Have you been told you have polycystic ovary syndrome or PCOS? With the condition affecting 1 in 10 women of childbearing age in the United States according to conservative estimates, you certainly aren’t alone in this problem.1
Some red flags associated with PCOS include:
- Irregular menstrual cycles
- Pelvic pain
- Excessive hair growth on the face, stomach, chest, and thighs
- Weight gain
When you have PCOS, your adrenal glands and ovaries produce more male hormones than is normal. As a result, your ovaries develop fluid-filled sacs called cysts. The hormonal imbalance and metabolism issues linked with PCOS may also impact overall health, raising the risk of metabolic syndrome, diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure and even adversely affecting fertility.2
But what can you do to tackle the condition? While a cure for PCOS remains elusive, many natural methods can help you better manage the condition. These include steps to gain control over the condition and natural herbs and home remedies often derived from readily available larder ingredients. Here’s what you need to put in place:
1. Lose Weight If You Are Overweight
Weight loss is recommended if you have an above normal BMI or are hovering around the outer limits of the healthy range. Losing as little as 10% of your body weight can help regularize your menstrual cycle and even boost chances of conceiving.
Because of the reduced weight, your blood glucose levels may drop and insulin sensitivity improve, restoring near normal or normal hormonal balance.5
2. Cut Down On Carbohydrates
Reduce your carb intake if you want to start getting on track with your PCOS management. As researchers have discovered, even a moderate reduction in your dietary carbohydrate intake can lower your fasting insulin and also positively impact your metabolic profile. Women with PCOS who consumed a relatively low-carb diet saw improvement in their metabolic profile in as little as 16 days. The carbs comprised 43% of their calorie intake as opposed to the standard 56%. The diet in question was also:
- A eucaloric diet, where calories burned and calories gained were the same
- High in fiber and low in cholesterol
- Rich in good fats, with participants getting in around 18% monounsaturated fat6
How was this achieved? They cut down on refined carbs like bread, noodles, and white rice and incorporated snacks with good fats like sunflower seeds. As you cut down on carbs, especially processed or refined carbs, increase your intake of good fats. Not all fats are created equal, so avoid bad fats such as trans-fats and have more of the fats that can actually help you cut inflammation. Think foods like walnuts and other nuts, fatty fish, olive oil, avocados, and coconut oil.
3. Eat Anti-Inflammatory Foods
Having a diet rich in foods that cut inflammation can go a long way in managing PCOS. As one piece of research on 100 women revealed, such a diet can help achieve a moderate amount of weight loss and also improve blood pressure, cholesterol problems like dyslipidemia, and hormone levels. The weight loss itself was adequate to be linked to a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes as well as metabolic syndrome, conditions that women with PCOS are more vulnerable to. It also improved their fertility-related outcomes, including spontaneous pregnancy rates and menstrual cycle regularity.7
Consider adding anti-inflammatory foods like:
- Pomegranate juice10
- Extra virgin olive oil11
- Green leafy vegetables13
- Sweet potatoes14
4. Have Fenugreek Seeds To Tackle Irregular Periods And Insulin Resistance
If you intend to have fenugreek seeds or any other natural remedies in high medicinal amounts, do consult a trained alternative medicine practitioner or your doctor first to find the most suitable dosage and avoid any interactions with other medication you’re on.
Treatment with fenugreek seeds as an adjuvant therapy for just 8 weeks helped significantly reduce polycystic appearing ovaries (as opposed to normal ovaries without cysts). The treatment also helped bring more regularity to the subjects’ menstrual cycle.15 Fenugreek seeds have other benefits too:
- They act like estrogen once consumed. This can help women with PCOS who have a hormonal imbalance.16
- The germinated seeds have a higher antioxidant content, making them more beneficial in combating oxidative stress.17 Oxidative stress plays a role in the development of PCOS for some women, so this may offer up a way to battle it.18 19 The seeds can be soaked overnight and had twice or thrice a day.
- Fenugreek seeds may also help those with mild type 2 diabetes manage their blood sugar levels better. The seed extract can improve both glycemic control and insulin resistance.20
- They also help lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels at daily dosages of 10 to 20 gm of the seed powder.21
5. Take Cumin To Stabilize Hormones And Regulate Blood Sugar
Cumin seeds contain phytoestrogens which act like estrogen, a hormone that is lower than normal for those with PCOS. The seeds also help your body fight stress due to their own antioxidant power which makes them more compelling as a remedy. Cumin is antidiabetic, helping bring down blood sugar levels, and may be able to help lower cholesterol as well.22
Simply boil a spoonful of these seeds in water and drink up every day. Alternatively, soak the seeds overnight in water and then consume them ground down with some honey. You can add the seeds to your daily cooking as well. Roast the seeds in small quantities and powder them for storage and use every day.
6. Have Flaxseeds To Normalize Hormone Levels
Flaxseeds can help fight PCOS by reducing levels of male sex hormones or androgens in your body. This is courtesy the lignan, a type of phytoestrogen, they contain. The seeds also have plenty of fiber and healthy omega-3 fatty acids, making them a smart choice due to their cholesterol-lowering and anti-inflammatory effects.23 Exact dosages are not backed up by studies, so, for now, consume a small amount in your diet every day to ease symptoms. For larger doses, consult a trained alternative medicine practitioner.
7. Take Cinnamon To Improve Insulin Sensitivity And Regularize Periods
Cinnamon helps moderate your blood sugar levels and can also decrease insulin resistance.24 One study found that taking cinnamon extract every day for 8 weeks helped improve insulin sensitivity in nondiabetic women with PCOS.25 It may also help improve menstrual cyclicity or regularity of periods – a problem many women with PCOS grapple with.26 Cinnamon is also anti-inflammatory, which is another reason you should add this spice to your larder.27
Cinnamon can be powdered and had with warm water or infused into water. It can also be added to meals or juices every day. Stick to 2–5 gm of cinnamon a day. Anything above this needs to be cleared by a doctor.
8. Have Holy Basil To Balance Androgen And Glucose Levels
Chewing on a dozen or so holy basil leaves on an empty stomach every morning could help if you have PCOS. You could even drink basil leaf infused water, made by boiling the leaves in a cup of water. The leaves have anti-androgenic properties that may help bring down testosterone levels when consumed.28 Holy basil leaves can also help lower glucose levels in the blood, helping fend off diabetes-related problems women with PCOS are prone to.29
9. Take Ashwagandha To Manage Stress And Improve Insulin Sensitivity
Herbal remedies like ashwagandha, which is an adaptogenic herb, can help your body cope better with stress, one of the problems linked with PCOS. It is also known to improve insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance in animal test subjects.30 The herb has been shown to have effects comparable to an oral hypoglycemic drug in reducing blood glucose levels. The ayurvedic remedy is also hypocholesterolemic and diuretic, which means it can help with PCOS-related issues like high blood pressure and cholesterol.31 A good ayurvedic doctor should help prescribe an appropriate dosage for you.
10. Try Indian Gooseberry To Balance Hormones And Cholesterol Levels
Amla or Indian gooseberry is a potent anti-inflammatory food. It also has a modulatory effect on the body, helping restore hormonal balance. In addition, it may protect the heart and help lower high levels of cholesterol in the blood.
Drink up about half a cup of amla juice diluted with water every day or add it to a fruit juice if you find it too tart on its own. If you really enjoy it, simply eat the fruit plain or make a preserve at home.32
11. Sip On Green Tea To Reduce Free Testosterone And Insulin Levels
This rejuvenating beverage could help you if you have PCOS. According to one piece of research, overweight and obese women with PCOS who had 500 mg green tea capsules twice a day for 12 weeks saw a drop in fasting insulin levels as well as levels of free testosterone.33 Have a couple of cups of green tea a day to get the benefits, but never go beyond 3 to 4 cups.
12. Sleep More To Lower Infertility And Diabetes Risk
Sleep is an underrated ally in the battle against PCOS. If you can manage a full 7–8 hours of sleep every night, it can work wonders for your body. The downtime helps you de-stress and gives your body time to reboot to face another day. Skimp on these and you could be in trouble.
Researchers have found that women who get inadequate sleep run a greater risk of developing insulin resistance and having menstrual irregularities. While inadequate sleep alone won’t cause typical characteristics like excessive male hormones or changes to ovaries, getting enough sleep can help lower your risk of infertility as well as diabetes, issues that are often a major concern for women with PCOS.34
13. Explore Acupuncture To Reduce Cysts And Improve Insulin Sensitivity
A popular alternative therapy from the far east, acupuncture may have lots to offer those with PCOS. It helps increase the flow of blood to the ovaries and lowers both the number of cysts in the ovaries as well as the volume of the ovaries themselves. For those affected by spiking blood sugar levels, it can lower blood glucose as well as insulin level and increase insulin sensitivity. In addition, it can help lower stress hormone cortisol which has been linked to weight gain.35
These natural remedies coupled with some lifestyle changes can make a world of difference as your body copes with PCOS. But whatever your choice of remedy, be sure to consult your doctor before stopping any medication – especially if you are being treated for PCOS-related problems like diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure or are undergoing fertility treatments.
|↑1, ↑5||Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. Office on Women’s Health.|
|↑2||Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. U.S. National Library of Medicine.|
|↑3||Ravn, P., A. G. Haugen, and D. Glintborg. “Overweight in polycystic ovary syndrome. An update on evidence based advice on diet, exercise and metformin use for weight loss.” Minerva Endocrinol 38, no. 1 (2013): 59-76.|
|↑4||Marzouk, Tayseer M., and Waleed A. Sayed Ahmed. “Effect of dietary weight loss on menstrual regularity in obese young adult women with polycystic ovary syndrome.” Journal of pediatric and adolescent gynecology 28, no. 6 (2015): 457-461.|
|↑6||Douglas, Crystal C., Barbara A. Gower, Betty E. Darnell, Fernando Ovalle, Robert A. Oster, and Ricardo Azziz. “Role of diet in the treatment of polycystic ovary syndrome.” Fertility and sterility 85, no. 3 (2006): 679-688.|
|↑7||Salama, Amany Alsayed, Ezzat Khamis Amine, Hesham Abd Elfattah Salem, and Nesrin Kamal Abd El Fattah. “Anti-inflammatory dietary combo in overweight and obese women with polycystic ovary syndrome.” North American journal of medical sciences 7, no. 7 (2015): 310.|
|↑8||Al-Suhaimi, Ebtesam A., Noorah A. Al-Riziza, and Reham A. Al-Essa. “Physiological and therapeutical roles of ginger and turmeric on endocrine functions.” The American journal of Chinese medicine 39, no. 02 (2011): 215-231.|
|↑9||Grzanna, Reinhard, Lars Lindmark, and Carmelita G. Frondoza. “Ginger-an herbal medicinal product with broad anti-inflammatory actions.” Journal of medicinal food 8, no. 2 (2005): 125-132.|
|↑10||Asgary, Sedigheh, Amirhossein Sahebkar, Mohammad Reza Afshani, Mahtab Keshvari, Shaghayegh Haghjooyjavanmard, and Mahmoud Rafieian‐Kopaei. “Clinical Evaluation of Blood Pressure Lowering, Endothelial Function Improving, Hypolipidemic and Anti‐Inflammatory Effects of Pomegranate Juice in Hypertensive Subjects.” Phytotherapy Research 28, no. 2 (2014): 193-199.|
|↑11||Wardhana, Eko E. Surachmanto, and E. A. Datau. “The role of omega-3 fatty acids contained in olive oil on chronic inflammation.” inflammation 11 (2011): 12.|
|↑12||Nasri, Sima, Mahdieh Anoush, and Narges Khatami. “Evaluation of analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects of fresh onion juice in experimental animals.” African journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology 6, no. 23 (2012): 1679-1684.|
|↑13||Foods that fight inflammation. Harvard Health Publications.|
|↑14||Wang, Yong-Jian, Yuan-Lin Zheng, Jun Lu, Guo-Qing Chen, Xiao-Hui Wang, Jie Feng, Jie Ruan, Xiao Sun, Chun-Xiang Li, and Qiu-Ju Sun. “Purple sweet potato color suppresses lipopolysaccharide-induced acute inflammatory response in mouse brain.” Neurochemistry international 56, no. 3 (2010): 424-430.|
|↑15||Bashtian, Maryam Hassanzadeh, Seyed Ahmad Emami, Nezhat Mousavifar, Habib Allah Esmaily, Mahmoud Mahmoudi, and Amir Hooshang Mohammad Poor. “Evaluation of Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graceum L.), effects seeds extract on insulin resistance in women with polycystic ovarian syndrome.” Iranian journal of pharmaceutical research: IJPR 12, no. 2 (2013): 475.|
|↑16||Fenugreek. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.|
|↑17||Dixit, Priyanjali, Saroj Ghaskadbi, Hari Mohan, and Thomas PA Devasagayam. “Antioxidant properties of germinated fenugreek seeds.” Phytotherapy Research 19, no. 11 (2005): 977-983.|
|↑18||Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). The National Women’s Health Network.|
|↑19||Zuo, Tao, Minghui Zhu, and Wenming Xu. “Roles of oxidative stress in polycystic ovary syndrome and cancers.” Oxidative medicine and cellular longevity 2016 (2016).|
|↑20||Gupta, A., R. Gupta, and B. Lal. “Effect of Trigonella foenum-graecum (Fenugreek) Seeds on Glycaemic Control and Insulin Resistance in Type 2 Diabetes.” J Assoc Physicians India 49 (2001): 1057-1061.|
|↑21||Pole, Sebastian. Ayurvedic medicine: the principles of traditional practice. Elsevier Health Sciences, 2006.|
|↑22||Johri, R. K. “Cuminum cyminum and Carum carvi: An update.” Pharmacognosy reviews 5, no. 9 (2011): 63.|
|↑23||Nowak, Debra A., Denise C. Snyder, Ann J. Brown, and Wendy Demark-Wahnefried. “The effect of flaxseed supplementation on hormonal levels associated with polycystic ovarian syndrome: A case study.” Current topics in nutraceutical research 5, no. 4 (2007): 177.|
|↑24||Qin, Bolin, Kiran S. Panickar, and Richard A. Anderson. “Cinnamon: potential role in the prevention of insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, and type 2 diabetes.” Journal of diabetes science and technology 4, no. 3 (2010): 685-693.|
|↑25||Wang, Jeff G., Richard A. Anderson, George M. Graham, Micheline C. Chu, Mark V. Sauer, Michael M. Guarnaccia, and Rogerio A. Lobo. “The effect of cinnamon extract on insulin resistance parameters in polycystic ovary syndrome: a pilot study.” Fertility and sterility 88, no. 1 (2007): 240-243.|
|↑26||Kort, Daniel H., and Roger A. Lobo. “Preliminary evidence that cinnamon improves menstrual cyclicity in women with polycystic ovary syndrome: a randomized controlled trial.” Obstetrical & Gynecological Survey 70, no. 2 (2015): 94-95.|
|↑27||Rao, Pasupuleti Visweswara, and Siew Hua Gan. “Cinnamon: a multifaceted medicinal plant.” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2014 (2014).|
|↑28||Kadian, Renu, and Milind Parle. “Therapeutic potential and phytopharmacology of tulsi.” International Journal of Pharmacy & Life Sciences 3, no. 7 (2012).|
|↑29||Benny, Abraham K., and C. Adithan. “Review of endocrine pharmacology.” Indian J Pharmacol 32 (2000): S67-S80.|
|↑30||Anwer, Tarique, Manju Sharma, Krishna Kolappa Pillai, and Muzaffar Iqbal. “Effect of Withania somnifera on Insulin Sensitivity in Non‐Insulin‐Dependent Diabetes Mellitus Rats.” Basic & clinical pharmacology & toxicology 102, no. 6 (2008): 498-503.|
|↑31||Andallu, B., and B. Radhika. “Hypoglycemic, diuretic and hypocholesterolemic effect of winter cherry (Withania somnifera, Dunal) root.” Indian Journal of Experimental Biology 38, no. 6 (2000): 607-609.|
|↑32||Baliga, Manjeshwar Shrinath, and Jason Jerome Dsouza. “Amla (Emblica officinalis Gaertn), a wonder berry in the treatment and prevention of cancer.” European Journal of Cancer Prevention 20, no. 3 (2011): 225-239.|
|↑33||Tehrani, Hatav Gasemi, Maryam Allahdadian, Farzane Zarre, Hanie Ranjbar, and Fateme Allahdadian. “Effect of green tea on metabolic and hormonal aspect of polycystic ovarian syndrome in overweight and obese women suffering from polycystic ovarian syndrome: A clinical trial.” Journal of education and health promotion 6 (2017).|
|↑34||Lim, Audrey JR, Zhongwei Huang, Seok Eng Chua, Michael S. Kramer, and Eu-Leong Yong. “Sleep duration, exercise, shift work and polycystic ovarian syndrome-related outcomes in a healthy population: A cross-sectional study.” PloS one 11, no. 11 (2016): e0167048.|
|↑35||Lim, Chi ED, and Wu SF Wong. “Current evidence of acupuncture on polycystic ovarian syndrome.” Gynecological Endocrinology 26, no. 6 (2010): 473-478.|