Is Inositol Helpful for Women with PCOS?
What is Inositol?
Inositol is the common name given to Myo-Inositol, which is what it’s regularly referred to as on supplement packages. It naturally occurs in a number of whole foods like grains (brown rice, whole wheat), nuts, beans (lima, navy), organ meats and fruits (grapefruit, citrus fruits). However, it can also be found in a supplement powder form for ease of use. Simply put, it’s a type of sugar alcohol with half the sweetness of table sugar.
Although it is commonly referred to as a B vitamin, it’s in fact a pseudovitamin due to the fact that it is not an essential nutrient.
What Does Inositol Do?
In essence, inositol’s job involves insulin production in your body. Inositols make molecules involved in the body’s response to insulin and may be part of the body’s messaging system when the usual insulin signaling system fails.
And if the proper cell receptor isn’t working well, your body will produce more insulin to compensate, leading to insulin resistance. Inositol helps the receptor work more efficiently so insulin can bind properly, resulting in your body to not produce too much insulin.
What is insulin Resistance?
We’re going to let the doctor’s do the talking here. According to Endocrine Web,
"Insulin is a hormone made by the pancreas. It allows your body to use sugar from carbohydrates in the food that you eat for energy or to store glucose for future use. Insulin helps keep your blood sugar level from getting too high (hyperglycemia) or too low (hypoglycemia)."
The take-away here is that insulin resistance happens when your body does not do this essential function properly. As so, your body doesn't respond to (or is not aware of) the insulin your body is making. That’s why it ends up making excessive amounts of insulin because it *thinks* there isn’t any insulin there at all.
What is Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)?
Simply put, polycystic ovarian syndrome is a complex hormonal disorder causing enlarged ovaries with small cysts on the outer edges. This refers to the many partially formed follicles on the ovaries, which each contain an egg.
Women with PCOS usually have high levels of insulin or male hormones known as androgens. And in some cases, both. Insulin resistance is present in up to four out of five women with PCOS. The cause is not yet fully understood, but genetics, hormones and lifestyle may play a role.
PCOS is common and speaking to family history and genetics, women who have a mother, sister or aunt with PCOS are 50% more likely to develop the hormonal disorder, too.
It can be associated with problems like irregular menstrual cycles, excessive facial and body hair, acne, reduced fertility and more. Let’s talk more about symptoms in the next section below.
Common Symptoms of PCOS
Wondering if you may have PCOS? While it is best to get tested by a doctor, the following are common signs and symptoms that women who have PCOS may experience:
- Sleep apnoea
- Scalp hair loss
- Amenorrhoea (no periods)
- Irregular menstrual cycles
- Excessive facial or body hair growth
- Reduced fertility or difficulty in becoming pregnant
- Mood changes (especially anxiety and depression)
It’s important to note that you do not have to have all of these symptoms to have polycystic ovarian syndrome.
Up to one third of women may have polycystic ovaries that are seen on an ultrasound, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they all have PCOS. In fact, in order to be diagnosed with PCOS, women need to have at least two out of this list of three symptoms: 1) irregular or absent periods 2) acne, excess facial or body hair growth, high levels of androgens in the blood or 3) polycystic ovaries.
PCOS can be diagnosed by taking a medical examination, blood tests and an ultrasound. Treatment includes weight loss if overweight, targeted hormone therapy and living a healthy lifestyle.
How is Inositol and PCOS Connected?
A lot of people with PCOS are insulin resistant. Their bodies make insulin, but aren’t able to use it effectively. In turn, this may increase the risk of infertility, obesity, high cholesterol and diabetes.
Since inositol may improve insulin sensitivity, it has been studied as a potential treatment for PCOS. How? Inositol is a promising compound to improve several aspects of reproductive function in women with PCOS, including menstrual cycle regularity, ovulation and fertility.
What are the Benefits of Inositol for PCOS?
Although PCOS is chronic and cannot be cured currently, there are ways to treat the symptoms. The use of inositol has become one method to help support the treatment of PCOS symptoms. Let’s have a look at some benefits of introducing inositol when treating PCOS.
1. Inositol May Reduce Testosterone Levels
Results from a double-blind study on the use of Inositol also showed promising results. In patients treated with Myo-Inositol, the total testosterone decreased from 99.5 to 34.8, free testosterone decreased from 0.85 to 0.24. Improvement in metabolic factors was also reported.
2. Inositol May Support Ovulation
The science behind inositol, ovulation, and people with PCOS and insulin resistance is promising in that inositol may help regulate ovulation and reproductive hormone levels.
3. Inositol could Improve Insulin Resistance
Inositol can be used to produce molecules that are involved in insulin's action in your cells. Therefore, inositol has been explored for its potential to improve the body's sensitivity to insulin, thus, reducing insulin resistance.
Other benefits may include:
How Long Does it Take To See Effects?
It’s no secret that we’ve become pretty impatient and just want things done yesterday. But the truth here is that it will be different for everyone, girl. Some women report improvements within a week, specifically in relation to weight loss and decrease of cravings.
When asking this question, it’s important to remember that it takes at least 3 months for an egg to develop in the ovary. Thus, it’s best practice to give inositol that much time before you experience most of the benefits listed above. We say it’s worth the wait!
How Much Inositol Should I Take to See Effects?
As you may have guessed, it can vary from person to person. But research suggests 4 grams of inositol is best practice. You can easily take inositol in powdered form with a glass of water. Check out one of our most popular supplements, Symmetry that includes inositol.
PCOS is not an easy thing to deal with. But we hope we shed some light on how inositol can help you treat and manage this complex hormonal condition. Have you had any experience with inositol in regards to PCOS? Let us know in the comments.