What No One Told You About Your Period

What No One Told You About Your Period

I was talking to a friend the other day about carb cycling for women, specifically regarding the luteal phase and the best workouts to do while in the luteal phase versus the remainder of the month. She asked me to elaborate, as this was something she had never heard before. She was aware of the 28 day cycle that women experience with their menstrual cycles, but had no idea there were phases inside the 28 day cycle.

For a monthly process that happens internally, it seems a little curious that we as women don’t know as much about our menstrual cycles, but not surprising based on the negative attribution society gives our periods. I hope to elaborate and explain the phases so you can learn the benefits, hormonally, mentally, and physically below.

I am going to take a second and shed a little shade on the patriarchy for not allowing women to feel positive curiosity towards their menstrual cycle. It is often still considered a “gross” or “unattractive” to even discuss menstrual cycles. I am here to declare that now, and in the new year, we will be moving forward in our society and eliminating the taboo regarding our periods.

They happen, and often, and health issues can occur, SO WE ARE GOING TO DISCUSS THEM.

🙂

The Phases of the Menstrual Cycle:

1) Menstrual or Bleeding Phase:

Day 1 of bleeding is considered day 1 of your cycle. Typically, a woman’s cycle is around 28 days long. This can vary women to women though.

The menstrual phase can be the most exhausting part of your month, as your body is on overdrive working to shed the inner lining of your uterus. This is the discharge and blood flow we experience during our period.  Often menstrual cramps occur as the uterine and your abdomen contracts and releases to help facilitate the passing of the blood and discharge. These cramps can be experienced before the menstrual phase, too, as the uterus prepares for the shedding. More on that below.

Because this phase tends to consume a lot of our energy, we subconsciously move towards introspection and time alone to restore and nourish our mental and physical health. This is not to say a women NEEDS to stay inside and restore during her bleeding phase; I know most women do not have the opportunity to do so.  Our body is signaling us to rest, however.

If you are looking for exercise activities that may be best for you during this phase, think gentle but brisk. VInyasa yoga or power walks can be restorative, and there is science behind using exercising as a way to eliminate cramps. This can also be beneficial and balancing to our mood during this phase (and all phases, really.)

 

2) Follicular Phase:

This phase overlaps with the Bleeding phase. Follicular phase initiates on day one but continues through until day thirteen. During this phase, the pituitary gland promotes egg growth by releasing FSH (Follicle Stimulating Hormone) to your ovaries. In the ovary, the egg growth continues while inside a follicle. The follicle must be strong enough and ready to release the egg, a process that takes thirteen days, hence the thirteen days of this cycle. Blood vessels and other soft tissue are now growing in the uterus due to more hormone secretion caused by the follicle. LH or “Luteinizing Hormone” is also produced at this time. LH basically tells the uterus to start thickening its lining that was once shed during the Menstrual/Bleeding phase.

The female body is naturally more insulin-sensitive in the follicular phase when estrogen levels are highest and progesterone levels are at their lowest. This means the body tolerates carbohydrates in these two weeks better than the rest of the time.

Since insulin sensitivity is at its highest in the first two weeks of the menstrual cycle, and carb intake is free to be at its highest because we tolerate them best, exercise can be more aerobic (long, moderate heart-rate-elevating cardio exercises). It is at this time that you can do your best high performance cardio training. Here you can challenge yourself with longer-term exercises that may be more “stressful” for your body, like long bike rides, tabata sprints, night-long dance sessions, and the like. It is at this time in your cycle that your body can handle the most aerobic stress.

 

3) Ovulatory Phase:

On the 14th day, the pituitary gland releases enough hormones to encourage the egg to be released. The egg is then ushered through the fallopian tubes via cilia found in the fimbria.

Hormone levels, specifically estrogen and testosterone, are peaking during this time. This can result in higher confidence and libido, a natural process of our body to externally guide us towards finding a partner to reproduce.

 

4) Luteal Phase:

The luteal phase begins on the 15th and lasts until the end of the cycle. During this phase, the egg cell stays in the fallopian for the first 12-24 hours. It is during this time that the egg cell must be impregnated by a sperm cell or the egg disintegrates. By the end of the cycle the endometrium (the mucous membrane in the uterus that prepares the uterus for pregnancy)  is used up, causing the initiation of the new menstrual cycle.

The estrogen and testosterone that was prominent in the ovulatory phase starts to decline. This is when progesterone starts to peak.

In addition, the female body is naturally slightly less insulin sensitive when progesterone levels are higher in the luteal phase (after ovulation, in the last two weeks of the cycle). This means the body does not tolerate carbohydrate as well in these weeks. Women who are diabetic know this well. I’ve read many studies and heard from many women who increase their insulin injections in the second half of their cycle because their blood sugar levels are inordinately high.

Since insulin sensitivity is at its lowest in the final two weeks of the cycle, and carb intake is also at its lowest, exercise should be more anaerobic (this means hard and fast, really getting your heart pumping). It should be focused more on high-intensity interval training, with short bursts of high intensity work, either from brief sprint exercises or from weight lifting. This is an excellent way to sharpen insulin sensitivity while simultaneously burning fat, increasing muscle mass, and spending calories. It also helps the body stay healthy and as stress-free as possible during this time in which the body is gearing up to menstruate and the least capable of handling stress.

A Few Important Things to Note Regarding Our Cycles:

  • Estrogen and progesterone are elevated at different points in the menstrual cycle. Estrogen levels tend to be the most dominant in the first and second weeks of the cycle (especially the second week). Progesterone levels are at their highest in the third and fourth week of the cycle. This can affect on our energy levels.
  • Period symptoms including blood shed, cramp types and amount, and hormonal effects can vary person to person.
  • Birth control is regulating our periods, so if you have been on birth control since you started your period, you may have a different flow then if you were to get off birth control.

Factors that Can Change Your Menstrual Cycle:

  • Stress:
    We have covered this quite a bit on the PfW blog. But just to remind you- stress causes our bodies to choose which functions are most necessary and appropriate in the moment of stress or danger. More than not, if your body is going through a period of distress, you will not menstruate – as it does not see this period of time as a safe time to reproduce. If you are looking to reproduce, this can be one of the primary things to concentrate on that will assist in conceiving.
  • Sleep :
    Irregular sleeping patterns will cause disruptive hormone secretion which can cause a lapse or change with your menstrual cycle. It is seriously so important to give your body an appropriate amount of rest!
  • Medical Conditions like PCOS or HA:
    Both of these conditions can affect hormone levels in the body, in turn affecting our periods. For women with HA (Hypothalamic Amenorrhea), the woman’s body believes it is starving so the body shuts down hormone production. The body does this based on our instincts. Being pregnant while starving is considered life threatening by the body, so the body does not allow reproduction to be a choice. Women with PCOS have an excess of hormone production resulting in inflammation, weight gain, high insulin levels, and more. Read more on PCOS here, and HA here.
  • Diet :
    This can most definitely affect your cycle. When I was vegetarian for 4+ years, I did not have a single period. I attribute this to the lack of nutrients I was giving my body. If your body is feeling deprived or missing crucial nutrients, it will stop producing the hormones needed to menstruate.
  • Routine Changes:
    Our body is cyclatory. We see this in our circadian rhythm and our menstrual cycle. If you switch positions at a job, or you move to the night shift, this disruption in your normal schedule can cause your menstrual cycle to shift resulting in longer or shorter cycles, or even missed cycles. This is usually not permanent.

Further Reading:

I know this is a lot of information, but I hope it’s useful for you. I really do notice a difference in my aerobic vs. anaerobic activity throughout my different phases, as well as my carbohydrate tolerance and overall energy levels. There are so many factors surrounding our menstrual cycles, especially because women can be so incredibly different. I have included a few extra links to further reading on PCOS and HA below for your reference.

I am always very curious as to how other women adjust to their different phases, or if any of their physiological or emotional responses vary from what I have researched. Drop me a comment with your feedback!

Hypothalamic Amenorhhea further reading:

PCOS further reading:

 

3 Ways a Functional Nutritionist Can Help You

3 Ways a Functional Nutritionist Can Help You

Have you been using Dr. Google for a while now?  Do you find yourself reading tons of health blogs (like this one!) but still having lingering symptoms?  Are you confused about what is healthy and right for YOU?

Don’t worry!  That’s normal!

For many of us, the path the greater health starts with self-exploration and private research.  We find great blogs and books with scientific evidence, recipes, and advice.

We try to discern and decipher this advice for ourselves, and for a while it works.  We feel better and our symptoms abate somewhat.

But over time, many of us find that we can’t hone in on those last few lingering symptoms.  We simply need expert help.

That’s why we are so excited to be offering consulting services with a functional nutritionist, Amber Fischer, MS.  She’s provided this post below to help acquaint you with three big ways she can help you back to optimal health.  If you’re interested in learning more about her or what working with her is like, find her here.

#1 An Expert, Outside Perspective

A functional nutritionist is someone who looks deeply at the root causes of disease and dysfunction in the body and helps you improve your health from the inside out.  We aren’t interested in covering up symptoms, but rather targeting those root cause issues and getting to the bottom of your problems.

One big way working with a functional nutritionist can help you is by giving you an expert, outside perspective on your problems.  So often, we are blind to the very things that are distressing our bodies.  Whether it be too much or too little exercise, a possible cortisol or hormonal imbalance, a food sensitivity, or many other things.

In my experience, we often need that outside perspective to help us discover what is really going on, and admit it to ourselves.

A functional nutritionist looks at your unique history and experiences and spends time talking with you about what has led up to this point.  We don’t spend 15 minutes with you and send you on your way, we really want to deeply understand and know you so that we can truly help you.

We take that history and formulate an expert idea about what may be going on with you and then we filter that through our education and biochemistry background to formulate a unique plan for you.

#2 Hone in on issues

Because functional nutrition isn’t concerned with covering up symptoms, we understand how to look past symptoms that may be distracting you from the underlying cause.

Issues like hormonal imbalance typically indicate a deeper problem and when we use supplements and protocols designed to help manipulate those hormones, we miss the underlying reason the hormones have become unbalanced in the first place!

This is a skill that takes many years of vigorous education and experience to obtain.  Functional nutritionists take numerous hours of advanced biochemistry, along with doing lots of research and seeing clients.  This gives us a level of understanding and perspective that the average person just isn’t able to obtain.

When you need help figuring out your health goals, you will save time and money by going to an expert first.

#3 Unique functional testing and custom services

A functional nutritionist respects your story and intuition about what works and doesn’t work for YOU.  We take your needs as a whole person into account before making nutrition recommendations.  We offer customized plans and services for YOU.

We can also run some incredible functional testing that you won’t be able to get at your doctor’s office.  Checking your adrenal gland rhythm, neurotransmitters, gastrointestinal tract, micronutrient status and more are all possible with a qualified practitioner.

These things may not seem that important, but knowing what is truly going on underneath can give you a world of information and perspective to help you attack lingering health issues.

If you’ve struggled with hormonal issues like PCOS, adrenal fatigue, thyroid disorders, lingering weight issues, gastrointestinal issues, or anxiety and depression, I’m here to help.

If you’re interested in working with me through Paleo for Women, learn more about me here.

You can also visit my website here and my follow me on facebook (here) where I publish my articles and often do videos to help keep you up to date with the latest in nutrition!

 

 

Do You Have Anemia?  Two Types to Be Aware Of

Do You Have Anemia? Two Types to Be Aware Of

Many, many women suffer from anemia, the most common kind being iron-deficiency anemia.

But did you know there are actually several different types of anemia?

If you are very pale, with pale conjunctivae, have heavy periods, or lack energy, you may have anemia.

The only real way to find out if you do and what kind, is to see your doctor and have a blood test run.  A good doctor will be able to discern these results to decide if your anemia is due to iron-deficiency, chronic inflammation or illness, macrocytic anemia or another cause.  

I suggest a doctor who works in functional medicine if you don’t have one you like and trust already.

For my readers, I’m primarily concerned with two types of anemia- iron deficiency and macryocytic.

Iron-Deficiency Anemia

This is the most common kind of anemia and can result from a diet too low in iron, heavy periods or even regular menstruation coupled with low iron intake, vegetarian or vegan diets, or low stomach acid among other things.

Iron is found in two forms- heme and non-heme with heme being the most available, easily used form by the body.  Heme iron is found primarily in meat while non-heme is found primarily in plants.

Vegetarians and vegans may be low in iron because they primarily consume non-heme iron.  Several factors enhance and inhibit absorption of non heme iron.  Inhibitors include polyphenols and flavanoids from things like tea and coffee, oxalic acid found in spinach, chard, berries, and chocolate, phytic acid from grains and legumes, and phosvitin from egg yolks.

Low stomach acid can cause iron deficiency anemia because stomach acid is where protein is primarily broken down for digestion.  

Those with low stomach acid typically take a hydrochloric acid supplement (like this one) that helps supplement the acid in the stomach to properly break down proteins and fats.  The best kinds are those which contain pepsin, an enzyme that helps digest protein.  I like this one.

For those with low iron intake, who don’t eat much meat, or who need supplemental iron, I recommend this brand.  It is easily absorbed and non-constipating.  Make sure with your doctor or qualified nutritionist that you need iron before you begin taking it as too much iron can be toxic.

Megaloblastic Macrocytic Anemia

Sometimes women suspect they have iron-deficiency anemia when they really have a different kind of anemia called macrocytic anemia.  Macrocytic anemia occurs due to deficiencies of Vitamin B12, Folate, or more rarely B6 which cause the release into circulation of red blood cells that are fewer than normal as well as large and immature.  This type of anemia can occur in vegans and vegetarians, those eating poor diets, as well as women with PCOS or the MTHFR gene mutation.

In vegans and vegetarians, vitamin B12 deficiencies are common due to a lack of the vitamin in the diet.  If this becomes chronic, B12 deficiences can cause macrocytic anemia.

In those with poor diet, sources of folate are rare.  Those who I worry most about are those consuming very high protein, low carbohydrate diets with very few vegetables.  Processed foods actually often contain folic acid, helping to avoid deficiency, but in an unprocessed diet that is very low in vegetables, deficiencies could occur.

Women with PCOS are more at risk of having the MTHFR gene mutation.  This mutation causes poor methylation of B vitamins like B12 and Folic Acid.  Chronically low levels of these vitamins can eventually cause macrocytic anemia.

For those with the MTHFR gene mutation, it is usually recommended to supplement with the already methylated forms of Vitamin B12 as methylcobalamin (find it here) and Folate as L-methylfolate (find it here).

Consulting a functional medicine doctor can help you get to the root cause of these issues and figure out the next steps.  A qualified nutritionist can also help you navigate the interchange of diet and anemia.

Eating a diet with ample iron is important for women as well.  Look out for a post next week on that very topic!

Have you struggled with anemia?

 

The 10 Most Common Mistakes Women with PCOS Make

The 10 Most Common Mistakes Women with PCOS Make

I’ve been working with women who have PCOS now for more than 5 years. In this time, I’ve encountered hundreds if not thousands of specific cases. Iv’e read just about every blog, website, and article there is out there for PCOS. I’ve spent hours searching through online forums and facebook communities, learning about women’s experiences.

After all this time, I’ve learned a thing or two (or several hundred) about what’s right for PCOS, as well as what isn’t.

To help prevent you from making the same mistakes I see over and over again with women who have PCOS, I’ve put together a list of the 10 most common ones. Hopefully then you’ll be able to dodge the bullet, so to speak, and overcome PCOS quickly and painlessly.

  1. Going on the Birth Control Pill

The birth control pill might be a good way to mask symptoms of PCOS, but it never fixes the underlying problem. In fact, many women who go on the pill find that their PCOS has worsens while on it, but don’t find out until they get off the pill, try to get pregnant, then can’t. Birth Control Pills are one of the most favored “solutions” for PCOS of doctors, but they are completely ineffective in terms of healing, fertility, or long-term freedom from PCOS.

  1. Using Metformin

Due to its ability to increase insulin sensitivity, Metformin is one of the most commonly prescribed medications in the Western world. Metformin can help alleviate complications from diabetes, as well as help women who have PCOS, especially type 1 PCOS (more on which in video #2). Metformin is a problem, however, since much like birth control pills, in that it never solves the underlying problem causing hormone imbalance and PCOS. It only ever covers it up.

  1. Taking estrogen blockers

Thousands of women take Estro block or other estrogen blockers in hopes of helping their PCOS. However, estrogen is generally not the main problem for women with PCOS. If you’re taking estrogen blockers, you may be targeting the wrong hormones. Instead, consider looking into ways to decrease testosterone and/or DHEA-S levels, especially if you are “type 1 PCOS”. If you are “type 2 PCOS,” more estrogen might actually be what you need.

  1. Taking herbal supplements

Admittedly, some women find great relief from herbal supplements. But just like with Metformin and birth control pills, they don’t  provide permanent solutions. They only help to alleviate symptoms and cover up underlying issues. Also, they are not well studied by the scientific literature, so their effects are not well known. Most supposed “effects” of herbal supplements simply come from people’s stories. So it may be worthwhile to experiment with herbal supplements while addressing underlying issues, but this should be done carefully, and with due acknowledgement of the fact that it may not fix underlying issues.

  1. Doing a lot of cardio

Is more always better? For exercise, the answer is no, especially if you’re spending all your time on a bike or a treadmill. The best way to exercise for PCOS is to shoot for efficiency: short, intense, effective exercises instead of long, grueling, stamina-demanding exercises are best. This is because short and intense work outs (such as lifting heavy weights) help improve insulin levels and hormone balance, while long-distances exercises can help, but not quite as much. Most women do well shooting for 3-4 weight lifting work outs a week.

  1. Failing to investigate underlying causes

Trying to overcome PCOS without paying attention to its underlying causes is like shooting in the dark. Getting your hormone levels tested by a doctor, by a functional medicine practitioner, or with a home saliva test is a great way to get data on what’s going on in your body. If you don’t have access to that, learning about the potential causes and types of PCOS and their symptoms (which I’ll discuss some in video #2) may very well be enough. The more you know about what’s causing your PCOS, the more specifically you can treat it.

  1. Low carb diets

Most women who have PCOS try a low carbohydrate diet. Is this effective? Sometimes. But not all women are helped by it. In fact, more than 20% of women who have PCOS may be hurt by it. If you try a low carb diet, pay close attention to your symptoms and see if they get better or worse. That way, you can stop yourself from doing damage if you are one of the 20% of women who really need those carbs.

  1. Low fat, high protein diets

Common nutritional wisdom says that low fat, high protein diets are best. Nutritionists or magazines might tell you to eat salad with low fat dressing and lean chicken breast. But this is not necessarily best, and definitely not for women with hormone imbalance. Hormones (and other important parts of the body, such as brain matter) are made out of fat. Without it, as you heal from PCOS, your body won’t be able to produce the hormones it needs. Fat is a friend, for all women with PCOS.

  1. Dining out

Unfortunately, dining out in the West is full of potential dangers for women with PCOS. One of the worst dangers is the fact that the vast majority of restaurants use vegetable oil for their cooking. Vegetable oil (including corn oil, soybean oil, sunflower oil, rapeseed oil, canola oil, and more) is rich in omega 6 fatty acids, which cause inflammation. Inflammation is one of the most common underlying issues that women with PCOS suffer from. To help minimize your inflammation levels, consider dining out as little as possible, or specifically requesting olive oil or butter to be used for your meals. Additionally, adding a fermented cod liver oil supplement (fermentation prevents the fats from oxidizing and keeps them healthful) is one quick way to start reducing inflammation levels.

  1. Ignoring potential red flags

Irregular or absent periods, acne, facial hair growth, and difficulty losing weight are all potential symptoms of PCOS. But it’s important when you’re looking for the underlying causes of PCOS to pay attention to other symptoms you experience. Do you have good digestive health? Are you chronically cold? Do you suffer from chronic headaches? Any symptom you experience in your body could help point to underlying causes.

If you’re looking for help on your journey with PCOS – and want to do things like pay attention to red flags, and avoid all the mistakes these women have, I can help you. There are countless posts on my blog about various things concerning PCOS. You can catch a list of the most popular ones at the page labeled PCOS.

You can also, if you’re ready to get serious about healing (did I tell you I overcame PCOS in 6 weeks once I finally figured out what my underlying problem was?), check out my totally risk free program for overcoming PCOS: PCOS Unlocked: The Manual.

One Thing All Women With PCOS Need

One Thing All Women With PCOS Need

If you’ve done any searching on my website you have probably learned a lot about your PCOS and how to try to heal its many underlying causes and symptoms.

You may have even purchased my helpful e-book, PCOS Unlocked (find it here).

But I have a fear for you, my readers, that I feel its important to point out.

You need a doctor.

Here me out, because I know that in the natural health world, it’s pretty common practice to think you’ve got all the tools at your fingertips, that food is your medicine, and you don’t need anything else.

That given time, your body will heal itself.

Maybe.

I don’t mean to be pessimistic, of course.  I DO believe that food is medicine and that there is much that can be done for PCOS with nutrition and lifestyle alone.

But that doesn’t mean that those who follow those nutritional rules to the letter will succeed in eliminating the condition.

And MOST importantly, that doesn’t mean you don’t need to be followed by a medical professional.

This has been on my mind lately with the diagnosis of endometrial cancer in a friend.

She did everything right, watched her diet, did her exercise, went off birth control pills.

But her periods didn’t normalize and she didn’t see a doctor and eventually, because she was not ovulating, the lining of her uterus became too thick, turned into complex hyperplasia with atypia and eventually developed into early stage cancer.

It’s rare, it’s absolutely uncommon in a woman her age, but according to many doctors, it’s becoming more and more common.

Endometrial cancer used to be considered a cancer of older women, something that would occur during menopause.

But more and more women with PCOS are suffering from it.

There is no ideal situation here.  It sucks any way you look at it.

Because what she should have done is gone to her doctor when she didn’t menstruate and the doctor would have prescribed a progesterone pill to induce her to menstruate.

There’s potential issues with those progesterone pills, sure, just like with anything prescribed.

But.

It would have prevented cancer.

So I’m asking you ladies, you know who you are, the ones who are sick of ill-informed doctors and being told to go on birth control.  

The ones who are tired of being judged for their weight.  

The ones who are sick of the old advice to just lose “10%”.  

The ones who are looking to natural health to fill the void of medicine.

I’m asking you to please keep them both.

Do the natural thing, absolutely.

But don’t neglect those important screenings- vaginal ultrasounds and sometimes, endometrial biopsies, that are vital to knowing the state of one’s health.

No matter what we do with our diet, some of us are just going to be facing a higher wall than others and we have to be cautious and careful in that climb.

Here’s some of the things that make that wall so high:

  • Having to eat conventional meat with antibiotics and hormones.  If you can afford to do so, we recommend meat from Butcher Box (find more info here), or any grass-fed, pastured meat because it is healthier.  At the very least, go organic if you can.
  • BPA in the environment, the water, and basically everywhere.  You can cut some of the BPA you take in by using BPA free products like these, but you can never eliminate it all.
  • Being more prone to craving sweets and sugar, even though they are much worse for your health when you have insulin issues and having hyperinsulinemia, which most women with PCOS do, in which you produce excessive insulin in relation to the food you eat.  There are several supplements that can increase insulin sensitivity like L-carnitine (find more information here), inositol (find it here), and others, but none can fully solve the underlying problem. 
  • Being overweight and inflamed or being normal weight and inflamed.  Carrying excess weight in the stomach produces inflammation, no way around it, and that inflammation harms the whole body.
  • Having poor gut health, bowel irregularities, or digestive illness.  Here’s my post about having a healthy gut.

That means trying our best, but also listening to the advice of a good doctor.  It’s a TEAM effort.

My friend found a wonderful OBGYN who is super knowledgeable and informed, but there are great reproductive endocrinologists and even primary care providers out there.

By all means, shop around!  Find a doctor that stays up to date on PCOS research, that specializes in PCOS, or at least one who recognizes the important role diet plays in insulin sensitivity.

Find a doctor you are comfortable with, who doesn’t think all supplements and nutrition advice is quack science, and who supports your goals.

But find a doctor.

And see them regularly.

And face your PCOS head on.

The last thing you want to do is bury your head in the sand by eating paleo and thinking everything will just work itself out.

That may happen, but please, don’t take the risk.

Have you learned this valuable lesson?  I’d love to hear your stories.  

The Link Between L-Carnitine and PCOS

The Link Between L-Carnitine and PCOS

If you have PCOS, you’ve probably tried a number of things to help your health, and you probably have a number of concerns.

Women with PCOS are more likely to be overweight or obese, more likely to suffer metabolic disorders and insulin-related conditions, and, alongside the extra facial hair, irregular periods, and infertility, it’s a lot to take.

I care deeply about this condition and have worked in my own way to help those who have it for many years (see my PCOS program: PCOS Unlocked)

But the more prevalent PCOS becomes, the more research is done, and new things are coming out all the time!

I’m so excited to bring you this information on L-carnitine, a very special amino acid that can help women with PCOS lose weight naturally and feel more energetic.  

L-carnitine is a nootropic amino acid found typically in meat products and milk.

Nootropics are types of supplements (like adaptogens) that work with the brain to increase it’s efficiency.  

L-carnitine helps alleviate the effects of aging and disease on mitochondria, while increasing the mitochondria’s potential to burn fat.

For most people (i.e. those without PCOS) it is not a nutrient of concern and they synthesize an ample amount internally and from lysine and methionine in foods.  However, it has been found that women with PCOS are often deficient in L-carnitine, regardless of their diets.

L-carnitine improves insulin sensitivity and helps lower blood glucose, which is valuable for women with PCOS who are usually insulin resistant.  

This ability, plus the fact that PCOS women are often deficient in L-carnitine seem to make l-carnitine effective in promoting natural weight loss.  

It is also known to increase energy, lower ammonia, enhance energy during cancer treatment, improve exercise tolerance and energy in those with conditions like angina and congestive heart failure, and enhance sperm morphology, in case you were curious!

Although studies regarding weight loss with l-carnitine in general seem to find mixed benefit, studies which look at those deficient in l-carnitine or those with insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome find it does help.

In fact, a recent study of PCOS only women found that compared to placebo, statistically significant weight loss occurred over 12 weeks with supplementation.

This is excellent news since it is no secret that PCOS women, with their hormone imbalances and insulin resistance typically struggle to maintain a healthy weight.  

Adverse effects are rare but can include gastrointestinal disturbance, body odor, and seizures.  I’ve heard from some women that it causes a “fishy” odor in the urine, which can be unpleasant.  It may possibly interact with anticoagulants and certain thyroid medications so, like with any supplement or diet, you should get the okay from your doctor.  

Typical doses in the studies that showed weight loss benefits ranged from 500-2,000 mg a day, with 2,000 mg. a day being what was used with PCOS women.

Though the evidence for this supplement in PCOS are somewhat new, there’s enough promise that I find it interesting for PCOS ladies looking for weight loss help.  
It’s not a magic pill, and a focus on healthy dietary habits is absolutely still vital for women the PCOS.

But, one of the cool things about L-carnitine is that it is best deposited into muscles in hyperinsulinemic states, or during times when insulin is high (which is almost all the time for most PCOS women).

That means those with insulin resistant conditions would see the most benefit from supplementation.

If you’re interested in trying L-carnintine, give it at least 12 weeks of supplementation.  This is one (find l-carnitine on amazon here) I particularly like because the pills are in 1000 mg amounts so you can just take 2 a day, with meals.  

Find L-carnitine on Amazon here. 

Do you take l-carnitine and has it helped you?  What supplements are part of your PCOS routine?

 

(Here’s the citation for that study, in case you want to check it out- 

Samimi, M., Jamilian, M., Afshar Ebrahimi, F., Rahimi, M., Tajbakhsh, B., & Asemi, Z. (2016). Oral carnitine supplementation reduces body weight and insulin resistance in women with polycystic ovary syndrome: a randomized, double‐blind, placebo‐controlled trial. Clinical endocrinology.)