Hirutism, or excess hair growth, is an all-too-common and rather distressing symptom of PCOS. Women with PCOS start to notice thick, masculine pattern hair growth at unexpected places. Hair growth can happen anywhere, such as chin, along the jawline, around the mouth, arms, legs and torso. Often, it is also accompanied by thinning hair on the top of their heads (male-pattern baldness). Thinning hair make the condition extra-frustrating. You’re growing hair where it has no business growing while losing hair where you shouldn’t!
And while there are several other symptoms of PCOS, nothing can make a woman feel more unfeminine than ugly, thick hair growing in all manners of unsightly spots. And let’s not even talk about all the extra-time and money you have to spend on getting rid of that excess hair!!! It only adds to the pain, frustration, social anxiety, mental distress, low self-esteem and self-doubt that often accompany PCOS and its many symptoms.
So, what’s the reason behind excess hair growth? And are there any safe, all natural remedies for PCOS hair growth? Let’s find out!
Excess Hair Growth: An Undesirable Side-Effect Of PCOS
When a woman’s body produces excess androgens, or male hormones, excess hair growth is a common side-effect. Excess androgen production can be caused due to diet, certain medication, environmental reasons, stress, hypothyroidism and other hormonal disorders – like PCOS.
PCOS is often caused by insulin resistance. Insulin is necessary to turn sugars we ingest through diet into energy. When the body is unable to use this insulin efficiently, blood sugar (or glucose) levels spike. As a result, the pancreas releases more insulin in an effort to normalize high blood glucose levels, leading to hyperinsulinemia. This signals the ovaries to produce more androgens, like testosterone. These excess androgens (or male hormones) then cause hormonal imbalance, which is what leads to PCOS. These are also the main reason behind male-pattern hair growth or hirsutism. You start to notice hair in unlikely places, and the light, thin hair that usually covers a woman’s skin turns to thick, dark hair.
The medical community offers a variety of drugs to manage excess hair growth, along with other symptoms of PCOS, to normalize hormonal levels. However, since we believe in natural, holistic remedies, we highly recommend flaxseeds as one of the best natural remedies for PCOS hair growth.
Why Flaxseed Is A Wonderful Remedy For Excess Hair Growth?
There are various natural remedies for PCOS and adding flaxseeds to your diet is one of them. Milled flaxseeds are a great source of fiber, omega 3 fatty acids, and essential amino acids, which are all excellent additions to your diet for PCOS. However, the reasons flaxseeds are a wonderful all-natural remedy for excess hair growth is lignans. Lignans are plant-based estrogens that help balance out excess androgens in a woman’s body.
A study conducted by researchers in Durham, North Carolina proves this. The study suggests that a flaxseed-supplemented, fat-restricted diet may affect prostate cancer biology and associated biomarkers in men. This is because lignan in flaxseeds helps reduce androgen levels in these men. As a result, when flaxseed is added to your PCOS diet, it helps reduce testosterone levels and improves lipid profile, both of which are helpful in managing and controlling of PCOS.
Another clinical study followed the impact of flaxseed supplementation (30 g/day for 4 months) on hormonal levels. The study was done on a 31-year old woman with PCOS. The woman reported a decrease in excess hair at the completion of the study period. The reductions in androgen levels observed in this case study far surpass those reported with any other dietary intervention conducted to date. A significant decrease in androgen levels was observed, with
- 70% decrease in total serum testosterone
- 89% decrease in free serum testosterone
- 65% decrease in the % free testosterone observed
In addition, the patient also lost weight and showed improved insulin sensitivity. This case study asserts the need for further research to explore the effects of flaxseeds on hormones and PCOS.
Closer home, an Indian study was conducted at Chettinad Hospital and Research Institute, Tamilnadu. The study followed 32 women with PCOS who were given 15 grams of flax seed powder. The powder was given as a single dose in milk every morning for 3 months. A significant reduction in mean ovarian volume and number of follicles was observed after flax seed therapy. It is reported that flaxseeds have the highest content of dietary lignan. These lignan seem to reduce the excess testosterone which plays a key role in the development of PCOS. The scientists concluded that flaxseed can be further explored as an alternative source of new drug for PCOS.
How To Add Flaxseeds To Your Diet?
We’re sure you’ve already guessed it by now: Flaxseeds are one of the best natural remedies for PCOS excess hair growth. They also also add some much-needed fiber, omega 3s, and essential amino acids to your PCOS diet. What’s better, it is inexpensive and readily available. It has a mild-but-not-overwhelming nutty taste that makes it possible to incorporate flaxseeds into a variety of dishes.
Known in India as alsi, flaxseeds can be added to curries, dry vegetables, dough for chapatis, soups, salads, smoothies, baked muffins and more. The mild flavor goes easily unnoticed in foods, so don’t worry about your kid who is a picky-eater turning up his nose at dinner.
However, it is important to remember one thing before you add flaxseed to your PCOS diet. Whole flaxseeds can pass virtually undigested through the human digestive system. This means that the body will not be able to absorb all these wonderful nutrients found in flaxseeds. This is why it’s important to grind flaxseeds into what’s known as flax meal in order to make the most of their good nutritional value. You can buy ready-made flax meal, but sometimes packaged flax meal is missing in that all-too-important flax oil. Your best bet is to buy whole flaxseeds and grind them into a powder using the small masala/chutney grinder of your mixer-grinder.
Once you have your milled flaxseeds, you can add 1-2 tablespoons a day into a variety of foods. Some examples are:
- Add a tablespoon to dals and curries as a last step and stir it in well.
- Use it alongside other masalas for vegetables and meat dishes.
- Add a few spoonful of flax meal to whole-wheat flour when kneading dough for chapatis and parathas.
- You can also add flax meal to dosa and idli batter.
- Stir in a spoonful into biryanis and rice dishes.
- Sprinkle a tablespoon of ground flaxseeds into salads and soups.
- You can also add flax meal into cake and cookie batter when baking.
- Since the flavour is so mild and slightly nutty, you can also add flax meal into homemade chutneys and salad dressings.
- The best way to incorporate flaxseeds into your diet is to eat them in the most unprocessed form – i.e., raw. Add a tablespoon into your morning smoothie or cold-pressed juice for a PCOS-friendly breakfast.
- Feel free to sprinkle a teaspoon of ground flaxseeds into oatmeal or any other breakfast cereal.
Remember that flaxseeds, once ground, must be stored properly. Flax oil can oxidize easily. And that’s why it’s important to store your ground flaxseeds into an opaque, airtight plastic container away from both light and heat. Personally, I like to store milled flaxseeds in the fridge and only make small batches that can be used within 15 days. You can store whole flaxseeds in any cool, dry place.
Flaxseeds can be your secret weapon in the war against excess hair growth and PCOS. For those who are interested, there are other natural remedies for excess hair growth and PCOS like Saw Palmetto, Shilajit, Fennel seeds and Fenugreek that may be worth trying.