For women with PCOS & other hormonal issues, hair is a big deal. You get too much hair in some places, well everywhere but your head. On your head, you lose it. PCOS causes an excess of testosterone, leading to male pattern baldness, as well as male pattern body hair (excess hair on the chest, back, hands & feet, butt, all the manly places, also thicker & darker) & the the dreaded facial hair.
My biggest problem was thinning hair. When I was younger my hair was so thick I had it thinned out when I had my hair cut. Last year I realized I was losing a bird’s nest of hair every day. No matter how many times I brushed it, more hair was always coming out. I would brush it before I washed it, still lose lots of hair in the shower, & later I could pull at my hair & come away with several more strands. The shower was full, the garbage can was full (after I brushed it really did look like a bird’s nest in the can), & there was hair everywhere in the apartment. Granted, I do have long hair which adds to the volume of my hair piles.
I could see my scalp without parting my hair for the first time in my life. I’m vain when it comes to my hair, so that was a big deal for me.
What is a modern gal to do when she has a problem? To the interwebz!
First, let me say I am in in no way a medical professional. Everything I know I learned from the internet & personal experience.
I’ve sprinkled links around the post, but I’m going list them all at the bottom too.
So, what is PCOS? According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine:
Polycystic ovary syndrome is a common hormonal disorder that affects 5%-10% of women. The diagnosis of PCOS is made when a woman has two of the following three characteristics: 1) inability to release an egg from the ovaries on a regular (monthly) basis (chronic anovulation), 2) increased male hormone levels and/or an increase in hair in the midline of the body (hyperandrogenism), and 3) polycystic-appearing ovaries on ultrasound. Because of the variable nature of PCOS, its diagnosis is based upon the combination of clinical, ultrasound, and laboratory features.
Polycystic ovary syndrome is a condition associated with hormonal imbalances that cause the ovaries to overproduce androgens. It is a common cause of hirsutism. In patients with PCOS, multiple small follicles develop in the ovaries that appear as cysts, hence the term “polycystic.” These small cysts are actually immature ovarian follicles that failed to mature and ovulate.
So, after doing a great deal of research I decided to try inositol, a former member of the B vitamins who was demoted to nutritional supplement. Now it’s sad like Pluto. 😦 “I used to be a vitamin.” “Oh yeah, I used to be a planet!”
Inositol is a vitamin-like substance. It is found in many plants and animals. It can also be made in a laboratory.
Inositol is used for diabetic nerve pain, panic disorder, high cholesterol, insomnia, cancer, depression, schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s disease, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism, promoting hair growth, a skin disorder called psoriasis, and treating side effects of medical treatment with lithium.
Inositol is also used by mouth for treating conditions associated with polycystic ovary syndrome, including failure to ovulate; high blood pressure; high triglycerides; and high levels of testosterone.
Wikipedia says there are nine types of inositol, but the two that concern us today are myo-inositol & d-chiro-inositol (DCI). There is some disagreement as to which is better, but DCI is made in your body from myo-inositol so for my money it seems like a moot point. But what do I know? Myo-inositol is usually what you’re getting when you buy “inositol”.
Okay, so we know about PCOS & inositol, what do we do with that knowledge?
Inositol is widely available & fairly inexpensive. I bought my first in capsule form from GNC. No. After pricing around it was way more than anywhere else & capsules are impractical because of how much you need to take.
Most capsules are 250mg & come combined with 250mg of choline. You can get 500mg capsules as well, but powder is cheaper. It has a slightly sweet taste. A lot of people mix it in a drink, but mine has a scoop so I just throw a scoop in my mouth & take a drink. It’s easier to me.
So how much do you need to take? That’s a good question. In the PCOS community the big number is 4g/day for restoring normal cycles, based on this double-blind study done in Italy in 2007, but a smaller study done in 2008 had good results with 2g/day. So basically, shrug Start small & increase your dosage incrementally until you get results. That’s always good advice. It gives your body time to adjust to something new, as well as letting you see what happens when. It’s also always a good idea to talk these things over with your doctor first, & that includes the person who writes your psych scripts.
My hair stopped thinning at 1,500mg/day. Keep in mind, that’s me. I started at 500mg? 1g? /day, & went up in a couple of weeks until I noticed a significant decrease in my hair loss. It went back to normal. I kept going up on my dose, getting up to 6g/day (the size of the scoop that comes with mine) & went off bcp to see what would happen. My first month off, right about ovulation time I started having I swear every sign of pregnancy short of a baby.
For 3wks I was miserable. Foods I love started making me sick. Smells I never noticed made me want to vomit. I was tired all the time & kept falling asleep during the day. Every night I got so nauseous I thought I was going to vomit. I started sleeping with a wet rag & some gingerale on the night stand. My boobs got bigger, heavier, & more tender. I even had white stuff coming out of my nipples. Nothing has ever come out of my nipples. There was also this one really weird thing that scared me, but when I looked it up it was something that happens to pregnant women & babies. I am not going to say what it was because it was really gross. My period was one week late, & then all of it went away. I took several pregnancy tests, all negative – even after my period just to be sure.
I read on one of the forums it’s normal to have pregnancy symptoms after stopping bcp because your body is working out the hormones, or something, but I have never had anything happen when I went off bcp. I just stopped having periods. That’s it. Then I waited 2mos & my next period never came so I took a couple more pregnancy tests & went back on bcp. So, not the natural period regulator some women reported, but I did see something different. I think it’s a positive sign I seemed to have a hormonal reaction coming off the bcp, for the first time ever. It means something was still working in there; at least for a few weeks.
I’m up to 7g/day now. I take two capsules of 250mg each of inositol & choline, day & night, & at night I take a 6g scoop of inositol powder. I guess at some point I’ll see what happens if I stop my bcp again.
OT, but if you’ve read this far you know inositol is used for a lot more than just PCOS. A lot of people report help with Anxiety, Depression, OCD, Bipolar Disorder, ADHD, & insomnia at much higher doses. WebMD has a nice section on dosing & people self-reporting results, so you can see what has worked for other people.
For those of you who are still around, I have gotten my powder from a couple of places. I bought some from Walmart.com (my local doesn’t have it), but after more searching I have been getting mine at Swansons.com. It’s Swanson’s 100% Pure Inositol Powder. There’s also plenty on Amazon, but I think that powder is the cheapest I’ve found. It’s the only one I’ve used since I first tried it. It’s 8oz, comes with a 6g scoop, & at a scoop a day lasts me a couple of months, $10.99 + shipping. I have been getting most all of my vitamins/supplements from them as well. I like their prices, the info, & all the reviews on the site. I’m a sucker for reviews. (Nope, I get/got nothing from them for saying this.)
If you use my referral code (nothing special, everybody who makes an account gets one), you can get a $5 coupon if you’re a new customer. Full disclosure: If you make a minimum purchase I get a credit too. However, I’m not saying what that minimum is because that’s not what this is about.
I hope all of that info is useful to someone. There is a lot out there on inositol, but most of it involves the same information. However, there’s a lot of personal experience out there, which is always helpful, sometimes more than the science.
EDIT: I meant to add I also think I’ve grown a little back. It’s not much, not even enough to be certain, but I did get fuzzy baby hairs a few weeks after it stopped thinning & I do feel I’m less scalpy these days, months later.
Here’s the list of links used in the article: