5 vitamins that fight PCOS symptoms like weight gain, according to a dietician and reproductive hormone expert
- Vitamin D and omega 3s can help with PCOS since they can improve insulin resistance.
- One study found that 50 milligrams of zinc may reduce PCOS symptoms like alopecia.
Although there is no one-size-fits-all remedy, certain nutrients may help ease some of these symptoms.
Many of these work by improving two key effects of PCOS:
- Insulin resistance: This is a condition where your body does not respond as it should to insulin, the hormone that regulates blood sugar levels. In people with PCOS, it may cause symptoms like weight gain and hirsutism, aka excessive hair growth.
- Androgen excess: People with PCOS produce abnormally high levels of androgens, which are male sex hormones. This may cause symptoms like acne and alopecia,
Though you might be tempted to take a supplement, the best way to absorb nutrients is primarily through food. Here are five different nutritional compounds that may help you deal with your PCOS symptoms.
Note: You can also consume these in supplement form, but always consult a healthcare provider beforehand to understand the risks and side effects. This is especially important if you're taking prescribed medications, since supplements can interact with these.
1. Vitamin D
Vitamin D plays a role in glucose metabolism, or the process where the body breaks down carbohydrates into simple sugars to supply energy, says Jennifer Bridenbaugh, registered dietitian nutritionist and assistant professor at Rutgers School of Health Professions.
- Liver oils from fish like cod
- The flesh of fatty fish like tuna, salmon, and mackerel
- Vitamin D-fortified milk
- Canned sardines in oil
You can get enough vitamin D by being exposed 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 can't produce on its own, which means you must get them from your diet.
Omega-3 fatty acids are found naturally in many foods, which include:
- Cold-water fatty fish like salmon, tuna, and sardines
- Plant oils like soybean and canola oil
- Seeds like chia seeds and flaxseed
Supplements may be helpful, but incorporating omega-3 fatty acids into your diet — like replacing red meat or poultry intake with fatty 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 additional benefit.
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 of it may result in an altered sense of taste or copper deficiency.
A small 2016 study found that 12 weeks of oral carnitine administration may reduce insulin resistance and body weight among overweight individuals with PCOS.
Decreased levels of L-carnitine in the blood may also be associated with insulin resistance and high androgen levels in non-obese people with PCOS, therefore this group of people might benefit from supplementation as well.
You can get carnitine from various sources, which include:
- Beef steak
- Ground beef
There are plenty of supplements that might help you deal with your PCOS symptoms, but you must talk to a healthcare provider before taking anything.
Not all individuals with PCOS have the same symptoms, therefore symptom management is individualized for each patient, Bridenbaugh says.
For instance, if your concern is infertility or abnormal periods, talk to your OB/GYN or get a referral 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 speaking to a dietitian with expertise in PCOS, Jungheim says.
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