Earlier this week I posted Part One of the Honest, Hairy Truth, a look at hirsutism and PCOS. This is an issue that so many of us have, to varying degrees, and it really knocks our self-esteem and femininity. Part one looked at how we can manage hirsutism from a medical perspective but you knew I’d incorporate diet into this discussion, didn’t you? Well, that’s because I think diet is crucial in managing all aspects of PCOS, including hirsutism. Let’s have a look at why this is the case:
Insulin and Testosterone
We know that high insulin levels work on our ovaries to create testosterone. The more insulin you have, the more testosterone you have. The more testosterone you have, the more unwanted hair you have. You see where I’m going, right?
We have to manage our insulin levels in order to manage our hair growth. I’ve written a couple of previous articles that can guide you in terms of what your PCOS Diet should look like and how you can get started on your PCOS diet.
IGF-1 and Hirsutism
I’ve also written about why your PCOS Diet needs to be dairy free. Well, here’s another reason: Research has shown that the growth phase of the hair follicle is strongly influenced by IGF-1 (that pesky hormone found to be in dairy products). The more IGF-1 you have, the more likely you are to develop hisutism. On a side note, IGF-1 has also been linked to acne. (1)
I know many women have been in contact with me regarding giving up dairy. I really believe that it is crucial in managing your PCOS. Dairy is simply not helpful for you or your body. There are many dairy alternatives out there so give it some thought.
Recent research shown that women with PCOS who drank 2 cups of spearmint tea per day for 1 month showed much lower testosterone levels than the control group. The study concluded that spearmint tea is a helpful natural treatment for hirsutism in PCOS. (2)
There are some supplements that have been shown to aid in the metabolism of glucose and are therefore often used in the management of PCOS. Please note that I am not a doctor and you should check with your doctor before starting on these supplements, particularly if you are already taking insulin sensitizing drugs like metformin.
Myo Inositol was once thought to be one of the B vitamins and is a carbohydrate. It’s really important in signaling messenger cells, in particular, insulin signals. So, it is involved in insulin and the way that glucose is managed in the body.
Studies have shown that after 6 months of taking myo-inositol, hirsutism was dramatically improved, along with many other symptoms of PCOS. (3) Another study concluded that "Myo-inositol is a simple and safe treatment that is capable of restoring spontaneous ovarian activity and consequently fertility in most patients with PCOS." (4) Sounds promising for those of us who are trying to conceive!
N-acetyl cysteine (NAC)
NAC is an important antioxidant and is also involved in insulin response and action. One study found that women who were treated with NAC had improved peripheral insulin levels as well as decreased free testosterone. Decreased testosterone will help to decrease hirsutism. (5)
If you do decide to take NAC, you need to drink at least 6-8 glasses of water per day to prevent Cysteine renal stones.
I have already written an article on the impact that Omega 3 has on testosterone. You can read it here.
Let’s sum it up
Hirsutism is an unpleasant symptom of PCOS that knocks our femininity and self esteem. It can be treated in a number of ways:
- Medical drugs
- Hair removal – shaving, waxing, electrolysis or laser hair removal
- Diet – lower your insulin levels, ditch the dairy and have 2 cups of spearmint tea a day!
- Supplements – Myo-inositol, N-acetyl cysteine and Omega 3
Hirsutism is one of the PCOS symptoms that will take a while to go away. Sticking to a good diet, exercising and taking supplements will all help so don’t feel despondent if you don’t see results straight away. Give it some time and use the Ferriman-Gallway Score to monitor your progress.
I’m currently taking myo-inositol, Omega 3, drinking loads of spearmint tea and being really careful with my diet. What are you doing to manage your hirsutism? Leave me a comment below!