Why a Keto Diet is Good for Managing Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
If you’re reading this, then I’m assuming you know that PCOS stands for Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, a hormonal condition that affects thousands of women around the world. I happen to be one of them.
If you’ve been diagnosed with PCOS, chances are that your doctor recommended you go on a low-GI diet or start taking a medication like metformin to help treat your PCOS symptoms. That’s because PCOS goes hand-in-hand with insulin resistance, and changing your diet can often be the best form of treatment.
But I would go a little further than just going low-GI. A keto diet for PCOS can be even more effective in helping you become more insulin sensitive.
Why is a Keto Diet Good for PCOS?
A keto diet can help treat insulin resistance in women with PCOS. If you’re insulin resistant, your body is no longer responding to insulin as it should. Your goal should be to simultaneously lower your insulin levels and make your cells more sensitive to insulin. A ketogenic diet can help with both.
High insulin levels are caused by elevated blood sugar levels, which is caused by excessive carb consumption and stress. When insulin spikes, it triggers the production of androgens, which are male hormones that cause symptoms associated with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, such as hormonal acne, cystic ovaries, hair loss, excessive hair growth, weight gain, absent or irregular periods, and anovulation (not ovulating).
The truth is that, regardless of the food you eat, your insulin levels rise every time you eat, and I don’t believe that just following a low-GI diet is enough to reduce insulin to improve symptoms for many women.
Fat has the lowest impact on your insulin levels out of all the macronutrients. And if you eat too much protein, your body can turn the excess protein into glucose. This process is called gluconeogenesis. You could be saying no thank you to obvious sources of carbs like pasta, rice, cereal, bread, and even vegetables, and only eat zero-carb foods like eggs and meat, but if you eat too much protein, it can kick you out of ketosis.
A Keto Diet Can Help You Lose Weight with PCOS
Did you know that losing weight alone can help improve PCOS symptoms? I’m currently trying to lose 10% of my body weight, as I’ve heard that losing weight can help improve symptoms. So far, my skin is already looking a lot better and I feel a lot less inflamed.
To help me lose the last bit of weight, I’m reducing my carb intake. My goal is to become fat adapted.
Being fat adapted means that your body is used to burning fat for energy and can switch to fat-burning mode whenever you need it to. To become fat adapted, you need to switch your body from burning glucose as its main source of energy to burning fat, which you can do by following a low-carb, high fat diet for a few weeks and/or months.
Intermittent fasting can help with insulin resistance too, but I’m trying not to fast for too long, as I feel like it makes me more anxious.
I still need to do more research on how diet influences PCOS, but at least there are other people out there who are also dedicating their time to learning more about this condition, like Carnivore Aurelius. I found this article about keto and PCOS particularly helpful.
How to Follow a Keto Diet To Manage Polycystic Ovary Syndrome Symptoms
When you follow a keto diet, your diet consists of 70% to 90% fat, and you limit your carbohydrates to less than 50 g or 20 g a day. You have to find your sweet spot. Unlike a high-protein diet like the Atkins diet, your protein intake on a ketogenic diet is moderate. I still think that it’s a good idea to aim for at least 0,8 g to 1 g of protein per kg of body weight.
The easiest way to track your protein consumption and macronutrient ratios on a ketogenic diet is through using a food-tracking app like MyFitnessPal. You don’t have to track forever, but I recommend doing it for at least a few weeks.
How to Make a Ketogenic Diet Delicious, so That You Won’t Miss Carbohydrates
There’s a ketogenic alternative for any dish or dessert your heart desires. Just ask Pinterest or Google. You might need to spend some time experimenting with different recipes to find the ones you love, but it’s a delicious challenge worth undertaking. If you want something savoury, you can have some fatty meat, eggs, cheese (if you choose to have dairy), bacon, crackling, etc.
If you have PCOS, why not give a keto diet a try to see if it will help you. Don’t just try it for a week. Give it three months, and if you don’t like it, you can always gradually increase your carb intake again.
*This is an updated version of this article. The original was posted on 6 February 2020.