Perhaps most importantly, inositol is vital for brain health. The way this nutrient interacts with neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin can affect your mood and cognition.
Inositol is found in foods like oranges, peaches, and pears. In this article, we’ll break down all the reasons you’ll want to reach for a piece of citrus fruit first thing in the morning!
What is Inositol?
Although it’s often known as vitamin B8, inositol is not a vitamin at all – it’s a sugar alcohol found in fruits, veggies, meat, and eggs. Our bodies use it for energy, and it’s present in most cells of your body.
One of the most important aspects of inositol is its ability to help cells – primarily in the brain – communicate. In this “second messenger” system, inositol works to help neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin relay messages properly.
Think of this system like plugging into a power outlet. The second messenger is necessary for action – like turning on the switch.
When you’re low on inositol, your brain chemicals can get switched up, jumbling up your hormones and causing mood disorders.
Health Benefits of Inositol
It’s not uncommon to be deficient in inositol. Here are the top reasons to make sure you get plenty of inositol in your diet every day.
1. Fights Depression
More than 16 million Americans suffer from depression, which is one of the primary causes of disability in the US. Depression is a complicated disorder which can be triggered by grief or other life events and stressors, but it can also be influenced by neurotransmitter levels and even gut health.
If you’re battling depression or other mood disorders, you might benefit from supplementing with inositol. Inositol can provide a balancing effect on chemicals in the brain that interact with dopamine and serotonin, two neurotransmitters that are essential for a balanced mood and that are often low in depression.
2. Boosts Fertility
Women can improve their fertility by getting more inositol – especially those with a particular disease.
PCOS, or polycystic ovary syndrome, is a common problem affecting up to 21 percent of women. The most common symptoms of PCOS include fertility problems, hyperandrogenism (an excess of male hormones), irregular periods, and multiple ovarian cysts. It may also involve skin problems and increased hair growth.
Supplementing with inositol can help restore ovulation cycles, improving fertility for all women, not just those with PCOS. In addition, inositol may help lower high blood pressure and high triglycerides – both common in those with PCOS.
3. Improves Insulin Sensitivity
Even if you don’t have diabetes, inositol can help improve insulin sensitivity.
Insulin is vital for keeping your blood sugar regular. It also allows your body to use glucose from carbs as energy, or to store it for future use.
People with diabetes or PCOS are at risk of becoming insulin resistant, making it extra important for those people to get enough inositol in their diets. Those lacking sufficient levels of inositol are most likely insulin resistant as well.
4. Helps Prevent Metabolic Syndrome
Metabolic syndrome is a set of risk factors that, when combined, could lead to type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Some of these symptoms include high blood sugar, high blood pressure, low HDL cholesterol, and excess belly fat.
How to Take Inositol
You can get plenty of inositol from healthy foods like fruits, vegetables, meat, and eggs. Be sure that your sources are grass-fed, pastured and organic whenever possible.
Specifically, top sources of inositol include:
Tip: Try making a homemade inositol smoothie filled with oranges, peaches, pears, and bananas!
Note: If you’re suffering from one of the issues mentioned above, it might be best to supplement with inositol. Supplements are available both as encapsulated tablets and powders. To treat PCOS, take 4000 mg a day before breakfast. For depression, a 12-gram supplement per day is suggested.
Watch this video to learn how to fight depression and boost brain health –4 Key vitamins for depression and anxiety: are you missing these vital nutrients?
While inositol is thought of as a vitamin, it’s actually a chemical compound used for energy. If you’re experiencing low mood, brain fog, infertility issues, PCOS or having issues with metabolic syndrome, check with your doctor to make sure you’re getting enough inositol in your system.
Written by Stephanie Lodge
Steph is a writer, recipe developer, weightlifter and nutritional consultant with a passion for health and wellness. She is the founder of The Athlete’s Kitchen, a website dedicated to providing its audience with articles, recipes and the latest nutritional information on their favorite foods.
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