Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) affects up to 15 percent of women and causes many unwanted symptoms, like acne, unwanted hair growth or hair loss, and irregular cycles.
In this article, we’ll discuss the benefits of using turmeric for PCOS, turmeric supplements, and tips for incorporating turmeric into your meals at home.
What is Turmeric?
Turmeric is an anti-inflammatory spice derived from Southeast Asia. Traditional Chinese medicine has used turmeric for thousands of years due to its anti-inflammatory benefits.
Curcumin is the active ingredient in turmeric that provides most of the anti-inflammatory benefits and gives turmeric its characteristic bright orange color.
For the purpose of this article, we will use turmeric and curcumin interchangeably.
Benefits of Turmeric for PCOS
Most of the benefits of turmeric stem from its powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. While there are not a large amount of studies specifically assessing PCOS and turmeric yet, the few available show promising results.
May Decrease Insulin Resistance
Up to 70 percent of women with PCOS have some degree of insulin resistance
). Insulin resistance occurs when your cells do not properly respond to insulin, leading to higher blood sugar and insulin levels. Insulin resistance worsens inflammation and causes the ovaries to produce more androgens (i.e. testosterone). Excess androgens cause unwanted PCOS symptoms like acne, facial hair, weight gain, or weight loss resistance.
Fortunately, turmeric may reduce insulin resistance. One review study following women with PCOS found that taking a range of 500 – 1500 mg of curcumin per day reduced fasting insulin levels and improved the cells’ ability to respond to insulin (2
Improves Blood Sugar Levels
Insulin resistance leads to higher blood sugar levels. Left untreated, high blood sugar levels can eventually lead to type 2 diabetes and other chronic diseases. To reduce your risk of these complications and address this major root cause of PCOS, you must normalize blood sugar levels by modifying your diet and lifestyle. Improving blood sugar levels may also promote healthy cycles with regular ovulation and help you lose weight.
Because of its beneficial effect on insulin resistance, turmeric may also subsequently reduce fasting blood sugar levels in women with PCOS (2
Increases HDL Cholesterol
Taking turmeric may increase your HDL levels (2
). HDL is commonly known as the “good cholesterol”, because it absorbs cholesterol in the blood and carries it back to the liver for disposal. Higher levels of HDL cholesterol can lower your risk for heart disease and stroke. This is particularly important for women with PCOS as this condition raises your risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and heart disease.
Lowers Overall Inflammation
Women with PCOS often have higher levels of inflammation and oxidative stress. Oxidative stress occurs when there are too many oxidants (molecules that damage cells) and not enough antioxidants (molecules that protect cells). Inflammation in PCOS leads to more insulin resistance, higher testosterone levels, and worsening symptoms.
Thankfully, turmeric has powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that may lower inflammation and oxidative stress in women with PCOS (3
). Although not specific to PCOS, a large review study found that taking turmeric reduced levels of major inflammatory markers like C-reactive protein (CRP) (4
Taking Turmeric as a Supplement
Taking turmeric is most beneficial when using a concentrated dose of curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric. Most studies investigating turmeric for PCOS used around 1 gram of curcumin per day. However, taking larger amounts of supplemental curcumin may cause nausea or GI upset in certain individuals, and hasn’t necessarily shown to provide more benefits than lower doses (5
While a turmeric supplement gives the most bang for your buck in terms of reducing overall inflammation, including turmeric into an anti-inflammatory diet is beneficial as well. In fact, we always recommend using a “food first” approach!
Turmeric is commonly added to curry recipes and rice, but you can also toss it with roasted veggies, add it into your scrambled eggs, or even mix it into your morning oatmeal!
Golden milk, or a turmeric latte, is another popular way to include this spice into your diet. Golden milk generally contains ground turmeric, fats to stabilize blood sugar levels, and a dash of ground pepper to enhance the absorption of curcumin.
Turmeric for PCOS: Key Takeaways
Turmeric is an anti-inflammatory spice that contains a powerful compound called curcumin. If you have PCOS, taking turmeric may reduce insulin resistance, lower blood sugar levels, and increase your HDL or “good cholesterol” levels. All of these benefits stem from curcumin’s ability to lower inflammatory markers, like CRP.
The most effective turmeric supplements
contain curcumin in doses of at least 1 gram per day. But remember, you cannot out-supplement a poor diet! Make sure to eat a variety of anti-inflammatory foods and include turmeric in your meals and snacks each week to reap all of the potential benefits of this unique spice.
As much as we wish turmeric could be a simple fix, PCOS is a multifaceted condition often requiring a deep look into root causes, like inflammation, gut health, and thyroid function.
Our PCOS Nutrition Program
helps you get to the root cause of this condition and will determine if turmeric (or other supplements and interventions) can help you achieve your health goals.