Updated: Dec 28, 2021
What is PCOS
Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is a condition that affects approximately one out of five women in India.
PCOS is a hormonal condition that causes hormonal imbalance. This hormone imbalance causes women to skip menstrual periods and makes it harder for women to get pregnant. But perhaps the most concerning aspect of PCOS is that it causes impaired glucose tolerance, type 2 diabetes, obesity and increased risk of cardiovascular diseases resulting in significant cardiovascular and metabolic morbidity.
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome is responsible for as much as 70 percent of infertility issues in women. In addition to that, it causes frustrating and embarrassing symptoms like acne, male-pattern baldness, anxiety, mood swings, weight gain, and fatigue. Other symptoms of PCOS also include hair growth on the face and body, and male pattern baldness.
Pcos and Insulin
One of hormones that is adversely impacted is Insulin. Imbalance in Insulin leads to Insulin resistance, which makes it harder for the cells to absorb glucose. Insulin resistance is also responsible for excessive weight-gain and obesity.
Fortunately, you can combat PCOS symptoms with the right combination of diet, exercise, and lifestyle choices. The ketogenic diet may be one of the best diets for women with PCOS because it reduces insulin levels and insulin resistance.
The Ketogenic Diet explained:
Basically, a ketogenic diet significantly restricts carbohydrates, while focusing heavily on high fats (healthy fats) and moderate protein. There are a number of things that happen when you do this:
Your need for insulin drops significantly. From a PCOS point of view, this would be helpful as women with PCOS tend to have high levels of insulin to begin with. High insulin levels cause the ovaries to produce too much testosterone which makes the symptoms worse.
Also, when you restrict carbohydrates, it causes your body to use fat for fuel, instead of glucose. As your body enters a state of ketosis, your body converts fatty acids into Ketones and burns it as the main source of energy. Ketones are anti-inflammatory and help mitigate some of the adverse effects of PCOS like cardiovascular diseases.
Benefits of a Ketogenic Diet for PCOS :
Cutting carbohydrates to less than 5% of total caloric intake and boosting fat to 70% of the diet rapidly restores periods, increases fertility, and greatly improves distressing symptoms like acne and weight gain etc.
There are a number of benefits of a keto diet. Here are some of them:
Insulin resistance and glucose intolerance
Despite its name, cystic ovaries are not found in all women. But almost all women with the condition – whether thin or obese – show greater insulin resistance and impaired glucose tolerance than women without the condition.
It is insulin that really drives the whole process and insulin release is caused by carbohydrates. On a low-carb diet like a Ketogenic diet, the small amounts of carbohydrates consumed are not sufficient to cause significant insulin response. This helps in reversing insulin resistance over a period of time and promotes glucose tolerance.
This helps in balancing out Insulin and in turn other hormones as well.
PCOS & Weight Gain and Keto
As insulin is the fat storing hormone, and insulin resistance results in higher insulin levels, it is no coincidence that women suffering from PCOS frequently experience sudden weight gain. Obesity is one of the most common symptoms of PCOS. Losing weight and maintaining a healthy weight goes a long way in treating PCOS.
As a low-carb diet addresses insulin resistance and lowers insulin levels, losing weight on a keto diet becomes easier and is one of the many reasons that women with PCOS are recommended a keto diet, not just for weight-loss but as a mode of treatment.
Cravings subside on the Keto Diet
Cravings are often caused by disordered insulin. As you have carbs, your insulin levels shoot up, only to drop rapidly, causing your body to crave more sweet things and carbs. As soon as you satisfy that craving, your insulin levels shoot up again, starting the cycle all over again.
With women suffering from PCOS this is further complicated by other hormonal imbalances. Eating disorders arising from these lead to sharp weight-gain in a short amount of time, worsening the situation.
A ketogenic diet helps to stabilise those insulin levels, breaking the cycle, and can really help to manage those cravings.
The Keto Diet can help women with PCOS feel fuller for longer
A ketogenic diet that is higher in good quality fats tends to make you feel fuller for longer and it is well-documented that a ketogenic diet helps with appetite control [/]. This makes it easier to re-adopt healthy eating habits and correct eating disorders.
The keto diet can improve cardiovascular health in women with PCOS
Research  shows that a keto diet is also good for the heart in that it helps to lower cholesterol and boost levels of high density lipoprotein (the good cholesterol). This promotes heart health. Bearing in mind that women with PCOS are at risk of cardiovascular disease, this aspect of the keto diet can significantly lower that risk.
In addition to affecting a woman’s fertility, PCOS can cause a number of hormone-induced side effects. This includes acne.
Causes of Acne?
PCOS is just one of many causes for acne. In women with PCOS we find excess hormone activity and hormonal changes that may lead to moderate to severe Acne.
Here are some benefits of ketogenic diets for acne :
Lower insulin levels: High insulin levels stimulate the increased production of skin cells, sebum, and androgens, thus setting the stage for acne eruptions. Ketogenic diets can decrease insulin levels dramatically.
Anti-inflammatory effects: Inflammation drives acne progression. Very low-carb and ketogenic diets have been shown to reduce inflammation.
Decrease in IGF-1 (Insulin-like Growth Factor - 1): IGF-1 is a growth hormone that generally occurs in mid puberty. High Levels of IGF-1 have a stronger effect on acne in women. To reduce IGF-1 levels, the body requires ‘IGF-1 Binding Proteins’. High levels of insulin causes the level of ‘IGF-1 Binding Proteins’ to drop. Added to this women with PCOS tend to have lower levels of ‘IGF-1 Binding Proteins’ to begin with. This results in the levels of IGF-1 to be high in women with PCOS and causes the acne to be more severe.
A ketogenic diet helps reduce insulin levels, raising ‘IGF-1 Binding Protein’ Levels. Higher ‘IGF-1 Binding Protein’ causes a drop in IGF-1 Levels, thus reducing acne.
A Ketogenic diet can have an immense impact on the quality of life in Women with PCOS. It can mitigate some of the worse symptoms of PCOS and help greatly in minimizing medication related to PCOS.