What is PCOS?
PCOS or polycystic ovarian syndrome is a condition which causes ovarian dysfunction. It is a common condition, experienced by between 8-13% of women!
Symptoms of PCOS can include higher than normal level of androgens (male hormones e.g. testosterone), cysts on the ovaries, excess body hair, an irregular menstrual cycle or increased weight.
PCOS disrupts the level and function of hormones which are necessary for a healthy, regular menstrual cycle. It can lead to a lower level of GnRH, which is a hormone responsible for stimulating the body to release FSH and LH (two key hormones in ovulation and menstrual regularity).
What is Inositol?
Inositol is a natural food chemical that has a similar structure to vitamin B. It’s functions in the body vary but it can effect the action of insulin and help control blood sugars as well as affecting our happy hormones (aka dopamine & serotonin). It also plays a role in regulating thyroid hormones, follicle stimulating hormone (important for ovulation).
There are 2 type of inositol
Having a healthy balance of these two forms of inositol is important as MI helps the body to use glucose for energy and DCI helps to control how much glucose is stored in the liver and muscles to use later. An imbalance of MI and DCI can contribute to the insulin resistance which is sometimes seen in PCOS. This makes it difficult for the body to use glucose as energy efficiently and means it can be challenging to maintain a healthy weight.
In PCOS, inositol levels throughout the whole body can be higher than normal but levels in the fluid around the ovaries is often lower. This can have an impact upon ovulation and the hormones needed for regular ovulation.
The effect of inositol on PCOS
Inositol can help to increase insulin function, decreasing insulin resistance experienced in PCOS. This means glucose is moved from the blood into the cells and can be used for energy, keeping blood sugar levels within a normal range.
Inositol may also help to regulate hormones which control ovulation and menstruation, decreasing androgen levels and increasing the function of GnRH, FSH, LH (ovulation hormones) and thyroid hormones (helping with weight management).
Where to find inositol
As always, we prefer to increase food sources before opting for supplements. In the case of inositol, you can find it in:
Beans and legumes
Cantaloupe and citrus fruits
However, it may be difficult to consume enough inositol through food and a supplement may be appropriate. Before starting a new supplement regime, it’s going to be important to first check things over with your professional team. Contact your GP, pharmacist, gynaecologist and/or dietitian before beginning inositol supplementation.