Natural Remedies for PCOS Symptoms
- ovarian cysts
- irregular periods
- thinning hair
- weight gain
Researchers say the causes of PCOS are complicated, but insulin resistance and hormone regulation are key factors.
You may be able to manage these factors and ease your symptoms through lifestyle changes and dietary supplements, but there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to treatment.
You should always talk with your doctor before you try any alternative treatment. They can discuss possible dosage, side effects, and interactions.
Eating the right foods and avoiding certain ingredients may help you manage your symptoms. A nourishing diet can help regulate your hormones and your menstrual cycle. Eating processed, heavily preserved foods can contribute to inflammation and insulin resistance.
It’s all about whole foods
Whole foods are free from artificial sugars, hormones, and preservatives. These foods are as close to their natural, unprocessed state as possible. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes are whole foods that you can add to your diet.
Without hormones and preservatives, your endocrine system can better regulate your blood sugar.
Balance carb and protein intake
Carbohydrates and protein both impact your energy and hormone levels. Eating protein stimulates your body to produce insulin. Unprocessed, high-carb foods can improve insulin sensitivity. Instead of trying a low-carb diet, focus on getting enough healthy protein.
Plant-based protein sources, such as nuts, legumes, and whole grains, are best.
Aim for anti-inflammatory
PCOS is described by one study as low-level chronic inflammation. Adding anti-inflammatory foods to your diet can help ease your symptoms.
Consider the Mediterranean diet as an option. Olive oil, tomatoes, leafy greens, fatty fish like mackerel and tuna, and tree nuts all fight inflammation.
Up your iron intake
Some women with PCOS experience heavy bleeding during their period. This can result in iron deficiency or anemia. If your doctor has diagnosed you with either condition, talk with them about how you can up your iron intake. They may recommend adding iron-rich foods such as spinach, eggs, and broccoli to your diet.
You shouldn’t up your iron intake without first consulting your doctor. Too much iron can increase your risk of complications.
Up your magnesium intake
Almonds, cashews, spinach, and bananas are PCOS-friendly foods rich in magnesium.
Add in some fiber to help with digestion
A diet high in fiber can help improve your digestion. Lentils, lima beans, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, pears, and avocados are all rich in fiber.
Cut out coffee
Caffeine consumption may be linked to changes in estrogen levels and hormone behavior. Try boosting your energy with a decaf alternative, such as an herbal tea. Kombucha’s probiotic properties may also be beneficial.
And if you can’t go without a caffeine boost, reach for green tea instead. Green tea has been shown to improve insulin resistance. It can also help with weight management in women with PCOS.
1. Eat a Nutrient-Dense Diet
As you’ve learned, an “appropriate diet” is a bit different for everybody. In women who are overweight, mostly sedentary and battling insulin resistance, following a diet aimed at healthy weight loss that’s low-glycemic, low-sugar and nutrient-dense helps. On the other hand, in women who are battling adrenal or thyroid “burnout,” who are underfed, overly stressed and fatigued, resting and focusing on eating more nutrient-dense calories is likely the best approach.
No matter the cause of hormonal imbalance, nutrient density and eliminating exposure to toxins are important. It’s crucial for everybody, whether hormonally balanced or not, to boost the metabolism and therefore help with hormone production by eliminating various toxins that enter our bodies through modern and processed foods. Hormones can easily go amuck when the body’s bombarded by things like artificial sweeteners, pesticides, preservatives and so on.
Support your thyroid and adrenal glands by reducing stress placed on them caused by a poor diet. This means experimenting with removing common allergens or sensitives, toxins, and chemicals, including:
- too much alcohol or caffeine
- most sources of sugar and sweeteners (including high-fructose corn syrup, packaged sweet products and refined grains that trigger insulin spikes, are inflammatory and irritating to the gut)
- hydrogenated and refined vegetable oils (soybean, canola, safflower, sunflower and corn), which are highly inflammatory
- common sensitivities, including conventional dairy products and gluten
- as much packaged and processed foods as possible, since these are filled with many types of artificial ingredients, preservatives, sugars, sodium and potential endocrine disruptors
2. Reduce Stress (Both Physical and Psychological)
One of the keys to solving any hormonal problem is to take a close look at the “mind-body connection.” That’s because stress can have drastic impacts on the endocrine system and therefore hormone production.
Different things work for different people when it comes to combatting chronic stress, whether it’s spending more time in nature, yoga, meditation, prayer, journaling and so on. Try to address which areas of your life cause the most stress and how you can handle them appropriately. Remember that “stress” can show up in the body in many different ways; even skipping sleep, your diet and exercise routine can be perceived as stressful if they aren’t quite what your body needs.
Adaptogen herbs are a unique class of healing plants that can help promote hormone balance and protect the body from the effects of cortisol caused by chronic stress. They also can be used to treat PCOS, along with tonic herbs. These herbs include ashwagandha, holy basil and maca root. While they won’t take the place of a healthy diet and dealing with stressful circumstances in your life at their root, they can help the body improve thyroid function, lower cholesterol, reduce anxiety and depression, and offer support against PCOS symptoms.
3. Get Enough Rest
Sleep in crucial for cell regeneration, hormone production, stress control and even weight management. In fact, sleep deprivation can have the same negative effects on health and hormones as a lack of activity and a poor diet can.
In a review published in Human Reproduction, researchers looked at a cross-sectional study of women with and without PCOS. They found that “sleep disturbances were twice as common in women with PCOS compared with those without,” and women with PCOS especially had difficulty falling asleep.
4. Support Your Body Using Alternative/Complimentary Treatments
Some women with PCOS find relief from symptoms when turning to complimentary practices like chiropractic care, acupuncture, massage therapy and herbalism. These can help relieve stress and restore proper “energy” to the body, likely by lowering stress hormones and improving sense of well-being.
5. Exercise in an Appropriate Way
If you have a predisposition to developing hormonal imbalances, keep in mind there’s a fine line between too little activity and too much. Generally speaking, women’s bodies are more susceptible to hormonal changes when exercise is increased beyond healthy levels. For example, “female athlete triad” is a condition that can contribute to PCOS, which is caused by too much exercise coupled with a restrictive diet and too little calories. Female athletes can be more susceptible to irregular periods, according to multiple studies.
Of course, this doesn’t mean you need to cut out exercise all together, since there are many benefits of exercise that can help with hormonal balance.This is still a good approach, but more isn’t always better, and pushing yourself too hard when you’re struggling with exhaustion can cause even more hormonal stress.
6. Avoid Exposure to Endocrine Disruptors
Supplements aren’t regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Speak to your doctor before taking any supplement. Some of them can actually interfere with other prescribed PCOS treatments and medications.
Chromium supplements may improve your body mass index, which can help with PCOS. They may also stabilize insulin resistance by helping your body metabolize sugar.
Cinnamon comes from the bark of cinnamon trees. Cinnamon extract has been shown to have a positive effect on insulin resistance. Cinnamon also may regulate menstruation for women with PCOS.
The active ingredient in turmeric is called curcumin. Turmeric may be promising for decreasing insulin resistance and as an anti-inflammatory agent.
Zinc is a trace element that can boost fertility and your immune system. Excessive or unwanted hair growth and alopecia may be improved with zinc supplements.
You can also eat red meat, beans, tree nuts, and seafood to get more zinc in your diet.
Evening primrose oil
Evening primrose oil has been used to help with period pain and irregular menstruation. It may also improve cholesterol levels and oxidative stress, both of which are linked to PCOS.
Combined vitamin D and calcium
Vitamin D is a hormone that’s vital to your endocrine system. Vitamin D deficiency is common in women with PCOS. Vitamin D and calcium may improve irregular periods and help you ovulate.
Cod liver oil
Cod liver oil contains vitamins D and A, as well as high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids. These acids can help improve menstrual regularity and help get rid of fat around your waist.
Use caution and talk with your doctor before taking any herbal supplement, as their claims haven’t been evaluated by the FDA.
The root of the maca plant is a traditional herb used to boost fertility and libido. Maca root may help balance hormones and lower cortisol levels. It may also help treat depression, which can be a symptom of PCOS.
Ashwagandha is also called “Indian ginseng.” It can help balance cortisol levels, which could improve stress and symptoms of PCOS.
Holy basil, also called tulsi, addresses chemical and metabolic stress. It’s referred to as “queen of herbs.” Holy basil can help reduce your blood sugar, prevent weight gain, and lower your cortisol levels.
The root of the licorice plant contains a compound called glycyrrhizin, which has several unique properties. Licorice root has been suggested as an anti-inflammatory agent. It works to help metabolize sugar and balance hormones.
Chasteberry has been used for centuries to help with reproductive conditions. It may improve some symptoms of PMS, though its effect on fertility requires more research.
Probiotics don’t just help with your digestion and gut health. They can play an important role in treating PCOS. They can also reduce inflammation and regulate sex hormones like androgen and estrogen.
Consider taking probiotic supplements and eating probiotic foods, like kimchi and kombucha.
Maintain a healthy weight
Maintaining a healthy weight can help decrease insulin resistance, regulate your period, and reduce your risk of conditions associated with PCOS.
If you’re overweight, some studies suggest gradual weight loss through a low-calorie diet as a promising first-line treatment for PCOS.