (12). There is also evidence to suggest that zinc can lift depression, which many women with PCOS experience (11).
However, there are some interactions of which to be aware. Zinc strikes a delicate balance with copper, so get a blood test to determine that you have healthy, balanced levels of both. While some studies suggest that a zinc-magnesium combination can help reduce inflammation, too much zinc will affect magnesium absorption (13).
Probiotics (For Inflammation)
Overall, probiotics are essential for a healthy microbiome and to help your body assimilate nutrients from food (14). Probiotic intervention is showing promising results for chronic illness where conventional medicine fails to deliver. A plausible reason for this relates to the effect of probiotics on inflammation, a suspected root cause of disease.
There is more and more evidence suggesting that an imbalance between the good gut bacteria and the harmful ones may be largely contributing to PCOS. Inflammation comes up again in again as a marker of PCOS because certain harmful bacteria contain inflammation stimulators on their cell walls. Inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract can create permeability in intestinal walls causing inflammation to, in effect, leak out into the bloodstream, eventually causing a rise in insulin levels and androgens.
Understanding the science behind it isn’t easy, but clinical studies can help shed some light on whether probiotic therapy actually works. One study demonstrated that lactobacillus found in some fermented foods can improve inflammation in PCOS (15). Another clinical study that evaluated the effects of a 12-week probiotic intervention on 60 women diagnosed with PCOS showed improvement in inflammatory markers (16).
But it’s difficult to tease out whether gut dysbiosis plays more of a causative or reactionary role in PCOS. Nonetheless, using specific live cultures to equalize bacteria imbalances head-on may be an effective, natural treatment for curing PCOS. Some health experts recommend including more plant fibers in your diet, at least 25 different species each week to help encourage healthy gut bacteria.
Curcumin / Turmeric (For Inflammation)
Knowing that inflammation is one of the drivers behind PCOS, it stands to reason that natural anti-inflammatories can benefit women with PCOS. Curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, has been used for thousands of years in traditional Indian medicine to treat illness, and it’s used as a PCOS treatment in Ayurveda. More recently, it has become the subject of hundreds of studies that attempt to treat inflammation as a way to prevent disease.
Consuming dietary sources of turmeric or taking a supplement may help to reduce chronic inflammation and improve PCOS. Proper absorption of turmeric is facilitated by black pepper extract, so ensure you choose a supplement that includes both.
Do you keep seeing recipes for Golden Milk popping up? It’s a delicious way to consume turmeric and get a good dose of healthy fats.
Berberine (For Insulin Resistance)
Berberine is a bioactive compound extract historically used in Traditional Chinese Medicine, and it affects the body’s system at a molecular level. That is, it changes the function of specific enzymes, similar to how pharmaceutical drugs work.
It has a powerful effect on blood glucose levels and has shown to be as effective as the diabetes drug metformin. In a 3-month study of 100 women, berberine had a significant impact on body weight, fasting insulin, and testosterone, and proved to have other significant health benefits. Test results showed a significant decrease in triglycerides, total cholesterol, and LDL, and HDL, compared to metformin (17). In addition, a meta-analysis of nine randomized controlled trials also revealed that berberine can improve insulin resistance as well as metformin (18).
Chromium (For Insulin Resistance)
Chromium is an essential trace element shown to improve the way our body uses insulin. Its main benefits include stabilizing blood sugar levels and supporting healthy body weight. One study found that five months of chromium supplement therapy in women with PCOS improved their chances of ovulation and regular periods two-fold (19). There is also some evidence to suggest that it can improve depression.
Omega 3 Fish Oil (For Insulin Resistance & Regular Periods)
Here’s another reliable nutrient supplement that benefits insulin resistance. Systematic reviews and several research studies demonstrate the impact of omega 3 fatty acids on PCOS because they improve insulin resistance. However, as in most cases, more clinical trials are necessary to determine the validity of impact (see 20). Some studies have shown that omega 3 supplements can improve the regularity of periods (21, 22).
Vitamin D (For Fertility and Insulin Resistance)
Vitamin D is one of the most researched nutrient deficiencies in recent years; indeed, it’s a common problem worldwide. There is a relationship between insufficient levels of vitamin D and conditions such as diabetes, metabolic syndrome, obesity, cardiovascular disease, and hypertension (23).
Studies have revealed a strong correlation between vitamin D deficiency and PCOS. The ovaries require the natural anti-inflammatory properties of vitamin D for healthy functioning. Without it, they can’t produce fertile eggs. A growing body of literature suggests that low levels of vitamin D may adversely impact reproductive functions (24). One study reported that 85% of women with PCOS have vitamin D deficiency and that the genes involved in vitamin D metabolism may be the same genes that increase a woman’s susceptibility to PCOS (25). Another study showed that vitamin D supplementation in women who were deficient improved insulin resistance (23).
NAC For PCOS
NAC is a semi-essential amino acid with an important role in the production of antioxidants. It helps immune function, assists detoxification, reduces addictive behavior, and what you may be here for––improves fertility.
Several studies have reported the impact of NAC on fertility in women with PCOS as demonstrated by an improvement in ovulation and pregnancy rates (26, 27), One study in particular showed an increased number of mature follicles, estrogen, progesterone, and endometrial thickness, and the occurrence of pregnancy after just five days of treatment (27).
Should I Combine Supplements?
If you’re going to try a few supplements for PCOS, diversify. Choose one that addresses different drivers for the most overall benefit. But ensure there aren’t any contraindications. If you know what’s driving your type, for example, inflammation, choose a combo that directly targets inflammation. Here are three combinations to consider:
Magnesium & Zinc
Some research reveals an association between zinc and magnesium deficiency and miscarriage so supplementing with both can boost your chances of having a healthy pregnancy (14).
Magnesium and zinc co-supplementation appear to improve biomarkers of inflammation and oxidative stress as well as gene expression related to inflammation in women with PCOS (13). This finding suggests that this combination may not only improve symptoms in women with inflammatory PCOS but it can positively influence the body’s innate, hereditary response to inflammation. Remember the delicate balance here; too much zinc can affect magnesium absorption.
Myo Inositol & Folic Acid
This powerful combination can impact insulin resistance, adrenal androgens, and fertility. A study involving 137 women with PCOS diagnosed according to Rotterdam criteria evaluated the effects of myo inositol and folic acid co-supplementation. After 3-months of treatment, a significant decrease in fasting glucose, DHEAS, and prolactin were observed, compared with combined oral contraceptive treatment (5).
Probiotics & Vitamin D
Improving the gut flora and boosting the sunshine vitamin may lower those excess androgens that lead to acne, facial hair, and male pattern baldness. One study showed that the 12-week co-supplementation of vitamin D and probiotics in women with PCOS significantly reduced total testosterone (28).
Trust Your Gut
When it comes to choosing a supplement for PCOS and fertility, digging into the research is critical. Checking in with your doctor can help clarify information and give you a better understanding about what supplements are right and safe for your PCOS type. Before beginning any supplementation therapy, consult with your health expert, whether that’s your naturopath, nutritionist, or GP. This is especially important if you’re pregnant or trying to get pregnant.
If something is off in the body, chances are the gut has something to do with it. Even though you may show no outward signs of intestinal dysbiosis, fostering a healthy microbiome is the first step for treating PCOS. If harmful bacteria are abundant, your body is going to be in constant fight mode, trying to equalize that imbalance. So, choose a high quality probiotic or include more prebiotic and probiotic foods in your diet.
Once that’s underway, consider a supplement that targets several drivers at once. Myo inositol is an excellent choice and one of the most promising natural treatments for fertility in women with PCOS. Myo Inositol Plus™ with D-Chiro-Inositol (Caronositol®) from Omnibiotics is a 100% pure vegan source free of GMOs and gluten.
Last but not of least importance, is your mindset. Tell your body it’s strong enough to come through every day. Establishing positive inner dialogue is the foundation for making the necessary changes to improve our health. Eating right, getting enough exercise and sleep, and reducing stress doesn’t happen outside of the relationship––and conversations––we have with ourselves.
This article is intended as an interest piece. Data provided are collated from numerous clinical trial summaries and reports available online. They are not meant to diagnosis or advise treatment for PCOS. Always consult with a doctor before beginning any course of natural treatment for PCOS.