Are you aware of the importance of micronutrients when discussing PCOS symptom management? In this article, I will discuss what micronutrients are, how they relate to managing PCOS, and what you can do to increase your intake.
What are Micronutrients?
Micronutrients are vitamins, minerals, and vitamin-like substances that support every cellular mechanism in our body. We need micronutrients to thrive and without them, we can die. When we lack the right amount of micronutrients, our cells can experience dysfunction where they cannot properly create energy. This can lead to fatigue and eventually chronic disease. Because of this, it’s important we get enough nutrients to support our metabolic health.
Our body can become depleted of nutrients even faster when we have medical conditions, take medications, have chronic inflammation, and/or poor gut health. Remember, we aren’t what we eat, we are what we absorb. If someone is experiencing lots of gastrointestinal inflammation, it can damage the lining in their gut that helps absorb and utilize nutrients.
Micronutrients and PCOS Connection
Because PCOS is a lifelong medical condition that is associated with insulin resistance, chronic inflammation, and poor metabolic health, it’s important to get enough micronutrients through diet. Medications often associated with PCOS, like metformin, can deplete important B-vitamins like B12 and folate. Being nutrient deficient is associated with a higher risk of gastrointestinal disorders, metabolic syndrome, and mental health disorders. Because of this, it’s important to look at the micronutrient status of people with PCOS.
Metformin and B-Vitamins
As mentioned, metformin is a commonly prescribed medication for individuals with PCOS. Metformin has been shown to decrease concentrations of vitamin B12 and folate. For those taking metformin, supplementing with the methylated form of B-12 and methylated form of folate can help restore nutrient levels. When these two nutrients are low, it can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease.
It is recommended to take methylated forms if using a supplement to help increase absorption and utilization. But if you’re looking to increase through food, eating leafy greens and lean animal protein will help increase levels. Here are some suggested food items below:
- Foods high in folate
- Brussel Sprouts
- Foods high in B12
- Lean Beef
Micronutrients for PCOS Insulin Resistance
Over the last decade, there’s been an increase in research looking at cellular nutrition which is a relatively new field of nutrition. Cellular nutrition looks at what’s happening on the cellular level in regards to metabolism and nutrient status. Because of this field of study, we know how important micronutrients are in supporting chronic conditions like PCOS.
Magnesium & PCOS
Magnesium is a mineral that supports over 300 enzyme reactions in the body. This means without magnesium the enzyme reactions cannot function effectively. Magnesium plays an important role in supporting insulin sensitivity and nerve function. It is estimated that 97% of the US population is deficient in magnesium. There are multiple supplement forms of magnesium that provide different benefits but it’s important you talk to your dietitian to understand which form would be best for you.
Food Sources of Magnesium:
- Cooked greens
Potassium & PCOS
Potassium is another mineral important for supporting insulin sensitivity. In fact, research has shown that as potassium levels go up, insulin levels go down. This is because potassium can help glucose enter your cells.
Many individuals with PCOS remove high potassium foods from their diet because they are typically higher in carbohydrates. Instead, they should include these foods in their diet by incorporating them into a balanced meal so it doesn’t affect blood sugar as much. This means including carbohydrates with protein, fat, and fiber at meals.
Food Sources of Potassium:
- Coconut Water
Vitamin D & PCOS
Vitamin D is the most widely studied vitamin. It’s actions are very similar to hormones making it an interesting and critical vitamin. Low vitamin D levels have been linked to blood sugar dysregulation, insulin resistance, poor bone health, and mental health disorders.
Recommendations for appropriate serum vitamin D levels have increased significantly from previous years. Current research supports a blood level of 40-50 ng/mL for those with metabolic conditions. Talk to your doctor about getting your vitamin D tested regularly.
Best Sources of Vitamin D:
- Fortified Orange Juice
- Egg yolks
Chromium & PCOS
Chromium is a less popular nutrient but very important. It helps the body process carbohydrates and improves insulin sensitivity. It’s important to talk to your doctor before taking any supplements containing chromium because it can interact with diabetes medications to lower blood glucose too low.
It’s always recommended to increase your intake through food first.
Food Sources of Chromium:
- Brewers Yeast
Micronutrients for PCOS Inflammation
If you’re struggling with chronic inflammation related to PCOS, it’s important to get tested for nutrient deficiencies as inflammation depletes many vitamins and minerals. Here are some important nutrients to focus on:
Vitamin E & PCOS
Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that prevents your cells and DNA from being damaged from oxidative stress. When we have inflammation, our oxidative stress increases and can lead to worsening PCOS symptoms. Vitamin E also supports the production of progesterone which is a hormone that individuals with PCOS don’t make enough of.
Best Food Sources of Vitamin E:
- Sunflower Seeds
Vitamin C & PCOS
Vitamin C is another powerful antioxidant that serves many different functions. For those with high inflammation and high stress, vitamin C gets depleted faster and needs will increase.
Many foods that are high in vitamin C are fruits, a food group many individuals with PCOS have heard they need to cut out. That information couldn’t be further from the truth. Fruit provides a lot of vitamin C and potassium making them great options for PCOS.
Best Food Sources of Vitamin C:
- Citrus fruits like lemons, oranges, and limes
- Bell Peppers
Omega 3 Fatty Acids & PCOS
Omega 3 fatty acids have been well studied for their ability to reduce inflammation. Unfortunately, those who follow a more standard American diet have significantly less omega 3’s because of the lack of fish/seafood eaten.
Research has shown those who regularly supplement with omega 3 have significantly higher levels of anti-inflammatory molecules. Because of this, it is recommended those with PCOS increase their intake of omega 3 rich foods like salmon, oysters, and sablefish.
Eating Enough Micronutrients for PCOS
Ensuring you eat enough micronutrients can seem tedious. But the focus here is simply eating a variety of nutrient-rich, colorful foods. Consider these simple ways to eat more micronutrients:
- Include a fruit and/or vegetable at every meal
- Eat fish and seafood twice per week
- Snack on nuts and seeds
Not sure what to eat for PCOS? Learn more about my 1:1 Peace with PCOS Experience so you can eliminate your PCOS symptoms with ease.
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