9 Ways Inositol Helps You Manage PCOS

Inositol is a nutritional compound that is a "work horse" nutrient for women with PCOS.

Although inositol is widely considered a member of the B-vitamin family, it is technically not a vitamin because the body can manufacture inositol and is not required to get it from the diet.

However, studies from Universite de Sherbrooke in Canada have shown that women with PCOS excrete more inositol than other women do.

Therefore, it may be beneficial to consume supplemental inositol.

We have about 75 medical studies on file suggesting that adequate inositol levels can be helpful for several PCOS-related issues:

  • Improves egg quality and thus increases the probability of a successful pregnancy.
  • Increases probability of ovulation so that you can become pregnant sooner.
  • Help a fat-clogged liver to unclog itself. (Fat clogged livers are a problem for roughly 50% of women with PCOS).
  • Can reduce acne and hirsutism (excessive hair growth).
  • Can relieve depression and mood disorders.
  • Improves appetite balance.
  • If you're taking birth control pills to manage PCOS, you will get better results if you also take inositol.
  • Helpful for postmenopausal women who have metabolic syndrome (similar to PCOS).
  • Reduces insulin resistance and testosterone, which brings all your other hormones into a better balance.

Inositol is a nutritional compound that has nine different forms. The most well-known and nutritionally active form is "myo-inositol", which most people simply refer to as "inositol". It is a necessary component of the membranes of your cells and is vital to many biological processes in your body. It is a precursor to a number of essential "signaling molecules" that instruct cells how to behave.

Inositol is a necessary component of certain "signal transduction systems" in your body. A signal transduction is a mechanism that converts a biochemical stimulus to a cell into a specific cellular response.

In other words, inositol is necessary for the regulation of the behavior of your cells. Some of the effect of inositol is related to activation of serotonin receptors, which could relieve depression and improve appetite balance. Serotonin is a brain chemical with several important functions in the body, including mood and appetite regulation.

Inositol also helps to transport fat from the liver. Women with PCOS, especially those who are overweight, tend to have a fatty liver disease called NAFLD. Inositol can help to relieve this fatty liver degeneration.

A problem that PCOS women have is a urinary loss of inositol that is significantly greater than other women. Therefore, it's logical to think that you need to consume more inositol in order to offset the urinary loss.

Inositol Helps You Ovulate and Regain Hormonal Balance

Two recent studies confirm earlier studies that inositol improves hormone balance and helps to restore normal cycles in women who have polycystic ovarian syndrome.

In the most recent study, from the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia in Italy, 25 overweight PCOS women were given 2 grams of inositol daily for 12 weeks. Menstrual cycles were restored in all women who did not have a normal cycle. Insulin resistance, a primary cause of polycystic ovary syndrome, was reduced.

The authors of the study conclude: "Myo-inositol administration improves reproductive axis functioning in PCOS patients, reducing the hyperinsulinemic state that affects LH secretion."

In the other study at the University of Perugia in Italy, 136 PCOS women took inositol (100 mg., twice daily) for 14 weeks. Another group of PCOS women took placebo pills.

The ovulation frequency was significantly higher in the inositol group (23%) compared with the placebo (13%). The time in which the first ovulation occurred was significantly shorter (23.6 days) compared with 41.8 days for the placebo group. The number of patients failing to ovulate was higher in the placebo group.

The effect of inositol on follicular maturation was rapid. Also, significant weight loss (and leptin reduction) was recorded in the inositol group, whereas in the placebo group had an increase in weight.

The researchers conclude: "These data support a beneficial effect of myo-inositol in women with oligomenorrhea and polycystic ovaries in improving ovarian function."

These and other medical studies suggest that therapeutic doses of inositol would be beneficial for ovulation, reduction of insulin resistance and luteinizing hormone, and possibly for weight loss.

Reduces Acne and Hirsutism

Another Italian study has just been published. The Vita-Salute University studied fifty women who had polycystic ovary syndrome. They took supplemental inositol for six months to determine its effects on skin conditions such as hirsutism (excess hair) and acne.

After 3 months of taking inositol, the women had reduced testosterone and improved insulin function.

In addition, after 6 months on the inositol, they also had significant reductions of both hirsutism and acne.

The researchers concluded: Inositol "…is a simple and safe treatment that ameliorates the metabolic profile of patients with PCOS, reducing hirsutism and acne."

As the researchers say, inositol supplementation is both simple and safe. If taken over the span of half a year, it appears to reduce acne and hirsutism problems.

Improves Quality of Your Eggs

An oocyte is a large and complex cell that needs an optimal environment to support its future function. It must be ready to regulate multiple cellular and developmental processes if it is to become fertilized and ultimately grow into a fully-functioning organism.

Some medical research has shown that inositol plays a central role in preparing the oocyte for successful activation at the time of fertilization. An inositol deficiency can disrupt the oocyte's ability to properly mature. Other research has shown that when the ovarian follicle cells that envelop your egg have a good supply of inositol, the quality of the egg is improved.

A new study released recently suggests inositol may be beneficial for improving egg quality in women who have polycystic ovary syndrome.

You need to have good egg quality in order to become pregnant, and in order to avoid a miscarriage. As you may know, PCOS women have a significantly greater risk of miscarriage. In addition we know that egg quality begins to significantly decline for all women after age 35.

In this study, sixty infertile PCOS women were undergoing assisted reproduction treatment. One group was given inositol plus folic acid (anther B-vitamin).The other group was given folic acid alone.

Those who took inositol plus folic acid, but not those taking folic acid alone, had significantly healthier egg cells.

The results of this study indicate that if you are interested in increasing your chances of becoming pregnant and reducing risk of miscarriage, inositol supplementation is advisable. Good egg quality is necessary for a successful pregnancy.

It appears that women with polycystic ovarian syndrome have a need for higher inositol intake because the metabolize and lose it at a greater rate than other women.

Dramatic Reduction in Testosterone

There's good news from Azienda USL hospital in Italy. In this study, 42 women with PCOS were treated. One group took folic acid (a B vitamin). The other group took folic acid plus inositol.

The women taking inositol had a dramatic drop in their testosterone levels; their testosterone levels were only about 1/3 of what they were before taking the inositol. (Women with polycystic ovary syndrome typically have excessive levels of the male hormone testosterone, which leads to problems such as a lack of ovulation, hirsutism, hair loss and acne.)

In addition, the women taking inositol reduced their triglycerides and blood pressure. Their insulin sensitivity also significantly improved.

The women who took only the folic acid experienced minor improvements which paled in comparison to those taking both folic acid and inositol.

The women taking inositol also achieved better ovulation: 16 of 23 women in inositol group ovulated vs. only 4 of 19 in other group.

Helps to Reduce Insulin Resistance

It helps you reduce PCOS symptoms related to insulin resistance.

Inositol is a component of a "second messenger system" inside the cell that allows insulin to change the behavior of the cell. But in some women who have PCOS, there appears to be a breakdown in the relationship between insulin and this second messenger system.

The result of this breakdown is insulin resistance. With the insulin resistance comes all of the problems you know so well: infertility, hirsutism, acne, hair loss, weight problems, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Inositol and its biochemical cousins, d-Pinitol and D-chiro-inositol, improve the insulin message system in your body so that insulin can do a more effective job of controlling your blood sugar. In other words, inositol can reduce a condition called "insulin resistance", which is thought to be a root cause of polycystic ovary syndrome.

Recommended Inositol Products:

  • Powdered Inositol. Inositol powder is a very cost-effective way to take inositol because it is less expensive per gram than inositol in tablets or capsules. Inositol powder readily dissolves in water and has a slightly sweet taste. If you were to take the same amount as used in a recent study, you would be taking 2,000 - 4,000 mg., or 1/2 - 1 teaspoon a day.

  • d-Pinitol. This formula contains d-pinitol, which is a form of inositol called "3-O-methyl-D-chiro-inositol". It is thought to be more potent than ordinary inositol. This formula also contains chromium and vitamin D, which are very important for improving insulin function, among other things. This product is more expensive than inositol but provides a more comprehensive and potent approach. 2-4 capsules daily is a suggested dosage.
    D-pinitol is a relative of inositol. The distinction between d-pinitol and ordinary inositol is that fewer metabolic steps are required to end up with the final substance required for the second messenger system inside the cell. So, with d-pinitol, the body has to do less work to create the material needed for the second messenger system.

Where Does Inositol Come From?

Bacteria in your intestines convert the phytic acid found in plant fibers into inositol, so your body is able to manufacture its own supply of inositol. Phytic acid can be found in fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains and nuts.

You can also obtain dietary inositol from animal foods such as beef heart, beef liver and eggs.

Inositol is commonly available as a nutritional supplement.

Average dietary consumption of inositol is about one gram daily. The amount of dietary inositol can influence inositol levels in the body and thus may influence biological processes. Inositol supplements can have anti-depressant and anti-anxiety tendencies.

Precautions

There are no contraindications for inositol. Inositol supplementation is generally well tolerated. Gastrointestinal effects such as nausea or diarrhea are occasionally reported with high doses. No toxicity has been reported.

Due to a lack of long-term safety data, it's unknown whether it should be avoided by pregnant women and nursing mothers. One review article suggested that inositol may stimulate uterine contractions, although no research has demonstrated that inositol actually has this effect.

It's theoretically possible that inositol could worsen hypomanic or manic symptoms of bipolar disorder, so people with this condition should check with their doctor before using supplemental inositol in large doses.

Theoretically, high-dose inositol may increase the effects of anti-depressant selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI drugs) such as fluoxetine sertraline, paroxetine, fluvoxamine and citalopram, and with 5-hydroxytryptamine receptor agonists, such as sumatriptan. If you are taking antidepressant drugs, consult with your doctor before taking supplemental inositol in large doses.

Dosage

According to the evidence cited above, some PCOS women appeared to get some benefit from a dose of only 200 mg. daily, which is a very moderate amount. In some studies, women took 2,000 mg or 4,000 mg. daily to get results. As much as 12 grams (12,000 mg.) has been used in studies to treat depression or panic attacks.

Some doctors may recommend 1,000 mg. daily.

200 mg. - 1,000 mg. per day appears to be quite safe. A considerably higher dose may be appropriate for some people.

The least expensive way to get supplemental inositol is to take it as a powder because you may need to take quite a bit of it to get the desired effect. One teaspoon of powder is about 4,000 milligrams.

Footnotes.

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