Natural Ways to Manage PCOS Symptoms
Polycystic ovary syndrome or PCOS is an endocrine condition that affects millions of women of childbearing age. It is a complex hormonal disorder that can cause distressing symptoms such as irregular periods, excess facial hair, weight gain and acne. There is no known cause or permanent cure for PCOS but doctors often recommend common treatments such as birth control pills, medicines to improve insulin resistance and to treat diabetes, and drugs that trigger ovulation, to manage the symptoms. Your healthcare professional will pick the best treatment plan out of these options depending on the severity of your symptoms, whether you want to get pregnant, and your risk of developing conditions such as diabetes and heart disease.
While it is difficult to determine what exactly causes PCOS, it is believed that genetics, insulin resistance, hormonal imbalance, obesity and inflammation may have some role to play. Therefore, addressing the root cause and not just masking the warning signs may be helpful in keeping the symptoms in check. This is where natural methods can also help.
Healthy diet, exercise, adequate sleep and stress management can help you lose weight, improve insulin resistance, maintain healthy blood sugar levels, and reduce inflammation. These natural methods also reduce the risk of long-term health complications associated with PCOS. In this blog we look at some natural ways that can help with managing PCOS and its agonizing symptoms.
What is PCOS?
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal disorder that also creates metabolic disturbances and affects many aspects of women’s health.
Ovaries are female reproductive organs that produce and store eggs, and secrete hormones (progesterone and estrogen) that control many important processes such as breast development, menstrual cycle, fertility and pregnancy. The ovaries also make small amounts of androgens, a group of hormones that play an important role in both male’s and female’s reproductive development. Both men and women make androgens but women make it in smaller amount than men. In women with PCOS, the ovaries produce abnormally high amounts of androgens.
Each month, either of the ovaries release an egg in a process called ovulation. If this egg is not fertilized, it is flushed out of the system during the periods. In PCOS, hormonal imbalance disrupts the process of ovulation, setting off symptoms and complications that affect menstrual cycle (in the form of irregular, prolonged or missed periods), fertility, and metabolic health.
PCOS is one of the most common causes of infertility and can increase the risk of uterine cancer. Women with PCOS may also develop serious health complications such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and sleep apnoea. PCOS can also affect emotional health and cause depression and anxiety in some women.
PCOS symptoms include:
- Irregular periods (fewer periods or periods that come too often or periods that last for many days)
- Missed periods
- Heavy bleeding or light periods
- Ovaries that appear large or have fluid-filled cysts
- Excessive hair on face and other body parts (hirsutism)
- Acne, especially on the face, chest and back
- Hair loss, thinning hair and male-pattern baldness
- Weight gain
- Skin tags (small growths on the skin) on the neck and in the armpits
- Skin darkening where dark or thick patches are formed, especially on the neck, in the armpits, in the groin and under the breasts
What causes PCOS?
The exact cause of PCOS is not known but experts believe that genetics, insulin resistance, obesity and chronic inflammation may have some role in its development. A majority of the women with PCOS have insulin resistance, a condition where the body doesn’t respond to insulin as it should. In fact, it is believed that insulin resistance is a symptom as well as a risk factor for developing PCOS.
Insulin resistance also sets the stage for developing obesity and metabolic syndrome, a cluster of conditions that increase risk of heart disease. These conditions include high blood sugar levels, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high triglyceride levels and abdominal obesity.
How is PCOS diagnosed?
PCOS is diagnosed by the presence of at least two of these symptoms; irregular periods, high levels of androgen or ovarian cysts. A combination of pelvic exam, that might show any abnormal growth in the ovaries or uterus, blood tests that measure the levels of male hormones and an ultrasound to look for cysts can give a complete picture and confirm the diagnosis. However, not all women with this condition have cysts on their ovaries.
So, what are the natural ways to deal with PCOS?
Adopting a healthy diet and lifestyle can go a long way in regulating hormones, controlling PCOS risk factors and managing its symptoms.
Here are some natural ways to manage symptoms of PCOS:
- Consuming a healthy and nourishing diet
- Avoiding processed and pre-packaged food
- Cutting down on sugar
- Staying physically active
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Taking quality supplements
- Managing stress
- Sleeping well
- Managing sugar levels and insulin resistance
- Reducing inflammation
Natural Supplement for PCOS
It is one of the most important supplements women with PCOS can take to manage their symptoms. Inositol is a type of sugar that improves the body’s response to insulin and maintains healthy blood sugar levels.  It balances hormones that are involved in ovulation and promotes ovulation and boosts fertility. Inositol also balances neurotransmitters (brain chemicals) that affect mood.
Research suggests that magnesium deficiency is linked with conditions such as type 2 diabetes, premenstrual syndrome, painful periods, and PCOS. Most women with PCOS and insulin resistance have low magnesium levels. It is believed that people with insulin resistance and diabetes excrete high amounts of magnesium in their urine, resulting in a deficiency. Certain medications, such as contraceptive pills and diuretics, also impact magnesium absorption.
Magnesium is one of the best natural supplements for PCOS as it is good for insulin resistance, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart health, migraine and depression. It also provides relief in PMS symptoms, reduces menstrual cramps, helps you sleep better and boosts energy. This 2022 study found that magnesium supplements improved total quality of life in women with PCOS. 
Shatavari is a rejuvenating herb that supports female’s reproductive health at all stages. It nourishes and rejuvenates the function of ovaries and is very effective in managing symptoms related to PCOS, such as irregular periods, heavy bleeding and premenstrual syndrome. It also improves fertility, making it one of the best natural herbs for PCOS.
Shatavari is an adaptogen and helps the body respond to stressors in an effective and healthier way. Chronic stress triggers the production of free radicals and impacts ovarian function and impairs the process of ovulation. Shatavari contains antioxidant compounds that neutralize free radicals.  As an adaptogen, it also regulates adrenal gland function and corrects hormonal imbalance, a major problem in PCOS.
4. B Vitamins
Research suggests that vitamin B12 and folate may help improve fertility in women and may be particularly beneficial in improving reproductive health and outcomes in women with PCOS.  In addition, this combination has been found to improve insulin resistance.
Other supplements that may help manage PCOS symptoms are:
- Omega 3 fatty acids
- Vitamin E 
- Vitamin D3
- N-Acetyl-Cysteine (NAC)
- Green Tea
Natural ways to cure PCOS
Good nutrition, exercise and healthy lifestyle changes all play an important role in managing many symptoms, risk factors and health complications associated with polycystic ovary syndrome. Whether it is improving metabolic disturbances, correcting hormonal imbalances or reducing the risk of health conditions such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure, these natural ways can help in a number of ways.
Is PCOS treatable?
There is no known cure for PCOS. However, one can manage its many symptoms with healthy diet, exercise, supplements and traditional treatment plans.
Can PCOS lead to other health problems?
Yes, PCOS increases the risk of infertility, uterine cancer, heart disease and diabetes.
- Caputo M et al. Inositols and metabolic disorders: From farm to bedside. J Tradit Complement Med 2020.
- Jaripur et al. The effects of magnesium supplementation on abnormal uterine bleeding, alopecia, quality of life, and acne in women with polycystic ovary syndrome: a randomized clinical trial. Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology. 2022
- Pandey et al. Impact of stress on female reproductive health disorders: Possible beneficial effects of shatavari (Asparagus racemosus). Biomed Pharmacother. July 2018
- Sarah Thornburgh 1 , Audrey J Gaskins. B vitamins, polycystic ovary syndrome, and fertility. Curr Opin Endocrinol Diabetes Obes. 2022
- Ebrahimi F et al. The effects of omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin E co-supplementation on indices of insulin resistance and hormonal parameters in patients with polycystic ovary syndrome: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Exp Clin Endocrinol Diabetes 2017.