Keto for PCOS: Can a Low-Carb Diet Help Reduce Symptoms?
Unwanted weight gain, facial hair, acne, and irregular periods are some of the symptoms that plague women living with PCOS. If left untreated, the condition may cause fertility problems, metabolic syndrome, and obesity.
Combined with the correct medication and supplements, dietary changes that improve insulin resistance, control blood sugar levels, and result in weight loss are critical components of PCOS management.
Read this article to learn more about the relationship between the keto diet and PCOS and how to use keto for PCOS management.
What Is PCOS?
Polycystic ovary syndrome, or polycystic ovarian syndrome, is one of the leading causes of infertility, affecting between 6–12% of American women of childbearing age.
It’s a hormonal disorder characterized by reproductive hormonal imbalances. For example, blood tests typically show raised levels of androgens (male hormones) and luteinizing hormone (LH), which have an impact on ovulation.
Although the exact cause of the hormonal imbalance is yet to be determined, the recognized underlying causes include having a family history of the condition, eating an unhealthy diet, exposure to environmental toxins, and obesity.
Additionally, high insulin levels are common in PCOS patients, and research shows that high circulating levels of insulin may cause raised levels of male hormones. The result is unwanted hair growth on the face and body, hair thinning on the head and acne.
From a health perspective, insulin resistance increases the risk of women having high cholesterol levels, developing type 2 diabetes, and being overweight. It has also been associated with fatty liver and hypertension.
Furthermore, overweight and obese women have a greater risk of developing PCOS as they are more likely to have reduced insulin sensitivity. However, obesity is not considered a cause of the condition, as many normal-weight women also have the condition.
Most common PCOS symptoms:
- Abnormal menstrual cycle
- Abnormal hair growth
- Overweight and obesity
- Skin darkening in the folds of the skin on the neck, under the breasts, in the armpits, and the groin
- Ovarian cysts
Holistic management of PCOS
PCOS is a complex condition and not all women with the condition present with the same set of symptoms. Therefore, a healthcare provider such as a reproductive endocrinologist will devise a personalized treatment plan for you.
Management may include hormonal birth control for women not planning to fall pregnant, diabetes medications such as Metformin to control blood glucose levels and improve insulin sensitivity, androgen-blocking medication to lower levels of male hormones, and lifestyle changes.
As well as a regular exercise routine and getting enough sleep, the diet has a pivotal role to play in reducing the symptoms of PCOS. A healthy diet can help balance blood sugar, reduce fat storage and body weight, and manage low-grade inflammation.
Low-Carb Diet for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
The ketogenic diet is an eating style that involves limiting your carbohydrate intake and increasing the amount of healthy fats you eat. In doing so, there is significantly less glucose in your blood available to use for energy which forces your cells to burn fat in the form of ketones as a source of fuel instead.
When this happens consistently every day, you are said to be in a state of nutritional ketosis. Such a state can only be achieved when your net carbs intake is less than 50g per day.
Because there is less sugar in your blood, insulin levels are also lower, which has been shown to increase insulin sensitivity and improve insulin resistance. As a result, many people experience rapid weight loss and a reduction in fat mass because they are able to burn fat faster when they follow the ketogenic diet.
Other health benefits of the keto diet:
- Less hunger and food cravings
- Reduction in belly fat
- Improved fat metabolism resulting in lower cholesterol levels
- It may help lower blood pressure
Did you know that the nutrition experts at Keto Cycle can help you implement a healthy low-carb, high-fat diet to combat insulin resistance as part of your management regime? Simply take the quick quiz so that we can determine the best diet plan for you.
The Keto Diet and PCOS
Due to the metabolic changes that occur in the body when you follow the ketogenic diet, scientists have studied the effects of the ketogenic diet in women with PCOS.
Many have determined that using the keto diet for PCOS may be an effective treatment for the condition if implemented correctly and monitored by a healthcare provider.
For example, a study in which 14 women with PCOS ate a Mediterranean keto diet for 12 weeks observed significant improvements in body weight and fat mass, as well as a reduction in blood sugar and insulin levels. They also noted reduced levels of triglycerides and LDL-cholesterol levels.
The positive effects of the keto diet on liver function were demonstrated in a research paper in which the effects of the dietary intervention were compared to conventional PCOS management in obese women with the condition.
The results showed that using keto for PCOS management is effective for treating non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. The researchers also observed an improvement in other symptoms, including changes in body composition and the menstrual cycle.
Furthermore, to answer the question is keto good for PCOS, researchers examined the effect of restricting carbohydrates on insulin resistance and hormone levels.
They discovered that the keto diet is an effective dietary intervention to reduce insulin resistance and increase insulin sensitivity. However, they also demonstrated that it could improve hormonal imbalance and thereby improve fertility in women of childbearing age with PCOS.
Therefore, the keto diet, which has been shown to reduce circulating insulin levels, can help women lose weight and ease other PCOS symptoms.
Potential Considerations and Risks of Keto Diet for PCOS
Based on such evidence, it seems as though keto and PCOS are a match made in heaven. However, it must be noted that it may not be the ideal treatment for all women.
For starters, low-carbohydrate diets can cause some flu-like symptoms in the first week or two of following them. This is commonly referred to as keto flu.
Don’t be alarmed if you feel dizzy, light-headed, or tired when you first start limiting your carbohydrate intake. Your body just needs a little time to adjust to your new keto lifestyle. These effects are usually temporary.
For those who already have high cholesterol levels, the ketogenic diet may result in an increase in both total cholesterol and LDL-cholesterol (bad cholesterol). Therefore, you should consult with your doctor before starting the keto diet if your cholesterol levels are high.
A low-carb diet can be challenging to implement and maintain. Additionally, research suggests that women with PCOS are at greater risk of disordered eating than other women. Therefore, it is not recommended for women who have a history of eating disorders.
Beyond the Keto Diet – A Holistic Approach to PCOS
Polycystic ovarian syndrome is a complex condition that includes hormonal imbalances, ovarian cysts, and irregular menstrual cycles. However, not all women with PCOS will present with the same set of signs and symptoms.
Therefore, a personalized holistic approach must be adopted to treat PCOS patients, and PCOS management should include medication, supplements such as vitamin D, and diet and lifestyle interventions.
One of the main treatment objectives is to reduce insulin resistance. The keto diet is a proven effective tool. However, it is not suitable for everyone. Some women may find it easier to follow a low-carb diet instead.
Alternatively, the ketogenic Mediterranean diet is also a good option. The low-carb Mediterranean diet is low in carbohydrates, high in healthy fats, and rich in antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrients that not only help increase insulin sensitivity but also help to control low-grade inflammation.
Keto and PCOS are the topic of numerous scientific studies, many of which prove the benefits of the low-carb, high-fat diet for treating PCOS.
The keto diet can reduce polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) symptoms by reducing insulin resistance and correcting the hormonal imbalance associated with the condition. As a result, women with PCOS can benefit from weight loss and increased fertility.
Keto Cycle can get you started on your keto diet journey to stop the weight gain associated with PCOS, help you burn fat, and increase insulin sensitivity, so that you, too, can enjoy significant improvements in your PCOS symptoms.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is keto good for PCOS?
Yes. Women who use the keto diet for PCOS management find it beneficial for weight loss, insulin resistance, and correcting the hormonal imbalances associated with the condition.
Which diet is best for PCOS?
Many studies have examined the relationship between PCOS and keto and demonstrated that following a low-carb diet is beneficial for fertility. However, calorie restriction has been shown to be the most critical aspect of correcting hormone imbalances.
The best diet for PCOS management is a personalized approach that meets your body’s energy and nutrient requirements and provides plenty of healthy fats and anti-inflammatory compounds to help control chronic inflammation.
Is low carb okay for PCOS?
Yes. The keto diet can be difficult for some women to follow. However, a low-carb diet is also beneficial for controlling blood sugar and lowering insulin levels to promote weight loss in women with PCOS.
How much weight can you lose on keto with PCOS?
Weight loss is a constant battle for overweight women with PCOS. In a study on the keto diet and PCOS conducted over 12 weeks, participants lost an average of 9.43kg (20.8lbs). However, the amount of weight you lose depends on many factors, and rapid weight loss cannot be guaranteed.