The Keto Diet for PCOS
Irregular or prolonged menstrual cycles… infertility or difficulty conceiving… intense hunger… inability to lose weight… oily skin and breakouts… mood swings and depression… hair loss (or excessive hair growth)…
While these symptoms may seem unrelated, they are all signs of one of the most common metabolic disorders found in women. This condition is suffered by one out of every 10 women of childbearing age and is the #1 cause of female infertility.1
The condition is known as polycystic ovary syndrome or PCOS. And while it’s extremely common, up to 70 percent of women affected aren’t even aware they have it!2
Of course, when it comes to mainstream medicine, pharmaceuticals are typically the first line of “treatment” for PCOS. However, a safer (and more effective) treatment exists that addresses the root cause of this endocrine disorder.
Today, you’ll discover how PCOS develops… the most common symptoms of PCOS… and the simple changes you (or someone you love) can make to ease – and even reverse – symptoms of PCOS!
What is Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)?
In healthy women, menstruation occurs approximately every 28 days. This should occur on a regular monthly basis as each new egg is released from an ovary.
But if you have PCOS, your ovaries may experience “egg release fails”. Instead of the matured egg leaving the ovary, it remains inside and continues to grow. In other cases, the egg is released, but the sac is left behind in the ovary where it fills with fluid and reseals.3
The results of both of these situations are functional cysts – a key sign of PCOS.
As you know, hormones are the chemical messengers that drive and control your endocrine system. Hormones are the communication system between your glands, organs and other bodily systems. And they are secreted in extremely minute amounts. In fact, hormones (and hormone mimicking compounds) can be bioactive in amounts as small as one trillionth of a gram.
As you might expect, even small changes to the hormonal levels in your body can cause far-reaching impacts. Similar imbalances and disruption can occur when your sensitivity to hormones changes and when you are exposed to compounds that mimic hormones (like xenoestrogens from plastics).
And this is exactly what happens in the case of PCOS.
Women suffering from PCOS produce too much luteinizing hormone (LH) and too little follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). When LH levels are high, the body begins to produce too many androgens or testosterone – hormones associated with masculine characteristics.
As you might expect, increased levels of male-type hormones suppress female functions – including ovulation – and produce the more visible signs of PCOS, including acne and hair growth (hirsutism).
Common Causes of PCOS
Research shows a number of factors contribute to PCOS including:4
- Exposure to male hormones in the womb
- Defects in insulin secretion
- Systemic inflammation causing the ovaries to produce excess male hormones
These are certainly root causes to take into consideration. However, for the vast majority of women with PCOS – nearly seven out of 10 – the underlying root cause is insulin resistance and blood sugar dysregulation.5
In other words, diabetes and metabolic syndrome are so closely connected to PCOS it might as well be called “ovarian diabetes”.
So, while we may not be able to change our defective genes or erase what happened to us in our mother’s womb, we can make significant strides to control our blood sugar metabolism and insulin sensitivity.
And by doing so, many women have found they can completely reverse symptoms of PCOS.6
As you know, insulin is the primary hormone that controls levels of glucose in your blood. But when you are insulin resistant, your cells “resist” the effects of insulin. Over time, more and more insulin is required to have the same effect.
The end result can include high blood sugar, weight gain, increased risk of diabetes, chronic inflammation, heart disease and Alzheimer’s, rapid aging… and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).
Now here’s the good news…
A Low Carb, Ketogenic Diet Can Reverse PCOS & Improve Fertility
One of the best ways to lower insulin levels, shed excess fat, improve the health of your endocrine system and ease PCOS is to follow a low-carb or ketogenic diet.7,8
Consider a small sample of the research:
- A 2005 pilot study published in Nutrition and Metabolism evaluated 11 women with PCOS. The women followed a ketogenic diet (carbohydrates 20 grams per day) for six months. At the end of the study, the women had significantly improved their weight, hormone levels and their own perceived amount of body hair. What’s more, two of the women who had struggled with infertility, successfully conceived during the trial.9
- Two studies, published in Metabolism and Clinical Endocrinology, found that a low-carbohydrate diet helped to reduce visceral fat mass, improved weight, reduced insulin resistance and lowered other risk factors for women with PCOS.10,11
- A 2017 review published in Nutrients found that low-carbohydrate diets reduce insulin levels, improve hormone imbalances and help to resume ovulation, improving pregnancy rates. What’s more, these positive results were seen in 86 percent of the women studied!12
Keto for PCOS: Stabilize Your Hormones with a Low-Carb Diet
Achieving what I call “hormonal harmony” is one of the core tenets of vibrant health. By stabilizing blood sugar and insulin levels, and avoiding synthetic hormones and hormone-mimics (including triclosan, BPA and other plastic-chemicals) you can go a long way to protecting – and restoring – healthy endocrine function.13,14
Health Tips for Hormone Balance
- Choose animal foods raised without the use of pesticides and added hormones that can negatively impact your endocrine system.
- Avoid using plastic, including purchasing foods in plastic or storing foods in plastic. Instead opt for inert glass or stainless steel.
- Avoid cans and tins which are lined with bisphenol-a (BPA).
- Choose organic produce whenever possible to avoid hormone-mimicking pesticides.
- Filter your water to remove endocrine-disrupting chlorine and other chemicals.
- Opt for natural cleaning, body care and cosmetic products. Choose sunscreens that physically block the sun (like zinc oxide) instead of chemical sunscreens. Better yet, avoid sunscreens and use shade and clothing to block the sun (after you’ve had your fill of vitamin D).
- Avoid endocrine-disrupting artificial sweeteners, including sucralose.
- Consider adding flax to your diet. Just one ounce of flaxseeds daily was found to significantly reduce testosterone levels in women who suffered PCOS.15
- Enjoy clean-source omega-3 fatty acids from pasture-raised meats, eggs and wild fish. Omega-3’s were found to improve insulin sensitivity in women with PCOS as well as significantly decrease glucose, insulin, and insulin resistance.16
- Exercise! Aerobic exercise, resistance training and yoga can all provide benefits to those with PCOS and insulin resistance.17,18,19
- Optimize your vitamin D levels ideally with sun exposure, to improve your hormone balance.20
- Sleep disturbances are twice as common in women with PCOS, compare to healthy women. Unfortunately, sleep disturbances cause a vicious cycle of more hormonal dysregulation and weight gain. Make it a priority to get a full night’s sleep.21,22
Keto & Low Carb Meal Ideas for PCOS
As you may know, the “ketogenic diet” is one that is rich in healthy fats, moderate in protein and very low in carbohydrates. In addition to being of the most reliable and fastest ways to shed excess fat, it is also among the best dietary strategies for improving your blood sugar metabolism – and therefore reducing risk of PCOS.
And if you’re wondering “what to eat on keto” here are a few meal ideas:
- Pasture-raised eggs, avocado and pork breakfast sausage
- Grass-fed beef burger over arugula with naturally sugar-free condiments (mustard, Primal Kitchen Ketchup, lacto-fermented sauerkraut, pickles)
- Wild salmon with hollandaise sauce and watercress salad
- Pastured pork shoulder, steamed cauliflower with butter and Bibb lettuce salad
- Mixed green salad with pastured-chicken, hard-boiled eggs and asparagus