When you do a search online for PCOS, you’ll undoubtedly come across countless ads for supplement and nutritional systems designed to treat and control your PCOS. Most of the websites boast countless testimonials and evidence from experts and users alike that promise results and relief from your PCOS symptoms. But are they effective, or even safe? Here’s a guide to buying or using these programs.
The primary thing you should think about is whether these herbs or all-natural products are safe. You should speak with your doctor or nurse before taking any herbal supplement. Print out any information you can about the ingredients (try to get a complete ingredient list) and the claims that the manufacturers are making.
Some herbs may interfere with other hormones or medications you’re taking, or may make them ineffective. For example, taking St. Johns Wort for depression alongside the birth control pill makes the pill completely ineffective, which puts you at risk for an unplanned pregnancy. Other supplements may be safe for you, but can put your baby at risk for birth defects if you are pregnant. Still others may be safe, but not at all effective for the problems associated with PCOS, so you’re paying for something not helpful.
Do Your Research
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate the manufacturing, packaging, and marketing of herbal and nutritional supplements. This means that the maker of these supplements does not need to back up their claims with medical research or proof. To avoid getting ripped off, do your research first. In addition to checking with your doctor, do a quick internet search on reputable sites (meaning that they have experts reviewing their content, like here at About.com, or are associated with well-known government or professional organizations). Here are some herbal supplements that are thought to be beneficial for women with PCOS:
- Saw Palmetto - Saw palmetto works by inhibiting 5 alpha reductase, a key enzyme in the breakdown of testosterone into dihydrotestosterone (DHT). DHT is more potent, meaning that it binds more effectively to androgen receptors. By blocking this process, you keep androgen levels low.
- Stinging Nettle - There is some evidence that stinging nettle can help reduce the conversion of testosterone into dihydrotestosterone. Some natural health practitioners believe that reducing the amount of dihydrotestosterone can help treat some PCOS symptoms.
- Chromium Picolinate - There is some evidence that chromium picolinate can help reduce blood sugar levels, which tend to be elevated in women with PCOS. Some physicians feel that gaining control over a woman's blood sugar levels and insulin sensitivity can reduce her symptoms and help her start ovulating again.
Most of these programs are quite expensive and must be purchased on a monthly basis. If the doctor gives you clearance to start taking these supplements, do a little shopping around first. Analyze what the program is offering and see if you can find a way to get these components at less cost. For example, if the program offers you counseling or food addiction treatment, check out Overeaters Anonymous, which is a free program. If they offer you nutritional counseling, check with your insurance company to see if they will cover visits with a nutritionist or dietician.
Finally, check to see if you can purchase the individual herbs at a lesser cost. Sometimes you can find the supplements at a lower price than the price of the entire treatment program.
Most importantly, be honest in your assessment of how well the program is working. If you don’t see any difference within a month or so of starting the supplements, talk to your doctor about whether you should stop taking them. These supplements may not work for everyone.