The day I was first diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) I remember walking out of the doctors office and feeling really mixed emotions about finally knowing what was wrong with me, but also feeling betrayed by my body.
I honestly knew nothing about PCOS, and even more to the point I had no idea where to even start when it came to treating it.
Thankfully the little health nerd in me (time to put that Public Health and Health Promotion degree to work hehe ) told me that the best place to start was to look at common deficiencies that women with PCOS might experience.
What I found was a number of vitamins, minerals and trace metals that seemed to come up frequently as possible deficiencies linked to having PCOS.
Interestingly it seemed that even with a healthy whole food diet many women with PCOS were still experiencing common nutritional deficiencies.
I wanted to write this post to highlight five of the most common nutritional deficiencies often associated with PCOS, and explain a little more about them, there links to PCOS and the best way to make sure you are getting enough.
(Please note this post should not be taken as medical advice and you should always talk to your trusted healthcare practitioners before undertaking any changes in your diet or adding supplements)
Zinc is an essential trace metal that is required for over 300 enzyme functions and is involved in insulin signalling by inhibiting the enzyme protein tyrosine phosphatase to increase phosphorylation of the insulin receptor.
Studies show that zinc deficiency affects ovulation, improves fertility and reduces the effects of high testosterone.
Zinc also helps to reduce PMS symptoms, minimise hair loss and hirsutism, clear up skin (Zinc really helped my skin, and my nails grew sooo long!) helps lowers insulin and decrease inflammation in the body.
You can supplement with zinc or increase your food sources such as legumes, nuts, seeds, shellfish and some meats.
Magnesium is a mineral that is found in body and also found naturally in many foods.
It is crucial when it comes to muscle and nerve function, metabolism, blood sugar levels, and blood pressure
Many women with PCOS are deficient in magnesium, especially if you have ever taken birth control pills.
Magnesium is also great for women with PCOS a it has been shown to improve insulin resistance, decrease the risk for developing diabetes, and improve inflammation.
Sources of Magnesium include nuts, seeds, legumes, grains. Spinach, potatoes and raw cacao
B12 is a water-soluble vitamin involved in brain and nervous system function, the formation of blood, DNA synthesis and the immune system.
Interestingly B12 deficiencies are more common in younger women, women with insulin resistance PCOS, women with PCOS who are obese, and vegans and vegetarians (B12 found primarily in animal foods.)
Supplementing B12 may also help to improve fertility and fatigue in women with PCOS.
Food sources of B12 Include, nutritional yeast, fish, meat, eggs, nori and shiitake mushrooms
Folate is a form of B9 that is naturally found in food.
lt is highly important for the formation of red blood cells, nerve function and the formation of DNA.
It has also been found to help women with PCOS who may be suffering from irregular cycles and infertility.
Studies have also shown that 5 grams of folate improved blood sugar control and lipid levels and lowered inflammatory markers in women with PCOS
However it is important to note here that folate is not the same as folic acid.
Folate is the form of vitamin B9 that is found in foods, such as leafy greens. Folic acid is the synthetic form of the vitamin.
This is important because when it comes to supplementing folate using the synthetic form of folic acid up to 50% of people have a variant in the MTHFR (methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase) gene. This variant is associated with decreased ability to convert folic acid to folate.
If you do have a MTHFR variation, it is really important that you take methylfolate (or L-5-methyltetrahydrofolate) especially if you are trying to get pregnant. (This can be tested for prior to getting pregnant if you like)
Food sources include: beans, legumes, vegetables such as asparagus, beets, spinach, broccoli, peas, cabbage, collard greens and some fruits like mangos and oranges.
Vitamin D, which is also also known as the ‘sunshine vitamin’ helps to regulate our reproductive hormones such as anti-mullerian hormone (AMH), follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), and progesterone levels.
It also helps to support blood sugar balance, fertility, insulin regulation, decreased hyperandrogenism muscle function, immunity, respiratory system and brain development.
67–85% of women with PCOS are thought to be deficient in Vitamin D and unfortunately you can not get enough Vitamin D from food alone. The best source of Vitamin D is 10-15 mins of sunshine (without sunblock) everyday.