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What You Need to Know About Prolactin Levels in PCOS

the girl is drinking a glass of water

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a complex endocrine condition that affects a good percentage of women of reproductive age. There are a lot of symptoms that come with PCOS, but you can’t actually diagnose PCOS by symptoms alone. Instead, doctors will look at a lot of different factors like your medical history, the results of physical exams, and your hormone levels. That last one is a big one!

Since PCOS is an endocrine disorder, that means the primary issue is with hormones. Imbalances in various hormones set off a chain reaction that prompt tons of symptoms from hair loss and weight gain to anxiety and infertility. In the past we’ve talked about AMH, testosterone, and progesterone, but today we’re talking about prolactin and how PCOS affects this important hormone. 

What You Need to Know About Prolactin Levels in PCOS

When getting hormone testing to diagnose PCOS or come up with a treatment plan, it’s important to look at your prolactin levels. If your prolactin levels are high and you are experiencing other sex hormone imbalances, you could have PCOS. And, if you already know you have PCOS, an imbalance of prolactin could be the root of several symptoms. All around, it’s a good idea to know where your prolactin levels are and get them under control if they’re out of whack! 

What is Prolactin?

Prolactin is a hormone that’s produced by the pituitary gland in the brain. It does SO much in a woman’s body. Its number one superpower is helping stimulate milk production when breastfeeding.

However, it’s hard at work even when you’re not pregnant or breastfeeding! 

The right balance of prolactin helps the reproductive system, immune system, and metabolism all run optimally. If you’re a Cyster like me, you know that the state of these three systems has a HUGE impact on your PCOS symptoms.

So, it’ll probably come as no surprise to you that prolactin levels are often imbalanced in Cysters’ bodies, further contributing to the dysfunction of these essential systems. 

why is prolactin high in pcos

Why is Prolactin High in PCOS?

Studies show that prolactin levels in women with PCOS are often elevated. Usually, Cyster’s prolactin levels are 1.5 times higher than a woman without PCOS, and this can contribute to several PCOS symptoms. (Prolactin levels over 25 ng/ml are considered high.)

The reason for this??? Well, we don’t really know. Experts think it might be due to an error in the feedback mechanism between the brain and the ovaries, which means the ovaries are never alerted to stop making prolactin.

These high levels of prolactin can cause irregular menstrual cycles, galactorrhea, infertility, low libido, vaginal dryness, acne, hair loss, headaches, weight gain, and mood swings.

Luckily, like other hormonal imbalances that come with PCOS, there are natural solutions to reverse your symptoms and balance your hormones! So, that’s what we’re going to dive into next. Of course, discuss any changes in your PCOS treatment journey with your doctor, but here are some natural ways to lower prolactin levels with PCOS:

what you need to know about prolactin levels in pcos

How To Lower Prolactin Levels In PCOS

Practice stress management. 

Stress can have a big impact on your body. It’s not just something you feel in your mind! When you get stressed, your body actually releases “stress hormones” (AKA cortisol).

Too much cortisol can disrupt the balance of other hormones in your body too, like prolactin, resulting in worsened PCOS symptoms. 

Try doing things to relieve stress. Of course, this is different for everyone, but some things that really help me are low-intensity exercises, meditation, taking my 10 minute walks after my meals, and putting my screens away before going to bed!

Reducing stress is key to healing your PCOS! Here’s more on the link between stress and PCOS symptoms

Try slow-weighted workouts.

So, I talked about how stress can increase prolactin levels, but so can weight gain. Exercise can help with both stress and weight management, and therefore, it can have a positive effect on prolactin levels, too! 

However, not every workout is helpful for stress management and weight loss with PCOS. High-intensity and high-impact exercise elevate your heart rate and trigger your body to produce extra adrenaline and cortisol.

Remember, cortisol is a stress hormone, so that’s not good for weight loss and balancing prolactin levels. Instead, opt for slow-weighted workouts or other low-impact exercises like lifting weights, walking, and yoga

You can find PCOS-friendly slow-weighted workout routines on The Cysterhood app! All the exercises I post are specifically designed to support PCOS healing in Cysters like you.  

Maintain a balanced diet and avoid sugar and processed foods. 

One of the key things that can have a big impact on hormone balance is diet. Doctors will tell most PCOS women that weight loss is necessary to reverse symptoms. The truth is, we can’t “just lose weight” with PCOS. We have to understand the root cause of the weight gain…insulin resistance. Managing insulin resistance will help you reverse symptoms and lose weight.

Insulin resistance is when your body can’t correctly process glucose, so rather than the sugar turning to energy, it’s absorbed by the body as fat. No thanks! However, when you avoid sugar, processed foods, and inflammatory foods, you can reduce your insulin resistance and help your body utilize glucose properly again, avoiding hormonal imbalances and inflammation. 

All around, eating well can have a huge impact on your PCOS healing process, including lowering prolactin levels. Here’s the details on my recommended PCOS diet, and download The Cysterhood app for hundreds of delicious and nutritious PCOS-friendly recipes. 

Reduce caffeine and alcohol intake.

These two can each contribute to raises in prolactin levels but for different reasons. Caffeine triggers your body to produce cortisol and adrenaline.

Those high cortisol levels (stress hormones) influence other hormone levels like prolactin and induce plenty of PCOS symptoms. 

Alcohol, on the other hand, is sometimes full of carbs and sugar. This is not good for insulin resistance! And, insulin resistance, as I’ve discussed, can lead to hormonal imbalances. If that wasn’t enough, we all know how hard alcohol is on the liver and the liver is an essential piece of cleansing your body of excess hormones! If your liver isn’t working well and your insulin resistance is high, lowering prolactin levels will be very difficult! 

For best PCOS-healing results, consider cutting way back on caffeine and reducing your alcohol intake. Here’s more on alcohol and PCOS and caffeine and PCOS if you want to dive deeper!

Get really good sleep. 

As you’re sleeping, your body goes through a whole hormone regulation process. Disruptions in sleep (which are unfortunately common with PCOS), can obviously disrupt this regulation process and lead to various hormone imbalances, including prolactin! So, finding ways of getting better sleep can be very helpful. 

Like I said, that can be hard with Cysters already naturally struggling with sleep, but there are things you can do to help. Try rose hip tea, read before bed, do meditative exercises, stick to a consistent sleep schedule, and don’t forget to spend time out in the sun! Here’s my whole post on improving sleep with PCOS.

Consider trying acupuncture. 

Acupuncture can stimulate the release of endorphins and improve blood circulation, and both of these help regulate hormone levels, including prolactin! There are indirect effects of acupuncture on prolactin as well, since it’s been shown to help relieve stress and promote regular menstrual cycles! 

I know acupuncture may be a bit outside of your comfort zone, but it can be so helpful for supporting your overall PCOS-healing journey. If you want to learn more about it, Sirak and I talk to lead acupuncturist Megan Joyce in this episode of A Cyster and Her Mister! It’s a must-listen!

how to lower prolactin levels in pcos

Take the right supplements. 

No matter what you do, if your body doesn’t have the right nutrients to function optimally, you’ll always have an uphill battle on your hands. That’s why adding supplements to your routine can make SUCH an impact. Because, even if your diet is great, it’s really hard to get all the right vitamins and minerals in a given day. Some of those nutrients you’re lacking can impact prolactin levels! 

Let’s take a look at the essential vitamins that I have in my MetaMulti PCOS-multivitamin. Every nutrient in the MetaMulti is specifically designed for women with PCOS, so of course it fills common nutrient gaps! Here are the ones that’ll have the biggest impact: 

Vitamin B6

Studies show that vitamin B6 plays a big role in supporting the functioning of the endocrine and metabolic system. Since those two systems have the biggest effect on prolactin levels, it makes sense the vitamin B6 would help regulate prolactin production and management

Vitamin B6 works by promoting dopamine synthesis in the brain. Dopamine is the neurotransmitter that actually prevents and regulates the release of prolactin! So, by increasing dopamine through vitamin B6, you can improve your prolactin levels!

Magnesium 

Magnesium helps reduce prolactin levels in a big way. Magnesium affects the hypothalamic-pituitary axis, which prevents the release of prolactin by action on dopamine receptors in the hypothalamus. We know that when someone is deficient in magnesium, this axis doesn’t work properly and not enough dopamine is released, contributing to prolactin imbalances. So, by maintaining proper magnesium levels, you can help ensure your body regulates prolactin correctly! 

Magnesium has LOTS of other benefits for PCOS too. Here’s my full post on magnesium for PCOS. It can be an important part of finding PCOS symptom relief! 

Zinc

The last one is zinc! This is another vitamin that packs a huge PCOS punch! It can help regulate prolactin by preventing the amino acid L-tryptophan from converting into serotonin. Serotonin, unlike dopamine, triggers the release of prolactin. So, by reducing serotonin levels, as well. 

Zinc has plenty of health benefits for PCOS, and can actually regulate other hormones too, like testosterone! Here are all the benefits of zinc for PCOS!  

Lowering prolactin levels is an important part of PCOS healing!

Hormonal imbalances are the root of most PCOS symptoms. Finding natural ways to achieve hormone balance can help you find healing totally side-effect free. Talk to your doctor about lifestyle changes like regularly exercising, eating a balanced diet, and taking supplements to help lower prolactin levels and relieve other PCOS symptoms. With the right strategy you can do this! It’s time to live symptom-free!