Emerging Cinnamon Supplement Benefits for Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is an all too common condition that affects women of childbearing age and beyond. It has been reported to be the most common endocrine disorder for this group. PCOS affects between two and twenty percent of women, depending on how the condition is defined. It is a leading cause of infertility. Many women seek out methods to alleviate the condition using natural medicine. This has led to cinnamon supplement benefits being studied more and more frequently as a way of relieving PCOS.
What Is PCOS?
PCOS results from increased male hormones (androgens) in women of childbearing age. Those who suffer from this condition typically experience a set of symptoms including irregular or absent menstrual periods, heavy periods, increased facial and body hair, acne outbreaks, pelvic pain, inability to get pregnant, and areas of dark, velvety skin. Research has also shown metabolic syndrome to be present in women with PCOS. This may cause a tendency towards central obesity and insulin resistance.
Recent research has suggested PCOS to be a disorder that involves many bodily systems, possibly originating in a failure of the hypothalamus to adequately regulate hormones. This finding appears to tie PCOS closely to adrenal fatigue.
When the adrenal glands decrease or stop production of cortisol in response to continuing stress, Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS) is the result. Cortisol is the main hormone your body uses to fight the effects of stress. By increasing blood sugar levels, it energizes your body to deal with stressful situations. The relationship between your ovarian, adrenal, and thyroid systems gets out of balance under conditions of adrenal fatigue. A large number of hormones are also unable to do their jobs well under conditions of insufficient cortisol. Too little cortisol may lead to swings in blood sugar levels, irregular menstrual cycles and flow, and blood pressure fluctuations. These are similar symptoms to those seen in PCOS.
The causes of PCOS are relatively unknown. They may include hereditary factors, obesity, and insufficient physical exercise. Other factors that may have a part in causing PCOS include too much insulin and inflammation. Excessive insulin can bring on increased androgen production that can cause an inability to ovulate, while low-grade inflammation common with PCOS may have can cause ovaries, burdened with cysts, to make more androgen.
Physicians typically identify PCOS based on two of these characteristics. The include periods that are irregular (this is the most common diagnostic criterion), increased levels of androgen, and cysts on ovaries.
There are also some potential complications of PCOS. These include:
- Infertility. The first indication many women have of PCOS is their inability to get pregnant. The presence of increased androgen may prevent ovulation.
- Endometrial Cancer. An overaccumulation of the cells lining the uterus appears to increase the likelihood of developing this cancer.
- Type II Diabetes. Insulin resistance is increased in women with PCOS. Possibly up to 40% of them will have some type of abnormal tolerance to glucose by age 40.
- Abnormal Lipid Levels. With increased androgen production comes increased low-density lipoproteins (“bad” LDL) and lower levels of high-density lipoproteins (“good” HDL).
- Increased Cardiovascular Risk. The imbalance of LDL to HDL as mentioned above leads to this increased risk of heart-related problems.
- Obstructive Sleep Apnea. University of Chicago studies have shown a greatly increased risk of this disorder in women with PCOS.
There are other possible complications that arise with PCOS. Given the short list above, it is easy to see the need for effective ways of addressing the condition. Increasingly, cinnamon supplement benefits are being considered to help these issues.
Typically, methods for remedying PCOS begin by managing the main symptoms of the condition. A good first step is lifestyle changes.Moderate physical exercise and an appropriate diet are often the first recommendations.
Losing weight can sometimes be helpful for PCOS. Even as much as 5% less body weight could make a difference, because PCOS is part of the estrogen dominance continuum, where the body is in a state of relative estrogen excess. Absolute levels of estrogen may be normal, but if there is insufficient progesterone to balance estrogen, there is a relative dominance of estrogen. Since estrogen is made in the adrenal glands, adipose tissue, and ovaries, any increase in weight can trigger more estrogen in the body.
Some people with PCOS, however, are thin. It is still possible to be in a state of estrogen dominance if the adrenal glands are working hard due to excessive stress. Other factors that increase estrogen in the body include liver congestion and receptor site sensitivities. This also needs to be considered when formulating a comprehensive recovery plan.
Metformin for PCOS
Added to the above will typically be medications designed to regulate menses.
Metformin is usually one of the medications doctors recommend. This is a medication aimed at improving insulin resistance and maintaining a lower level of insulin in the body. It can help in regulating menstrual cycles, slowing progress towards type 2 diabetes if you are prediabetic, and in losing weight. Research and clinical practice, however, have shown metformin not to be effective for all types of PCOS.
Other medications to increase ovulation may be used if you’re trying to get pregnant. Some of these medications are used in addition to metformin to stimulate ovulation.
All medications have side effects and some have precautions that should be followed.
Precautions for metformin include the necessity for regular testing by your physician in the first few weeks of taking this medication. Also necessary is to stop the medicine if you are going to undergo any medical exams that use dye in X-ray or CT scans. Metformin may interact with the dye in unpleasant ways.
Drinking alcohol or taking many other medications, even over the counter ones, with metformin may lead to problems. A serious condition called lactic acidosis could result. This condition can lead to heart attacks or kidney failure. Immediate medical help is needed if this occurs.
Some common and severe side effects may occur with metformin. These include stomach discomfort, cough/hoarseness, decreased appetite, diarrhea, fast/shallow breathing, fever or chills, and general discomfort. These side effects are common, and you should call your physician immediately.
Also, there are some side effects that are relatively minor. Your body has to adjust to any medication you start. After a period of time, these side effects may go away. These more minor side effects include acid stomach, belching, feeling bloated, heartburn, indigestion, metallic taste, and passing gas.
In addition to the precautions and side effects listed above, you must be aware of always having a valid prescription with you if you travel. Being prepared for emergencies when away from home is also necessary. If you travel across time zones or to another country, keep track of time changes and meal times.
A More Holistic Approach
All of this is occurs with the symptom-based methods addressing PCOS typical in Western medicine. There is, however, a more comprehensive way to address the condition.
Focusing on symptom reduction misses the important relationship among various body systems, as seen in the NeuroEndoMetabolic (NEM) Stress Response perspective in how the body reacts to stress. The interaction of the hormonal, metabolic, and inflammatory responses in this model gives a more comprehensive way of diagnosing and addressing the underlying systemic imbalances that may lead to PCOS. In the NEM model, whatever affects one body system ultimately affects all systems through their natural interactions. Thus, hormone imbalances, as seen in PCOS, and metabolic issues cause inflammation, which then lead to processes that worsen the imbalances. Knowing this leads to more effective ways of remedying the situation.
Research Supporting Cinnamon Supplement Benefits for PCOS
One literature survey reported in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine found a study that compared the effectiveness of metformin and cinnamon cassia for managing PCOS. Both showed significant improvement compared to control after 15 days of use. Testosterone levels were reduced, as were LH levels and insulin resistance. Due to the precautions and side effects of metformin, the most common medication used for PCOS, many women are exploring cinnamon supplement benefits.
Considering all of the possible adverse effects above, it’s no wonder interest in cinnamon supplement benefits is increasing. Cinnamon is a great source of antioxidants and appears to stabilize blood sugar and reduce insulin resistance.
Several formal studies and literature reviews have been conducted investigating the clinical effectiveness of cinnamon for PCOS. Cinnamon supplement benefits PCOS whether the condition is a product of adrenal fatigue or not.
One animal study compared metformin and cinnamon cassia for effectiveness on rats with PCOS. At fifteen days, both showed significant improvement compared to controls.
Another study involved women with weight problems, oligo/amenorrhea, and PCOS. This randomized controlled trial experiment was a pilot study with promising outcomes. The sample size was small, however, leading to a need for further study.
A study conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture involved twenty-two obese subjects with prediabetes. Divided randomly into two groups, one group was given a placebo and the other group was given a dried cinnamon extract twice a day added to their usual diet. Three blood samples were taken over a 12 week period, showing the cinnamon extract group to have improved antioxidant status and reduced blood sugar levels over that time.
Prevention of inflammation caused by increased blood sugar was seen in a study conducted by the University of Georgia. With high blood sugar levels, advanced glycation end products (AGEs) can form, triggering the inflammation that has been associated with aging and diabetes. The antioxidant content of cinnamon played a part in preventing the formation of AGEs.
A recent study reported in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology showed daily doses of cinnamon seemed to help regulate menstrual cycles in women with PCOS. The group studied was small, however.
Yet another study investigated cinnamon’s effect on the menstrual cycles of women with PCOS. Forty-five women with PCOS were separated into two groups. One group took 1.5 grams of cinnamon supplement benefits daily. The other group got a placebo. At the end of six months, the women in the group taking cinnamon supplement benefits had experienced an average of more than four menstrual cycles, while the other group had fewer than two on average.
Fasting glucose levels were reduced moderately in patients with type 2 diabetes who took a cinnamon extract supplement. This response is also expected in women with PCOS. This study was a double-blind type with random assignment of subjects to supplement and control groups.
From all these studies and others, it appears there are some good reasons to believe cinnamon supplements benefit women with PCOS. However, many of the studies had a small numbers of subjects, indicating the need for more studies to replicate the results. Other studies showed an insignificant alleviation from cinnamon supplement benefits, but not always more than pharmaceutical medications. Some researchers have drawn the conclusion that cinnamon’s effectiveness as a remedy for diabetes and PCOS has not been shown.
Contraindications of Using Cinnamon for PCOS
It appears that the cinnamon supplement benefits for PCOS are many. However, there are also reasons to be very careful while taking a cinnamon supplement.
People who have diabetes must watch for signs of low blood sugar when taking cinnamon supplements. Cassia cinnamon has been shown to lower blood sugar levels. Be sure to monitor your blood sugar levels carefully.
Coumarin, a chemical found in cassia cinnamon, can cause liver damage. If the liver damage is due only to this chemical, it is reversible. However, if you already have liver damage or dysfunction, you have a higher risk of this damage.
If you are scheduled for surgery, you probably need to stop taking cassia cinnamon for at least two weeks prior to the surgery. Your body may have difficulty controlling blood sugar during and after surgery if you are taking cinnamon.
Medications taken for diabetes may also interact with cassia cinnamon. Taking both may lead to hypoglycemia, or too low blood sugar. Medications that may cause harm to the liver also may interact with cassia cinnamon. The risk of liver damage is significantly increased.
In general, cassia cinnamon is considered safe when taken orally in medicinal amounts for up to four months. But it is considered unsafe if taken orally in large amounts for long periods of time. Skin irritation and allergic reactions have been reported in people who apply cinnamon directly to the skin. Pregnant women and those who are nursing should probably not take cassia cinnamon due to a lack of reliable information on its safety. There is evidence that cassia cinnamon is possibly safe for children when taken by mouth. It has been used safely by adolescents in one gram doses for as long as three months.
As with all supplements, you should consult with your physician before taking cassia cinnamon, especially when you’re taking any other medications.
© Copyright 2017 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.