When Inositol Might Not Be Right for You
Inositol is touted by some as the be-all end-all supplement for women with hormonal issues or PCOS. This may be true for some women, but not for everyone. Today we’ll examine some of the reasons why inositol supplementation may not be right for your body.
#1 You’re only taking inositol in hopes of losing weight.
Inositol is not a weight loss drug, and while some studies have shown “statistically significant” weight loss after 3-6 months of supplementation, in those contexts “significant” meant approximately 2 pounds over that time.1-2 Does that sound significant to you? Additionally, some women have reported mild to moderate weight gain while taking inositol supplements. This may be due to the improved function of insulin in the body which allows more glucose in the blood to be taken up into the cells and used as energy…or stored as fat. Bottom line, inositol is not a weight loss supplement. While it can be very helpful for weight loss with some women, it’s certainly not the rule.
#2 You’re taking inositol purely to manage hirsutism or unwanted hair growth.
Again, just like with weight loss, inositol is not necessarily going to fix male pattern hair growth. In some cases, women notice a dramatic improvement in their hair growth patterns, but many notice no difference at all. This could be down to the length of time the supplement was used, but it could also mean that the hair growth is being caused by an issue not strongly related to inositol. One study found that women with severe hirsutism had to take inositol for six months before any effects were seen, and many of those in the study never saw improvements at all.3 You can certainly try inositol to control your unwanted hair growth and you may see results…but you may not. If your hormones have you feeling like Chewbacca (whom you almost certainly do not resemble), we recommend making an appointment with an Endocrinologist or a Naturopath who specializes in hormonal imbalances. Ask these professionals if inositol supplementation may be right for you.
#3 Pregnancy and/or the return of a normal menstrual cycle are your ONLY goals.
Inositol supplementation can have a myriad of positive effects in women who are low in inositol and having hormonal issues because of it. When taking the supplement, many people report higher energy levels, decreased anxiety, and other positive effects associated with improving metabolic and hormonal balance in the body. However, not everyone gets their period back or gets pregnant. If those are your only reasons for taking inositol, then you should probably see a doctor or naturopath who specializes in fertility and women’s health. These supplements are meant to improve your health, but they are not meant to be a cure-all for fertility difficulties. Talk with your healthcare provider about inositol supplementation as a fertility treatment in your body to find out if it is the best course of action for you.
#4 You have decided to try it for three months or less to see what the effects are.
It can take time for the body to correct imbalances. There are literally thousands of chemicals involved in maintaining metabolic and hormonal health; sorting these out and restoring healthy function on a molecular level throughout the body’s tissues can take time. I know it sounds like we’re trying to get you to buy in for longer so we can make more money, but that’s not true. We want you to be aware that, as with most supplements, inositol may need to be taken for a long time before any effects are seen. Studies show that inositol supplementation must be followed for a minimum of 6 weeks in most women to see any effects at all and that many women must supplement much longer than this to see a difference.1-3 While we’re always thrilled to hear stories from women who experience positive effects extremely quickly, this simply isn’t always the case.
#5 You plan to wash it down with diet soda every day.
This isn’t so much a reason not to take it as it is a tip on HOW not to take it. Some research has shown that when inositol is taken with sugar substitutes such as sorbitol, sucralose (Splenda), or maltodextrin, it can inhibit absorption to an amount that is below the therapeutic level.4 So, if you want your body to absorb all that lovely inositol, it’s best to not take it with diet drinks or desserts. We advise those taking inositol supplements to avoid artificial sweeteners two hours before and after they take their supplement to increase chances of optimal absorption.
#6 Your hormonal imbalances are not caused by low inositol levels.
Just because you’re experiencing infertility, amenorrhea (loss of menses), frequent spotting, or other hormonal disturbances, doesn’t necessarily mean your symptoms are a result of low inositol levels. Even if you do have low inositol levels, it’s possible that you also have other issues at play that are preventing you from seeing the desired effects of your inositol supplement. For example, inositol may be helping things like your insulin sensitivity and cardiovascular health, but perhaps those aren’t your main areas of focus. To find out if the supplement is working on some areas, but not producing your personally desired effects, try getting an oral glucose tolerance test and a hormone panel done. Your doctor can help you to interpret the results of your panel and determine next steps.
Every Body Is Different
If you tried inositol, or are thinking of trying it, remember that every body is different and that your body may react differently than other women’s bodies. For example, some women report that their periods are restored very quickly, and they experience regular menses right away. Other women report that they experience uncomfortable spotting and cramping. While we’d all love to have the first experience, the second is quite common. To determine if this is a healthy response, and just your body trying to regulate itself, talk to your doctor or other healthcare provider about your experience. It may be a phase you need to work through, or it may be a sign that the supplement is causing unwanted effects and that you should stop taking it.
There are, of course, other reasons why inositol supplementation may not be right for you including allergies or sensitivities to the binders/fillers in some pills. Don’t take any supplements that include ingredients you are allergic to. If you experience unpleasant side effects from taking inositol, or any other supplement, do some research to find out if it’s a normal side effect. If it is not normal, stop taking it immediately and make an appointment to speak with your doctor or other healthcare provider. If it is considered normal, take some time to consider whether that side effect makes the supplement worth it or not. It’s your body and you should enjoy living in it!
In parting, remember that eating healthy, whole foods, and lots of plants foods is one of the simplest, safest, and most effective things we can do to promote good health in our bodies. As with every preventative/restorative measure though, sometimes these changes alone are not enough to help our bodies function the way we want or need them to. If you are struggling with health problems, please contact your doctor or other healthcare provider such a Naturopath, Dietitian, or Mental Health Professional to see if they can offer appropriate guidance and care. We at Wholesome Story believe that healthy communities require community effort, so we advise you to keep your healthcare community aware and involved in your journey as you pursue better health.
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- Gerli S;Papaleo E;Ferrari A;Di Renzo GC; Randomized, double blind placebo-controlled trial: Effects of myo-inositol on ovarian function and metabolic factors in women with PCOS. European review for medical and pharmacological sciences. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18074942/. Accessed November 16, 2021.
- E; NMP. The combined therapy with myo-inositol and D-chiro-inositol reduces the risk of metabolic disease in PCOS overweight patients compared to myo-inositol supplementation alone. European review for medical and pharmacological sciences. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22774396/. Accessed November 16, 2021.
- Zacchè MM;Caputo L;Filippis S;Zacchè G;Dindelli M;Ferrari A; Efficacy of myo-inositol in the treatment of cutaneous disorders in young women with polycystic ovary syndrome. Gynecological endocrinology : the official journal of the International Society of Gynecological Endocrinology. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19551544/. Published 2009. Accessed November 16, 2021.
- Roseff S, Montenegro M. Inositol treatment for PCOS should be science-based and not arbitrary. International journal of endocrinology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7140126/. Published March 27, 2020. Accessed November 16, 2021