Inositol is a mood-enhancing nutrient that doesn’t get the attention it deserves. At one time it was considered part of the B complex — vitamin B8. But once it was known the body could make its own inositol, it was no longer considered a true vitamin. Now it’s a pseudovitamin, a neglected stepchild of the vitamin B complex. But that doesn’t mean that inositol is without merit. Inositol is available as a natural supplement that’s very effective at treating a wide range of mental health conditions, in some cases even better than the usually prescribed medications. For reasons not yet understood, it works particularly well in women to relieve anxiety, PMS and more.
Inositol is a naturally occurring compound necessary for proper cell formation, nerve transmission and transportation of fats in the body. Inositol may also affect the action of the neurotransmitter serotonin. Levels of serotonin play a role in depression and anxiety. Most people are not deficient in inositol, which is found in beans, nuts, cantaloupe and wheat, but in in a 1995 double-blind study by the Ministry of Mental Health at Ben Gurion University, published in the "Journal of Clinical Psychology," inositol has shown to be an effective treatment for anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and panic disorder.
Inositol for OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder)
Obsessive compulsions have been linked to specific imbalances in biochemicals in the body, and certain supplements like inositol have been shown to offer great help. Inositol is a viable solution for those who want to overcome their obsessive compulsive behaviors without resorting to conventional prescription drugs.
Obsessive compulsive behavior describes repetitive habits and compulsions that are carried out regardless of whether they are actually rational, logical or beneficial. This may include behaviors like obsessive counting, arranging, or skin picking. Compulsive behaviors tend to ease anxiety, and when these rituals cannot be performed intense anxiety or even panic attacks are common. If you suffer from obsessive compulsive behavior, then you may realize that your habits and rituals are detracting from your quality of life, but you feel powerless to put an end to the behavior. This is because mere willpower cannot correct an imbalance in the brain.
The conventional therapy for obsessive compulsive disorder includes drugs such as SSRI (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors) medication. But because of the extensive list of negative side effects that often accompany these drugs, nutritional therapy offers a far more ideal solution.
The nutrient inositol in particular is highly effective at eradicating obsessive compulsive rituals. In one study, patients with obsessive compulsive disorder received either inositol or a placebo for six weeks. The patients, who received inositol, reported a significant drop in symptoms compared to the placebo group. Results from this and other studies with inositol show that it appears to produce similar results like SSRI drugs, but without the negative side effects.
Inositol is another commonly used supplement for treating depressive symptoms, but unlike choline, it is not thought to be an essential nutrient. Tufts Medical Center notes that inositol is "unofficially" referred to as vitamin B-8. Inositol is found naturally in foods such as nuts, seeds, whole grains and citrus fruits. Like choline, it plays an important role in the manufacturing of cell membranes and in lipid metabolism. It also helps to manufacture serotonin, an important mood-regulating neurotransmitter. Low levels of serotonin are thought to be a major contributing cause of depression. A limited amount of research has shown that inositol may be a useful supplement for treating depression.
Inositol for PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome)
Inositol is a nutritional compound that is a "work horse" nutrient for women with PCOS. Studies from Universite de Sherbrooke in Canada have shown that women with PCOS excrete more inositol than other women do.
There are 75 medical studies suggesting that adequate inositol levels can be helpful for several PCOS-related issues:
Increases probability of ovulation so that you can become pregnant sooner.
Improves egg quality and thus increases the probability of a successful pregnancy.
Help a fat-clogged liver to unclog itself. (Fat clogged livers are a problem for roughly 50% of women with PCOS).
Can reduce acne and hirsutism (excessive hair growth).
Can relieve depression and mood disorders.
Improves appetite balance.
If you're taking birth control pills to manage PCOS, you will get better results if you also take inositol.
Helpful for postmenopausal women who have metabolic syndrome (similar to PCOS).
Reduces insulin resistance and testosterone, which brings all your other hormones into a better balance.
Reduces risk of gestational diabetes.
Other benefits of Inositol
It promotes strong, health hair. As I briefly mentioned earlier, one of the most talked about inositol benefits is how it benefits your hair. It’s a member of the B complex family which, as anybody who has studied will know, are known to promote strong hair, healthier hair, and faster growth.
It lowers cholesterol levels. One major health benefit of inositol is that when combined with choline, they produce lecithin in your body (which you can also obtain from soy lecithin). Lecithin is fundamental in breaking down fats in your body and this means that it can prevent fat build ups in the cell walls of your heart, arteries and brain by breaking down the fatty deposits. Less fat in your arteries, lower cholesterol.
It can help babies with respiratory problems. A study published in the late 90’s has shown that inositol benefits new born babies with respiratory distress by significantly reducing death and disability. Inositol supplementation lowered rates of death, lung complications, brain bleeds, and eye problems with no real side effects. Further studies are ongoing, but if you are pregnant, speak to your doctor about adding inositol to your prenatal vitamins and they can recommend what you need to do to protect your child.
It might help fight against cancer. Everything has been linked to a cure for cancer. However, this is because the cure will not be one thing, but a combination of things that fight this disease. Inositol, for example, has been shown to have compounds with the criteria needed to treat and potentially prevent cancer. A few select studies in vitro have also shown that it may help — especially when combined with phytic acid.
It can help diabetes sufferers. Another great benefit of inositol (as part of the B-complex) is that it can have a positive impact on body cells. Diabetic neuropathy, a nerve disease which is the most frequent complication in diabetics, can be treated well using inositol supplements. Since most of the decreased nerve function is down to a loss of inositol in the cell, increasing your intake can ease the symptoms. It won’t cure the disease, but it will make it more bearable when combined with other diabetic neuropathy treatments.
It eases constipation. A lack of inositol in your system can cause excessive relaxation of the muscles in your intestines and alimentary canal, which leads to constipation. Inositol works to stimulate the muscular action and ease the pain of constipation. The same effects can be used in pregnant women to stimulate the muscular contractions in pregnancy to induce labor.
For sleep and insomnia: Inositol can really help people who have trouble falling asleep, this is because Inositol helps promote a feeling of calmness and peacefulness, which are the main factors in helping someone get a good night of sleep. Inositol can help improve communication throughout the brain, which is done by improving communication and releasing chemicals like serotonin.
The normal recommended dosage for inositol is 500 mgs two times day; however, to treat anxiety, panic disorder and OCD, you should take 12 to 18 g per day. For treating symptoms associated with polycystic ovary syndrome: D-chiro-inositol 1200 mg per day. The American Family Physician recommends that you not take inositol if you are taking an SSRI antidepressant for OCD.
Inositol Side Effects and Safety
Inositol is POSSIBLY SAFE for most adults. It can cause nausea, tiredness, headache, and dizziness.
Inositol is POSSIBLY SAFE when used in the hospital for premature infants with acute respiratory distress syndrome.
Special Precautions & Warnings:
Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Not enough is known about the use of inositol during pregnancy and breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.
Bipolar disorder: There is some concern that taking too much inositol might make bipolar disorder worse. There is a report of a man with controlled bipolar disorder being hospitalized with extreme agitation and impulsiveness (mania) after drinking several cans of an energy drink containing inositol, caffeine, taurine, and other ingredients (Red Bull Energy Drink) over a period of 4 days. It is not known if this is related to inositol, caffeine, taurine, a different ingredient, or a combination of the ingredients.
Toxicity has not been reported, although people with chronic renal failure show elevated levels and should not take inositol, except under medical supervision.Large amounts of phytate, the common dietary form of inositol, reduce the absorption of calcium, iron, and zinc. However, supplemental inositol does not have this effect.One review article suggested that inositol may stimulate uterine contractions.31 While no research has demonstrated that inositol actually has this effect, women who are or could become pregnant should consult a doctor before taking inositol.