So, you have PCOS. You have been diagnosed with PCOS. You have been offered a whole bunch of options for treating your PCOS. But what is the best way? And why is the best way so controversial? There are a whole bunch of reasons why a low-carb diet may be the best choice for you. Here are the top 8.
There has been a huge surge in the popularity of the low-carb diet recently. Most people who go on low-carb diets have PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome). This is a condition which causes hormonal imbalances and induces weight gain. In this post, I will discuss why anyone should go on a low-carb diet and what the benefits are.
Jessica – before and after
Many people come because they are seeking help to lose weight or reverse type 2 diabetes. But did you know that almost all symptoms of a common female condition called polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) also respond very well to a low-carb or ketogenic diet?
So what is PCOS? It is a reproductive disorder that affects approximately 10% of women. The symptoms are alarming: little or no menstruation, infertility, weight gain, acne, growth of facial hair such as sideburns and sideburns, sometimes even hair loss on the head.
Blood tests almost always show insulin resistance and high levels of male hormones. Often, on an ultrasound, the ovaries appear covered with cysts.
Women with PCOS are usually treated with a cocktail of medications: Birth control pills, drugs that prevent hair growth in men, the diabetes drug metformin to lower blood sugar, and sometimes drugs for depression and anxiety. If they then want to get pregnant, they are usually prescribed medication to stimulate ovulation. In at least 50% of cases, fertility drugs do not work and other methods are tried, such as in vitro fertilization.
But there is a simpler method that can potentially produce impressive results: Try a diet low in carbs and high in fat.
Reducing carbohydrates to less than 20 grams total and increasing fat to 75% in the diet can restore menstruation quickly, improve fertility and dramatically reduce alarming symptoms such as acne and weight gain, according to Dr. Michael Fox, a fertility specialist at the Center for Reproductive Medicine in Jacksonville, Florida. Dr. Fox answers our users’ questions about using low-carb and keto diets to improve fertility and metabolism.
I wish I had known about the low-carb, high-fat diet for PCOS when I was diagnosed at 19. It would have saved me years of frustration, sadness, infertility and feeling imperfect as a woman.
PCOS really undermines your confidence and happiness, agrees Jessica Shotwell Walker of Atlanta, Georgia, who was diagnosed at 18 and has been battling the disease for nearly 20 years. I never felt like a real girl until I went fully keto and finally got my period. I felt ugly and unloved for many, many years. She has been following a low-carb ketogenic lifestyle for 10 years now and all her symptoms have disappeared. He is the embodiment of vitality and liveliness. I’ve never been happier, healthier, more athletic and full of positive energy, she says.
Here are eight science-based reasons why women with PCOS should try a low-carb ketogenic diet.
1. Maybe we are genetically programmed from an early age to thrive on a low-carb or ketodiet
PCOS is now known to be a complex genetic disorder that occurs in all ethnic groups and has been around for at least 150,000 years. But why has this fertility disorder persisted for thousands of years?
Geneticists believe that once upon a time, in the Paleolithic, it gave women and their children a distinct evolutionary survival advantage, probably by increasing strength and resistance to disease, improving energy use, lengthening the birth interval, and increasing the ability to survive in times of famine. What’s different today from 100,000 years ago? Our constant consumption of sugar and carbohydrates. That’s why its exclusion can have such a big impact on PCOS symptoms. It seems that carbohydrates are not the right fuel for our finely tuned genetic engine, created centuries ago.
2. Improve insulin resistance and reduced glucose tolerance
Despite the name, cystic ovaries do not occur in all women. But almost all women with the disease, whether skinny or obese, have greater insulin resistance and glucose intolerance than women without the disease.
Insulin controls the whole process, says Dr. Fox. And the release of insulin is caused by carbohydrates. There is even talk of changing the name to metabolic reproductive disorder. Many studies show that switching to a low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet improves insulin sensitivity and glucose intolerance in people with PCOS.
3. Menstruation and fertility rapidly recover and pregnancy occurs
Dr. Fox has been treating thousands of women with PCOS with a low-carb diet for 17 years. He notes that the menstruation of most of his patients normalizes within two to three months of scaling back carbohydrates. When we switched to a low-carb, high-fat diet, we changed the metabolic pattern and insulin levels dropped, our pregnancy rates went to 90-95%.
A 2005 pilot study conducted by Dr. Eric Westman on a low-carb diet for PCOS found that hormonal profiles improved and two previously infertile women became pregnant spontaneously after switching to the ketogenic diet. There are many stories of low-carb children. Formula food helped me get pregnant, says Isabel Nelson, a Swedish mother we’ve written about before. In the comments, other women shared their successes in raising children according to the LCHF system.
Here’s a longer post on the subject:
Are you trying to get pregnant? Try the best baby diet with beef, butter and bacon.
4. Loss of excess weight
Like many people who want help losing weight, women with PCOS who consume fewer carbs and more fat can experience significant weight loss. I couldn’t believe how fast it all went, said Annie, who was diagnosed with PCOS at the age of 24, recounting how she lost weight in just three months.
Jessica Shotwell Walker has lost 65 pounds (29 kg) and has been keeping her head above water for 10 years, see her picture on the right while playing tennis. I’ve lost 10 pounds. A number of studies have shown that eliminating carbohydrates and replacing them with high-fat foods is the most promising treatment for obesity in PCOS.
5. Improved Acne
One of the unpleasant features of PCOS is the increased tendency to acne, which not only occurs in adolescence, but persists into adulthood. In recent years, numerous studies have shown that reducing glycemic load (i.e., avoiding carbs that quickly turn into sugar) significantly improves acne, whether or not people have PCOS.
Although there are few studies on the treatment of acne in PCOS with carbohydrate restriction, a number of reviews show significant improvement in skin condition when switching to a low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet. For the first time in 15 years, I got rid of my acne, Laura says. So what do you have to lose by trying the keto diet? Maybe some breakthroughs.
6. Anxiety and depression may disappear
With an increased tendency to gain weight, acne, facial hair and infertility, it’s not surprising that women with PCOS are more likely to suffer from anxiety and depression than women without the condition. Are mood problems an emotional response to symptoms or are they actually caused by suboptimal nutrition for our genetic type that affects important receptors in the brain?
Although very little research has been done on the relationship between our genes, the food we eat, and our mental health, low-carb ketogenic dieters report anecdotal evidence of reduced anxiety and depression in their patients who follow the low-carb ketogenic diet. Shotwell Walker agrees. I’ve never felt so happy.
7. Bulimia may improve or disappear
Many studies have shown that bulimia is significantly more common in women with PCOS. In the past, this conclusion has been used to dismiss women with PCOS as having psychiatric problems that contributed to their reproductive disorder, implying that bulimia came first and PCOS later. But what if genetic carbohydrate intolerance in a carbohydrate-rich world leads to bulimia in women with PCOS?
The theory is that a genetic inability to cope with excess glucose and carbohydrates leads to a cycle of insulin and glucose spikes that lead to carbohydrate cravings and purging. It’s as if the body is desperately trying to get the nutrients it needs to function optimally, leading to overeating and then purging by eating the wrong foods (high in sugar and carbohydrates).
Scientific studies are lacking, but anecdotal evidence suggests that a ketogenic diet may help with eating disorders, reducing cravings for food and significantly reducing the tendency to bulimia. With the keto diet, you lose the desire for starchy foods and sugar, wrote one woman online in a thread about bulimia. This is such a relief!
8. Improved pregnancy and reduced risk of postmenopausal health problems with a ketogenic diet
Usually women with PCOS are in their teens and early adulthood, when infertility, acne and weight gain are the most obvious signs. But women who become pregnant with PCOS have a much higher incidence of complications during pregnancy, including gestational diabetes (carbohydrate intolerance disorder), preeclampsia (high blood pressure during pregnancy), and large babies weighing more than 9 pounds (which is a risk for cesarean delivery and an independent risk for developing diabetes in the future).
In addition, postmenopausal women with PCOS had higher rates of cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and type 2 diabetes. The research is limited, but the overall profile of PCOS suggests that carbohydrate restriction and switching to a low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet may help control all these associated problems, regardless of the age or stage of PCOS in the patients. I know I need to maintain a ketogenic lifestyle for life. My problems come back quickly when I start eating carbs again, says Shotwell Walker.
And here’s an unexpected bonus: Male parents may also benefit
You think only women have genes? Not like this. Recent genetic findings show that male relatives – fathers and brothers – of women with PCOS also have increased insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. All of these conditions are improved by a low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet.
Interestingly, the only symptoms in men related to women with PCOS are early alopecia before the age of 30. Age and excessive body hair. Can the ketogenic diet slow male pattern baldness and stop hairy appearance in men with PCOS genes? It’s too early to say.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why is a low carb diet good for PCOS?
A low carb diet is good for PCOS because it helps to regulate insulin levels and reduce the risk of developing diabetes.
Do you have to eat low carb for PCOS?
No, you don’t have to eat low carb for PCOS. However, many women with PCOS do find that they feel better when they eat a low-carb diet. What are the benefits of eating low carb for PCOS? Eating a low-carb diet can help with weight loss, improve insulin sensitivity, and reduce inflammation. What are the risks of eating low carb for PCOS? Eating a low-carb diet can lead to nutrient deficiencies, especially if you’re not careful about your food choices.
Is low carb high fat diet good for PCOS?
A low carb high fat diet is not recommended for PCOS.
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