If you've been diagnosed with PCOS, trying to figure out how to manage it can feel like pure chaos, especially if you’re trying to improve your fertility outcomes. Fortunately, you’re not alone. Around 10% of reproductive-age women suffer from PCOS.
Unmanaged PCOS can put you at risk of developing other health complications down the line such as type 2 diabetes, according to the CDC, which is why it's important to figure out a care plan that’s custom to you and targets the root cause of your symptoms.
What are the symptoms of PCOS?
PCOS is a hormonal disorder that’s characterized by symptoms such as:
Excess androgen production
Irregular or absent menstrual cycles
Hirsutism (excessive body hair)
Low-grade inflammation indicated by elevated levels of CRP and hs-CRP
Anovulatory cycles (when the ovary doesn’t release an egg)
Symptoms of hormone imbalance include elevated estrogen, LH, and FSH, as well as insufficient progesterone
However, certain supplements can be helpful in improving insulin sensitivity, restoring regular menstrual cycles, reducing androgen levels, and regulating blood sugar.
While they’re not a substitute for high-quality sleep, movement, balanced nutrition, and seeking medical intervention, supplements can definitely aid in PCOS management and bring you a step closer to feeling like your best self again.
It’s not an “either, or" approach; it's a "both, and." Supplements can be a major tool in your toolkit and we’re here to help you leverage the right ones.
What to look for in a PCOS supplement
Because the supplement industry is unregulated, it's up to you to take proactive measures to ensure what you’re being sold is what it says it is — and that you’re getting the highest quality of nutrients possible.
Here are the quality standards we swear by:
This can verify the accuracy of ingredients listed on the label, ensure the absence of contaminants like heavy metals, and validate the strength of the product.
GMP (Good Manufacturing Practices) and other certifications
GMP ensures the product is made in a safe, controlled environment and meets quality standards.
An NSF (NSF, Certified for Sport) certification is the most rigorous since these brands are approved for use by professional and Olympic athletes. USDA Organic demonstrates the ingredients were grown without the use of pesticides, herbicides, or genetically modified organisms.
Usually, brands with specific certifications will list it on their website or directly on their packaging.
Look for a clear and comprehensive list of both active (therapeutic compounds) and inactive (non-therapeutic) ingredients. Inactive ingredients tend to be fillers, gums, and other additives.
In minor amounts, these aren’t much to worry about but you don’t want to be consuming a large quantity of inactive ingredients, especially if you’re taking multiple supplements daily. Avoid supplements that list their ingredients as proprietary and don’t disclose them.
Cure Hydration Ginger Tumeric Hydrating Electrolyte Mix
Cure Hydration Watermelon Hydrating Electrolyte Mix
Cure Hydration Lemonade Hydrating Electrolyte Mix
When in doubt, ask your doctor or take into account brands that have been regularly recommended by a handful of reputable healthcare providers such as physicians (MDs), registered dietitians (RDNs), registered nurses (RNs), physician assistants (PAs), etc.
What are the best supplements for PCOS?
Here are our top picks:
Inositol is a naturally occurring sugar found in various foods, particularly in fruits, beans, grains, and nuts. Myo-inositol and D-chiro-inositol (two different forms of inositol) have been shown to improve insulin sensitivity, reduce androgen levels, improve ovarian function, and promote regular ovulation in people with PCOS.*
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
Omega-3 fatty acids, particularly eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), have anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce insulin resistance, regulate menstrual cycles, and reduce androgen levels in people managing PCOS.
Omega-3s can be taken in the form of fish oil (listed above), as well as through dietary sources like chia seeds, flaxseeds, and fatty fish.
N-acetylcysteine (NAC) is a precursor to glutathione, a powerful antioxidant in the body. NAC has been used for various health conditions due to its strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
In the case of PCOS, it’s been shown to improve insulin sensitivity by promoting the proper functioning of insulin receptors and restoring ovulation by reducing androgen levels.
Coenzyme Q (Co-Q10), also known as ubiquinone, is a naturally occurring compound found in the body that plays a crucial role in cellular energy production and serves as an antioxidant.
CoQ10 has been shown to support ovarian function and improve consistent ovulation in people with PCOS. Because PCOS is also associated with increased oxidative stress in the body (ie, an imbalance between the production of reactive oxygen species, a metabolic byproduct, and the ability to neutralize them with antioxidants), CoQ10 acts as a potent antioxidant, which helps protect cells (including ovarian cells) from damage and support overall reproductive health.
Vitamin D3 is a critical nutrient that’s synthesized in our skin when we get sunlight exposure. However, in the modern world, sunlight exposure alone is typically not enough to meet our Vitamin D3 needs, which is why supplementation has become more popular.
It plays a role in various bodily functions including bone health, mood, hormone regulation, gene expression, immune health, and more.
In the case of PCOS, Vitamin D3 has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity, modulate hormone imbalances (especially disrupted levels of estrogen and progesterone due to excess androgen production), support regular menstrual cycles, and improve the quality of eggs.
Vitamin D3 is also found in egg yolks, mushrooms, and fatty fish like salmon and tuna.
Chromium is an essential trace mineral that plays a role in various metabolic processes within the body. It’s involved in the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins, as well as in regulating blood sugar levels.
In the context of PCOS, chromium enhances the action of insulin, a hormone responsible for transporting glucose from your bloodstream into cells, which improves your insulin sensitivity and helps stabilize blood sugar.
Vitex, also known as chaste tree berry, is an herbal remedy derived from the fruit of chaste trees. It’s been used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine to address various women's health concerns, including PCOS.
Vitex exerts its effects on the body by acting on the hypothalamus and pituitary glands, which help regulate the production and release of all female hormones, including progesterone, FSH, LH, and estrogen. By influencing these hormonal signals, Vitex can help support progesterone production and offset elevated LH and FSH levels, both of which are common in women with PCOS and contribute to irregular cycles.
Zinc is an essential mineral that’s involved in numerous processes in the body, including immune system support, protection against excess free radicals, and the production of reproductive hormones.
For those dealing with PCOS, zinc has been shown to regulate blood sugar levels, create a balanced hormonal environment by helping produce adequate amounts of progesterone, and support regular ovulation.
Zinc is also found in lean meats like poultry and seafood (particularly oysters), whole grains, legumes (chickpeas, beans, lentils), nuts, seeds, dark chocolate, spinach, and organic milk products.
Magnesium is a vital mineral that’s involved in over 300 enzymatic reactions in the body. It’s especially known for helping convert food into energy, ensuring proper nerve and muscle contraction, regulating blood pressure, and maintaining a normal heart rhythm.
In the context of PCOS, it can help regulate the production and proper metabolism of estrogen and progesterone (ensuring balanced levels of both), reduce inflammation, support healthy stress responses, and promote a balanced mood — which is essential since PCOS is often associated with increased levels of stress, anxiety, and depression due to the nature of the condition.
Magnesium is also found in leafy green vegetables like spinach and Swiss chard, avocado, tofu, bananas, dark green vegetables like broccoli and green beans, dark chocolate, dried fruits, and more.
Berberine is a compound derived from the roots, stems, and bark of various plants, including Barberry (a shrub that grows tart, red berries). It has a long history of use in traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurveda, as it’s known for aiding in blood sugar control, cholesterol management, healthy gut bacteria growth, and anti-inflammatory effects.
For people managing PCOS, Berberine can help improve postprandial (post-meal) glucose levels, reduce fasting blood sugar levels, and improve lipid metabolism, leading to a reduction in triglycerides and an increase in HDL (“good cholesterol”) levels.
As always, please consult with your doctor prior to starting any new supplement routine, especially to rule out which primary symptoms of PCOS you’re struggling with so you know which supplements are ideal for your individual situation.
Caroline McMorrow is a Content Strategist at Rescripted.