Sooo… supplementation and medication and PCOS and Hashimoto’s… What can I say?
I take a lot of stuff each day in the hopes that I can 1) get my period to return (come back!!!) and ovulate normally and regularly 2) sensitize my cells to insulin, which will help with blood sugar regulation and weight loss 3) decrease the enlargement of my thyroid and the autoimmune response (thyroid antibodies) to ward off hypothyroidism and 4) heal my (allegedly) leaky gut.
First off, let me say that I am not a licensed health professional and I do not purport to give any advice. I repeat: the following should not be construed as health advice. Below, I list the supplements that I have been recommended to me, for me, by licensed health professionals who have I consulted (I am not currently taking any medication). Please do not start taking any of the substances below unless and until you have met with and been assessed by a doctor, a naturopath, or some other professional, and even then, only take it upon their recommendation. While most are safe, some of these substances have contraindications and can interfere with your body if you are already taking metformin, or insulin or on birth control or what have you.
Instead, do with this list what I have done with such similar lists in the past: Read it for informative and educational purposes, and if you see anything interesting or something that you think might help you, do your own research and consult a health professional.
Also, please bear in mind that this list is not exhaustive. There may be other things out there — even things yet to be discovered — which may be helpful to you or I. I have just listed the treatments that are most commonly prescribed.
Birth Control Pill
Many women, when finally diagnosed with PCOS, are often prescribed the birth control pill in an attempt to start or regularize the woman’s periods.
I realize that 90% of women do not appreciate having a period, but when you have PCOS, you kinda wish you had one. For one, it helps you know if you are pregnant or not, which is kinda important. Secondly, the shedding of the uterine lining has a purpose: not menstruating potentially allows the cells of the lining to mutate and thus puts women with PCOS at a higher risk for developing ovarian cancer.
The thing is with the birth control pill, it doesn’t fix anything. It only masks your symptoms, and artificially makes your body menstruate. Chances are, you won’t stay on the pill forever. Once off of the pill, many women find that their hormones are out of whack even more. Not to mention that the pill does have side effects, including depression.
Alisa Vitti, author of WomanCode, wrote this about the pill:
I had an OB/GYN prescribe the pill to me. My current doctor also asked me if I wanted to go on it. I declined. For one, I’m not sexually active so it doesn’t make a difference but more importantly, I knew that the pill would not “help” me. I also decided against it because of what I had read in Vitti’s book. Intuitively, I did not feel comfortable with using hormonal birth control or hormonal anything if my hormones are already jacked up. And my doctors did not pressure me or tell me that I would die from cancer without it; they only mentioned it as an option.
My type of PCOS is very mild, and so I believed that lifestyle interventions would be more beneficial, or at least, better to try first before going on birth control.
In general, that’s an approach that many women with PCOS take — trying to lose weight on their own, eating healthfully, and exercising, before taking Big Pharma drugs.
The common diabetes medication Metformin is being prescribed more and more to women with PCOS. Like people who have diabetes, women with PCOS often have trouble managing their blood sugar and/or suffer from insulin insensitivity (hyperinsulemnia), so metformin can help. In fact, I have read several accounts of women losing weight and suddenly being able to get pregnant once starting on metformin.
Metformin does have side effects, such as gastrointestinal upset and diaharrea.
Because my blood sugar is stable and normal, my doctor ultimately decided against putting me on metformin.
Supplements are basically vitamins and minerals and herbs. The theory behind dietary supplementation is that the body needs certain vitamins and minerals to work optimally. Supplementation helps by providing the body with the materials it needs to heal itself.
Many women with PCOS take a cocktail of supplements each day:
There are many arguments against dietary supplementation. Some would argue that if you eat a well-balanced diet, you will get all of the vitamins and minerals you need. As has been explained to me by the naturopaths and nutritionists I have consulted, most people eat the typical Standard American Diet (SAD) and so they don’t get proper nutrition, and much of what we eat is not as nutritionally dense as in years past. For example, wheat today is not like wheat one hundred years ago. And if you have a “leaky gut” as I apparently do, arguably your body is not getting the nutrition it needs.
At first, I was skeptical when the naturopaths and holistic nutritionists started recommending these products to me. I had never heard of them and many of them were expensive. In fact, many doctors are not supportive of supplementation and just write it off as a bunch of useless vitamins. I read somewhere that one doctor called supplementation “making expensive urine.”
These things are pricey and are not covered by my health insurance plan (interestingly enough, pharmaceuticals are covered by insurance. Did someone say Big Pharma?). There are many ways of looking at this — I can either wait for my condition to deteriorate further and spend big bucks on medication, which will be covered by insurance but which will not heal me and I will have to be on them for my entire life or I can spend big bucks right now, upfront, not covered by insurance, take these supplements for the short interim, and give my body what it needs to heal itself so that it can eventually do its thing without supplementation or medication.
I like the latter option. Either way, I will have to spend money. It’s just a matter of how one wants to spend their money.
I also truly believe health is wealth. Like they say, “you spend your health to get wealth, and then you spend your wealth to get back your health.” If I am facing blindness and amputation on account of not taking care of diabetes that developed on account of not taking care of PCOS, then I don’t think money will matter.
In doing my own research online and reading books, I realized that many, many, many women with PCOS and Hashimoto’s gain some measure of success by supplementing their diet with one or more of the following. I couldn’t knock it before trying it, and so try it I did.
Supplementation seems to be helping women with PCOS and Hashimoto’s when all else has failed and when the doctor’s only answers are weight loss surgery, go on birth control, “you may have difficulty conceiving but we’ll put you on drugs when you actually want to get pregnant,” “I know you’ve done all you can to lose weight, but keep trying and come back to see me when you’ve lost weight.”
So supplementation (and functional or integrative medicine in general) has been a way for women to take matters into their own hands.
Functional medicine is basically an approach that marries the worlds of conventional Western medicine with Eastern medicine, herbal therapies and homeopathic approaches in the effort to heal the body. Many women with PCOS and/or Hashimoto’s have found this integrative approach to be most beneficial than just conventional medicine alone.
Okay. Enough rambling.
Much to my great delight and advantage, many of the supplements and dietary interventions for PCOS overlap with Hashimoto’s.
Here’s what I take/have taken:
First recommended to me by the first naturopath I saw to “heal up my gut.” It includes L-Glutamine which can help do just that. I would mix it into my smoothies and it’s the best protein powder I’ve ever tasted (the curcumin/turmeric is what did it). It’s hella expensive though ($60) and it’s hard to find… I was only able to buy it at the dispensary beside that naturopath’s office in Montreal, and at A Votre Sante in Montreal. It may be available online though, but for a steep cost.
Note: I do not take this supplement anymore.
It’s basically a multi-vitamin with higher amounts of certain minerals, like chromium, which have been shown to help regulate blood sugar.
Note: I do not take this supplement anymore.
Glucosmart by Lorna Vanderhaeghe
Marketed for individuals with PCOS, I find it hella expensive for what it contains ($40 to $50). It only contains chirositol (DCI) and chromium. DCI is not even the most effective inositol first of all. Secondly, the chirositol it contains is the exact same chirositol that I bought for $10 from Swanson Vitamins. You could then buy a chromium supplement in the same amount and boom — you have Glucosmart for a fraction of the price.
Inositol seems like the go-to breakthrough dietary supplement for women with PCOS.
Inositol is basically a B-vitamin in which PCOS women are typically deficient. There are two kinds of inositol. There’s myo-inositol, which is pictured above, and there is D-Chiro-Inositol (DCI). Myo-inositol is the most effective form of
There are two kinds of inositol. There’s myo-inositol, which is pictured above, and there is D-Chiro-Inositol (DCI). Myo-inositol is the most effective form of inositol for treating PCOS and insulin resistance. Some brands, like Ovasitol (by Theralogix), combine myo-inositol and DCI to boost its effectiveness.
A herbal remedy, the herbs in TestoQuech are supposed to be anti-androgens, lowering the amount of androgens in women with PCOS. It includes saw palmetto and chaste berry — two herbs often recommended for women with PCOS.
The first naturopath I saw recommended that I “add cinnamon to everything.” Cinnamon has been shown to help regular blood sugar. Not all cinnamon is created equally. I use “true cinnamon” or cinnamon verum. The brand I buy is from Cha’s Organics ($4.99 for the quills or for the ground version), and I use it in my food (oatmeal, Indian dishes, etc.). I also drink cinnamon tea. The brands of cinnamon tea I buy are Pukka and Celebration Teas.
The thyroid needs selenium. I’m not currently taking a selenium supplement, but I do try to eat Brazil nuts (though that may not be enough). For more info, see here.
Studies have found people with diabetes, PCOS and Hashimoto’s to be deficient in Vitamin D. Plus, I’m Black and I live in Ottawa (where the sun don’t shine) so I need this supplement. Vitamin D3 is a superior form of Vitamin D (compared to Vitamin D2).
I used to take this when I was vegan, but I am now re-introducing it to help my thyroid. There are two kinds of B12 — methylcobalamin and cyanocobalamin. Both are safe, but methylcobalamin is the bioavailable version of B12 (i.e. it’s easier for your body to use because it’s already been converted).
Omega 3 Fish Oil
Our diets are filled with the more harmful fat — Omega 6 — and not enough of the more helpful fat — Omega 3. So it is recommended that everyone, and especially those with hormonal imbalances, take a fish oil supplement.
Most people are deficient in magnesium, and women with PCOS especially. I find magnesium helps me with my anxiety and it relaxes my muscles.
There are two main types of magnesium you will see in stores (and I’m not talking about Epsom salts): magnesium citrate (Natural Calm is a well-known brand) and what I now take which is magnesium glycinate (which is better absorbed by the body. I buy the Pure Lab brand).
L-Glutamine is supposed to act as a barrier and seal my gut, decreasing intestinal permeability and thus — as the theory goes — decreasing inflammation and the autoimmune response. It’s available in powdered and capsule form.
N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC)
N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC), helps women with PCOS improve fertility, reduce inflammation and oxidative stress, and improve metabolic complications of PCOS including insulin resistance, fatty liver, and high cholesterol.
For more info, see here.
Never tried it, but there you go.
There is already a little chasteberry in the TestoQuench for Women, but chasteberry has been used for years to balance a woman’s hormones and increase progesterone (#Iwantmyperiodback).
The brand I use is from Clef des Champs and is in tincture (liquid) form.
I take a probiotic for intestinal flora and immune system health. I use Dr. Perlmutter’s version because it is dairy-free (it’s hard to find a dairy-free probiotic).
Homeopathic Hormone Protocol
Still seems a little woo-woo to me, but apparently I am to dissolve two of these pellets under my tongue on the day indicated to tell my body/kick it into gear to ovulate and menstruate. Apparently it kinds uses energy medicine or the energy from the pellet works on my pineal gland (or pituitary gland? I don’t know; it starts with a “p”) to kick it into gear… Again, never heard of it, and it seems woo-woo, but I’ll take this over birth control and IVF any day.
For More Information
For lists of supplements recommended for PCOS, and for more information/to understand why I take the supplements that I do, see:
For a list of supplements recommended for Hashimoto’s see:
And there you have it!