The benefits of Inositol for PCOS – why you should take it.
Inositol is becoming popular as a supplement for women with PCOS. This supplement has been found in research trials to alleviate metabolic deficiency and hormonal imbalance that cause the symptoms of PCOS. Anecdotally, I have seen incredible effects on regulating a cycle and therefore inducing ovulation. Research conducted by Santini et al (1992) concluded that 72% of women with PCOS will commence and maintain ovulatory menstrual cycles and approximately 40% of women become pregnant after treatment with Inositol.
What is Inositol
Inositol is naturally made by the human body and is used in a variety of biochemical processes. In the western diet we typically consume 1g a day, which is sufficient for the majority of the population. However, women with PCOS have been found to excrete it far more rapidly than those without this syndrome. As a result many women with PCOS may be deficient in inositol, and that this deficiency is likely one of the causes of the symptoms.
Why you should start taking Inositol
1. Reduces Insulin Resistance
30-40% of women with PCOS also have with insulin resistance (Bu 2012 et al). Inositol naturally made by the body is an important messenger molecule in insulin signaling.
Insulin in the blood stream binds to receptors on cell walls, which sets off a biochemical cascade that leads to glucose being taken in and used by cells. Inositol is part of this reaction.
Women with PCOS excrete inositol so quickly that they often do not have enough inositol to support this reaction, resulting in insulin resistance. Consequently, supplementing with inositol can reduce insulin resistance and lowers blood glucose (Artini et al 2013).
2. Reduces Testosterone levels
Inositol has been found in clinical trials to reduce serum testosterone (Zacche et al 2009, Artini 2013 . Elevated levels of free testosterone and other androgens is a classic symptom of PCOS, causing a variety of symptoms from acne to infertility. Women with PCOS who take inositol have been found to have around one-third as much testosterone as those who are not using this supplement.
Reducing testosterone levels not only relieves symptoms caused by high levels of this hormone, but allows other hormones to come into a better balance. Having high levels of one hormone often leads to imbalance of others, as the endocrine system tries to achieve homeostasis.
3. Less Unwanted Hair Growth
One of the unfortunate effects of high androgen levels is unwanted hair growth in women. Women with PCOS who take inositol have a large decline in testosterone levels. Researchers believe that inositol helps their bodies to clear testosterone more quickly, which reduces symptoms such as unwanted hair growth (Zacche et al 2003).
4. Better Skin
Excess Testosterone causes acne and oily skin, however the reduction in testosterone that comes with taking inositol can effectively clear up acne once and for all by treating its cause (Zacche et al 2003).
5. Increased Chances of Ovulation and cycle regulation
Many women with PCOS struggle to ovulate and their cycles can be very lengthy even if they are ovulating.
A study found that 88% of women with PCOS ovulated after 34.6 days when taking myo-inositol and folic acid (Papaleo et al 2013). Inositol normalizes levels of LH, a female hormone that is essential for ovulation.
6. Better Egg Quality
Eggs, or oocytes, must go through a complex process of maturation before being released. When this does not occur in optimal conditions, the resulting low quality eggs may not be capable of undergoing fertilization or implantation. Low quality eggs can even lead to miscarriage, which is likely why women with PCOS have a high risk of pregnancy loss.
Taking Inositol has been found to improve the number of good quality eggs, clinical pregnancies and delivery rates in women with PCOS (Kalra et al 2016).
7. Reduces incidence of Gestational Diabetes
Women with PCOS do not just find it more difficult to conceive; they have higher rates of pregnancy complications as well. In particular, they are more prone to developing gestational diabetes.
Gestational diabetes is a condition in which blood sugar levels become dangerously high during pregnancy. It can complicate pregnancy immensely, increasing the baby’s chance of premature labour and abnormal birth weight, as well as resulting in the infant becoming obese in later life.
A study of 220 women with PCOS found that those who take myo-inositol which includes folic acid, during pregnant are half as likely to develop gestational diabetes (Santamaria et al 2016). Also, when combined with lifestyle alterations such as diet and exercise, inositol can significantly reduce the chances of developing gestational diabetes.
8. Reduces risk of ovarian hyperstimulation during ovulation induction
In a study of fifty women with PCOS, 2 g of myo-inositol was found to reduce the risk of ovarian hyper stimulation syndrome with ovulation induction treatments, such as with clomid (Artini 2013).
9. Promotes a Positive Mood
Inositol deficiency is linked to mental health and low mood. Inositol helps the body to modulate serotonin, an important brain chemical related to happiness and joy. In particular, it helps to prevent reuptake so higher levels of this neurochemical are present in the bloodstream. If you suffer from depression or difficulty maintaining a positive mood, both of which are common in women with PCOS, then inositol may help.
10. Reduces Appetite and Food Cravings
Inositol helps to reduce both appetite and cravings in several ways. First, it helps to control both insulin and blood glucose levels, both of which are linked to appetite.
Second, inositol actually increases release of leptin, a hormone that prevents food cravings and promotes a feeling of satiety and fullness.
Because many women with PCOS struggle to lose weight, in part because of high insulin levels, inositol can be a great ally in the battle of the bulge.
11. Can be taken with other treatments and is prescription free
Finding the right combinations of drugs to help control PCOS can be an immense challenge. One of the benefits of inositol is that it can be safely used with most PCOS medications and natural treatments. You don’t have to stop using your existing medications to try inositol; it actually increases the positive effects of other medications. As a supplement, Inositol is free from prescription however it is advised that you inform your doctor that you are taking Inositol.
12. Reduces Inflammation
Inflammation is a common discomfort for women with PCOS. Cysts on ovaries can become inflamed or even cause inflammation in other organs in the lower abdominal region. These can lead to pain, pressure, distention of the abdomen, and other unpleasant symptoms. Inositol has been found to reduce or even eliminate inflammation.
13. Helps with sleep
Problems with sleeping is a common complaint among women with PCOS. Falling and staying asleep depends to a great extent on having good nervous system health and healthy levels of serotonin. Inositol not only improves the function of nerve cells, but also helps to increase levels of serotonin. These together contribute to higher quality sleep and less trouble falling asleep.
In addition, inositol communicates with GABA receptors in the brain. GABA receptors are responsible for calming, stress relief, and other mental processes that are crucial to sleep. If you feel like you could use a better night’s sleep, inositol is likely the right treatment for you.
15. Lower Cholesterol
Many women with PCOS have high cholesterol and other blood lipids. Over time, this can be destructive to the cardiovascular system and lead to both heart disease and stroke.
Myo-inositol used in combination with D-Chiro-inositol lowers cholesterol in women with PCOS, hence reducing cardiovascular risk (Minozzi et al 2013).
16. Cost Effective
Inositol supplements can be expensive. However when you consider the benefits along with the cost of IVF for example, the maths are simple!
Taking handfuls of pills and supplements is often not convenient. Inositol is very convenient. It dissolves easily in water and other liquids and often comes in handy sachets that travel easily with you.
Artini, P.G., Di Berardino, O.M., Papini, F., Genazzani, A.D., Simi, G., Ruggiero, M. and Cela, V. (2013) ‘Endocrine and clinical effects of myo-inositol administration in polycystic ovary syndrome. A randomized study’, Gynecological Endocrinology, 29(4), pp. 375–379. doi: 10.3109/09513590.2012.743020.
Bu, Z., Kuok, K., Meng, J., Wang, R., Xu, B. and Zhang, H. (2012) ‘The relationship between polycystic ovary syndrome, glucose tolerance status and serum preptin level’, Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology, 10(1), p. 10. doi: 10.1186/1477-7827-10-10.
Kalra, S., Kalra, B. and Sharma, J. (2016) ‘The inositols and polycystic ovary syndrome’, Indian Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism, 20(5), p. 720. doi: 10.4103/2230-8210.189231.
Minozzi, M., Nordio, M. and Pajalich, R. (2013) ‘The Combined therapy myo-inositol plus D-Chiro-inositol, in a physiological ratio, reduces the cardiovascular risk by improving the lipid profile in PCOS patients.’, Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci, 17(4), pp. 537–40.
Papaleo, E., Unfer, V., Baillargeon, J.-P., De Santis, L., Fusi, F., Brigante, C., Marelli, G., Cino, I., Redaelli, A. and Ferrari, A. (2007) ‘Myo-inositol in patients with polycystic ovary syndrome: A novel method for ovulation induction’, Gynecological Endocrinology, 23(12), pp. 700–703. doi: 10.1080/09513590701672405.
Santamaria, A., Di Benedetto, A., Petrella, E., Pintaudi, B., Corrado, F., D’Anna, R., Neri, I. and Facchinetti, F. (2015) ‘Myo-inositol may prevent gestational diabetes onset in overweight women: A randomized, controlled trial’, The Journal of Maternal-Fetal & Neonatal Medicine, , pp. 1–4. doi: 10.3109/14767058.2015.1121478.
Santini, M.T., Masella, R., Cantafora, A. and Peterson, S.W. (1992) ‘Changes in erythrocyte membrane lipid composition affect the transient decrease in membrane order which accompanies insulin receptor down-regulation’, Experientia, 48(1), pp. 36–39. doi: 10.1007/bf01923602.
Zacchè, M.M., Caputo, L., Filippis, S., Zacchè, G., Dindelli, M. and Ferrari, A. (2009) ‘Efficacy of myo-inositol in the treatment of cutaneous disorders in young women with polycystic ovary syndrome’, Gynecological Endocrinology, 25(8), pp. 508–513. doi: 10.1080/09513590903015544.