If you have PCOS, you’ve probably tried a number of things to help your health, and you probably have a number of concerns.
Women with PCOS are more likely to be overweight or obese, more likely to suffer metabolic disorders and insulin-related conditions, and, alongside the extra facial hair, irregular periods, and infertility, it’s a lot to take.
I care deeply about this condition and have worked in my own way to help those who have it for many years (see my PCOS program: PCOS Unlocked)
But the more prevalent PCOS becomes, the more research is done, and new things are coming out all the time!
I’m so excited to bring you this information on L-carnitine, a very special amino acid that can help women with PCOS lose weight naturally and feel more energetic.
L-carnitine is a nootropic amino acid found typically in meat products and milk.
Nootropics are types of supplements (like adaptogens) that work with the brain to increase it’s efficiency.
L-carnitine helps alleviate the effects of aging and disease on mitochondria, while increasing the mitochondria’s potential to burn fat.
For most people (i.e. those without PCOS) it is not a nutrient of concern and they synthesize an ample amount internally and from lysine and methionine in foods. However, it has been found that women with PCOS are often deficient in L-carnitine, regardless of their diets.
L-carnitine improves insulin sensitivity and helps lower blood glucose, which is valuable for women with PCOS who are usually insulin resistant.
This ability, plus the fact that PCOS women are often deficient in L-carnitine seem to make l-carnitine effective in promoting natural weight loss.
It is also known to increase energy, lower ammonia, enhance energy during cancer treatment, improve exercise tolerance and energy in those with conditions like angina and congestive heart failure, and enhance sperm morphology, in case you were curious!
Although studies regarding weight loss with l-carnitine in general seem to find mixed benefit, studies which look at those deficient in l-carnitine or those with insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome find it does help.
In fact, a recent study of PCOS only women found that compared to placebo, statistically significant weight loss occurred over 12 weeks with supplementation.
This is excellent news since it is no secret that PCOS women, with their hormone imbalances and insulin resistance typically struggle to maintain a healthy weight.
Adverse effects are rare but can include gastrointestinal disturbance, body odor, and seizures. I’ve heard from some women that it causes a “fishy” odor in the urine, which can be unpleasant. It may possibly interact with anticoagulants and certain thyroid medications so, like with any supplement or diet, you should get the okay from your doctor.
Typical doses in the studies that showed weight loss benefits ranged from 500-2,000 mg a day, with 2,000 mg. a day being what was used with PCOS women.
Though the evidence for this supplement in PCOS are somewhat new, there’s enough promise that I find it interesting for PCOS ladies looking for weight loss help.
It’s not a magic pill, and a focus on healthy dietary habits is absolutely still vital for women the PCOS.
But, one of the cool things about L-carnitine is that it is best deposited into muscles in hyperinsulinemic states, or during times when insulin is high (which is almost all the time for most PCOS women).
That means those with insulin resistant conditions would see the most benefit from supplementation.
If you’re interested in trying L-carnintine, give it at least 12 weeks of supplementation. This is one (find l-carnitine on amazon here) I particularly like because the pills are in 1000 mg amounts so you can just take 2 a day, with meals.
Find L-carnitine on Amazon here.
Do you take l-carnitine and has it helped you? What supplements are part of your PCOS routine?
(Here’s the citation for that study, in case you want to check it out-
Samimi, M., Jamilian, M., Afshar Ebrahimi, F., Rahimi, M., Tajbakhsh, B., & Asemi, Z. (2016). Oral carnitine supplementation reduces body weight and insulin resistance in women with polycystic ovary syndrome: a randomized, double‐blind, placebo‐controlled trial. Clinical endocrinology.)
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I don’t have trouble with weight loss but I do struggle with reactive hypoglycemia and insulin issues. Would L-carnitine be beneficial even if weight-loss isn’t a concern?
Hi Georgia! L-carnitine has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity, so I think it might help that hypoglycemia 🙂
Would taking this L-carnitine be okay for someone that taking ovasitol? Or might it cause an adverse reaction. I can’t take metformin so it was suggested I try the ovasitol, but this interest me as well. Just need something to aid an help the working out and clean eating
Hi Stephani! I have been using a supplement of L-Theanine to help with my depression. I’ve been using Clear Mood by Advocare (https://www.advocare.com/Microsite/Images/Store/Labels/W4512.pdf) I’ve started to eat a more strict paleo diet, and now want to make sure I’m taking quality supplements along with my lifestyle. I use the Nuva Ring for birth control ( about 2 years now) and use that to skip my periods since I was diagnosed with Endometriosis and PMDD. I had problems with infertility, but now have 2 beautiful kiddos aged 5 and 7. I have been off my depression. Medication for a year now. What supplements would you recommend for managing my anxiety and depression? I love the info about L-carnitine. Anything to help my efforts go further sounds amazing!
Hi Abigail! That totally depends on you and what’s right for you. If you struggle with both anxiety AND depression, then I would focus a lot on overall brain health and reducing inflammation, which means things like probiotics for the gut and keeping to a good paleo diet with lots of wholesome foods and vegetables, and maybe making sure to get a lot of good omega 3s. For depression – I know a bit less than I do for anxiety. I think L theanine is a good place to start, perhaps SAM-E. For anxiety I recommend some tryptophan before bed 🙂 And of course some exercise and sex can help too!
Hi Stefani. My thyroid is borderline hyper (multinodular goitre; low TSH). My symptoms (palpitations, diarrhea, weight loss, severe fatigue, muscular weakness, constant hunger, night sweats, trembling hands etc.) got worse last year, following problems at work, then got completely out of hand following an overdosis of oysters (I was trying to cheer myself up). The weight loss and the severe fatigue were especially worrying as I have cancer (watchful waiting except that I haven’t been able to get an appointment for 2 years – I am in the UK…). I got into a vicious circle where I was more and more hungry, yet couldn’t walk to the supermarket as I was too tired, so would lose more and more weight, get even more tired etc. I found about l carnitine online and decided to give it a try. I started with 500 mg a day (had the usual nausea and stomach pain when taking it at first) and I progressively put on weight and muscle. I eat far less… yet have managed to go from 55 kilos (bmi of 18.5) to 64 kilos (bmi of 21.5) in just 8 months. The ‘cardiac’ symptoms are greatly reduced which means I don’t need to take as much Mg and hawthorn. And no more diarrhea! I am now upping the dose to 1000 mg per day.
Yo, thank you so much for sharing. I am so sorry about how much you’ve struggled with your health, though it sounds like you’ve been a hell of a champion fighting the good fight. It’s good to know the L-Carnitine helps you. For certain health conditions it can go miles, though of course in others not. Please do keep us posted as you progress and my best to you dealing with the UK system :/ <3 <3 <3 <3
What is the difference between l-carnitine and acetyl l-carnitine and which one should someone with PCOS use?
There is actually quite a different and I am glad you asked! Acetyl L Carnitine passes the blood brain barrier so is normally useful for brain and nervous system support. Plain old L Carnitine tends to be more tailored to the metabolic system and hormones and therefore is the one that is more directly effective for PCOS 🙂
Though all forms of carnitine will perform all functions – just in varying amounts <3