Can The Ketogenic Diet Help With PCOS?
PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) is a common disorder among reproductive-aged women. Emerging research suggests that a ketogenic diet may improve hormonal regulation, weight control, and other PCOS-related issues.
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome has no determined cause except that it could be genetic, but it has also been linked to obesity, insulin resistance, and type-2 diabetes.
What is Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
It’s a common endocrine disorder that typically begins in adolescence or early adulthood and is one of the leading causes of infertility. Up to 20% of women of childbearing age are estimated to have PCOS, including as many as 70% that are undiagnosed.
Not every woman with PCOS experiences all of these symptoms. In addition, some don’t even have the characteristic cysts on their ovaries. Other symptoms include:
- Menstrual irregularities, including absent periods (amenorrhea) or infrequent periods (oligomenorrhea)
- Overweight and obesity
- Acanthosis nigricans (skin tags and darkened pigment in the skin folds of the armpits, groin, thighs, and neck)
- Masculinization due to hyperandrogenism (high levels of testosterone, DHEA and other androgens). Symptoms include hirsutism (excessive facial and body hair), acne, male-pattern baldness, and a deep voice.
What Causes PCOS?
No one knows the exact cause of PCOS. We do know that most of its symptoms come from problems with hormones, or natural body chemicals. Many girls with PCOS have too much insulin, a hormone that helps turn food into energy. Extra insulin can cause the darkened skin you may have on your neck, behind your knees and other places.
Girls with PCOS also have extra androgens. Although people often think of androgens as male hormones, females have them too. The extra androgen can lead to acne, excess body hair, weight gain, and irregular periods.
What Is The Ketogenic Diet?
The ketogenic diet is a low carbohydrate, high-fat diet. It drastically cuts carbohydrate intake down to 20 net grams of carbohydrates per day and increases fat to about 75% of daily calories. Unlike other low carbohydrate diets, it is not high protein. The protein consumed should stay the same as on a regular diet, at around 20-25% of daily calories.
In a normal diet, people obtain energy primarily from carbohydrates. In the body, these carbohydrates are broken down into glucose. Glucose enters the bloodstream and is taken to cells for use as energy by insulin. In some people, specifically those with insulin “resistance”, their body does not produce enough insulin to properly regulate glucose uptake by cells.
On a ketogenic diet, the body is no longer relying on glucose for energy. The body relies on fat for energy. The fat can come from fatty foods or fat stores in the body. When the fat is broken down, it eventually is broken down into ketones which cells use for energy.
This process is called ketosis. Because the body is no longer taking in a lot of carbohydrates on the ketogenic diet, a person gets a chance to properly “re-sensitize” their body to glucose and insulin.
How Keto helps PCOS
The first step to properly starting a ketogenic diet is to calculate the macronutrients (fat, carbohydrates, protein, calories) needed for the diet that is specific to your body.
The ketogenic diet may be ideal for women with PCOS, especially those with insulin resistance. First off, carb restriction has been linked to loss of weight and visceral fat, reductions in insulin and blood sugar levels, and improvements in other cardiac disease risk factors in those with metabolic syndrome.
A low carb keto diet keeps you from eating foods that trigger insulin resistance and encourages weight loss. That’s why they’ve shown positive results in patients with type 2 diabetes and obesity, both of which are key in managing PCOS.
3 Extra Ways to Boost Your Keto PCOS Journey
While a keto diet may be enough to help you lose weight and stop your PCOS symptoms from taking over your life, you’ll notice the most success when you combine it with these three tips:
1. EXERCISE DAILY
Exercise can help lower your blood sugar levels, prevent insulin resistance and support a healthy lifestyle. It’s also pretty crucial for losing weight and building fat-burning muscle too.
You should get at least 30 minutes of daily exercise. Science says both aerobic exercise and resistance training are perfect for women with PCOS:
2. STRESS LESS
Both anxiety and depression are complications of PCOS. But stress leads directly to being insulin resistant, which contributes directly to your PCOS symptoms.
3. CATCH MORE SNOOZE TIME
It’s hard for anyone to get a full eight hours of beauty rest, but researchers from one review found that sleep disturbances were twice as common in women with PCOS compared with those without it. And women with PCOS also have greater difficulty falling asleep.
The Keto And PCOS Takeaway
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is the most common endocrine disorder affecting women of reproductive age and is associated with obesity, hyperinsulinemia, and insulin resistance.
When you combine the insulin-lowering effects of a ketogenic diet with a daily exercise regime, methods to lower your stress and quality sleep, you’ll attack PCOS from all angles and increase your chances of reversing many of the causes and symptoms.
Unlike prescriptions used to mask what PCOS is doing to your body, a ketogenic diet addresses the main villain of the story (sugar!) so your ovaries can have the happy ending they deserve. Women with PCOS have experienced easy weight loss, regular menstrual cycles, and greater luck conceiving just from switching to a low carb diet like keto.
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