For those living with polycystic ovary syndrome (often referred to as PCOS), juggling the many symptoms can be overwhelming. Irregular periods, excess hair growth, weight gain, difficulty getting pregnant, sugar intolerance, and/or acne flare-ups are all common features of this hormone condition. While there’s no cure for PCOS, doctors have recommended a few options to combat these issues.
Medical professionals may prescribe hormonal birth-control pills (specifically to patients who are not looking to conceive) to “regulate menstrual bleeding, help reduce excessive hair growth and acne, and decrease the risk of endometrial cancer,” according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. For those trying to get pregnant, doctors might recommend medications like clomiphene, femara, metformin, or gonadotropins to help with ovulation.
Thanks to a recent TikTok with more than 430,000 views, a vitamin called inositol is being advertised as something that can “help you ovulate more often, regulate your cycles, help women looking to get pregnant, and reduce testosterone levels and insulin resistance.”
Read ahead to dive deeper into what inositol is, see whether experts say it actually works, and learn how it may help combat your annoying PCOS symptoms for good.
What Is Inositol?
Also known as vitamin B8, inositol is a component of the cell membrane that helps with metabolic and reproductive aspects of health, registered dietician and Flo medical expert Lauren Talbert, RD, says. It works as an insulin-signaling messenger, meaning it “allows the body to signal insulin to assist in the shift of glucose from blood to cells.”
According to Talbert, not only can inositol affect and potentially improve your serotonin and dopamine levels, but it has also been shown to lower cholesterol and CRP levels (a test ordered for those at risk for infections or chronic inflammatory diseases). Inositol can be found in many foods, such as fruits, beans, grains, and nuts, and it can also be taken as a supplement, capsule, or powder, as seen in the viral TikTok video.
How Does Inositol Help Combat PCOS Symptoms?
While there are nine forms of inositol, myo-inositol (MYO) and D-chiro-inositol (DCI) have been most studied in patients with PCOS, Talbert says.
People with PCOS can sometimes have altered metabolism and lower amounts of inositol in their tissue, Laxmi Kondapalli, MD, a reproductive endocrinologist and infertility specialist at CCRM Fertility in Colorado, says. The inability to chemically break down (or metabolize) inositol properly may contribute to insulin resistance, and when this happens, elevated levels can circulate in the body, Talbert says. That’s where inositol comes in. Given that it works as an insulin-signaling messenger, inositol can help combat PCOS symptoms related to insulin resistance.
What Dosage of Inositol Is Most Effective?
It is always best to consult with a medical profession before taking any supplement — a doctor can advise your on your body’s specific needs better than general guidelines. Typically, however, the recommended dose for those looking to combat their PCOS symptoms is two to four grams of MYO, combined with 50-100 milligrams of DCI taken twice daily, Talbert says.
“This supplement can come in a powder or capsule form, and it should be taken with a meal, as it will help to sensitize insulin produced after eating. The powdered form can be mixed in any liquid,” she says. For best results, Dr. Kondapalli recommends consistently taking the supplement in whatever form you choose for three months.
Does Inositol Work With Other PCOS-Related Medication or Treatment?
Before adding inositol supplements to your daily routine, it’s best to consult your doctor to make sure there is no conflict with the medicine you’re already on. But generally speaking, inositol supplements would likely benefit all people with PCOS, no matter what other medications they take, Talbert says.
This means — if your doctor gives the OK — that you can take inositol in addition to your prescribed birth control, synthroid (a medication for hypothyroidism, which sometimes goes hand-in-hand with PCOS), and/or metformin (a medication commonly prescribed to treat insulin resistance in women with PCOS). You can also expect results even if you aren’t on any PCOS-related medications or treatments.
The common bloating, nausea, and diarrhea side effects experienced with something like metformin aren’t seen with inositol supplements, so it “may be a good alternative,” Talbert says. Just make sure to talk with a medical professional before swapping out any medications.
If you want to take inositol and also have type 2 diabetes and take insulin or insulin-sensitizing medications, Talbert recommends monitoring your blood sugar more closely to err on the side of caution. It’s possible that “inositol may interact with diabetic medications and may drop blood glucose too low,” Dr. Konapalli says. Again, always best to confirm with your doctor before taking.
Speaking of Side Effects, Does Inositol Have Any?
“Generally, inositol is well tolerated,” Dr. Kondapalli says. Talbert says that “there have been no documented cases of drug interactions in studies where inositol was co-administered with FDA-approved medications.” In fact, it falls under the FDA category as “generally recognized as safe.”
How Do I Purchase Inositol Supplements?
Before choosing any dietary supplement, you’ll want to consult a medical professional on what’s best for you and your health. Once you get the go-ahead, you should make sure the brand you’re looking at has been third-party tested for potency and safety by companies like United States Pharmacopeia (USP) or NSF, or by consumer labs that perform third-party testing, Talbert says. If you want a place to start, Talbert recommends Theralogix’s Ovasitol. As always, however, it’s best to discuss all medical-related and inositol-supplement questions with a healthcare professional who can advise you on your specific needs.