Having polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) can affect a lot of different areas of your life. Among other things, PCOS can impact your weight, and a lot of questions come up about the best way to manage PCOS weight gain via your diet. One frequently searched query? Whether the keto diet is a good eating method to help manage PCOS weight gain and other symptoms.
Before we get into that, it’s important to go over some PCOS basics. PCOS is a health condition caused by an imbalance of reproductive hormones, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ Office on Women’s Health (OWH). This hormone imbalance causes problems in the ovaries, which make an egg that’s released each month as part of your menstrual cycle. When you have PCOS, the egg might not develop the way it should, or it might not be released during ovulation, according to the OWH.
PCOS can cause a range of symptoms, including irregular periods, infertility, excess hair growth, severe acne, and weight gain, per the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). As many as four in five women with PCOS deal with weight issues in conjunction with the condition, ACOG says.
PCOS may be managed with medical interventions like hormonal birth control pills. But lifestyle management, like losing even a little weight, may also help alleviate symptoms, according to ACOG.
And that’s where the keto diet question comes up a lot. Here’s what you need to know about how the keto diet can impact PCOS symptoms.
Is following the keto diet beneficial if you have PCOS?
There’s a lot to dig into here. People with PCOS often deal with insulin resistance, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This means that the body can make insulin, which helps blood sugar enter the body’s cells to provide energy, but can’t use it effectively. Insulin resistance increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Insulin resistance can also lead to patches of thickened, velvety, darkened skin, a condition known as acanthosis nigricans, and this commonly occurs with PCOS, per ACOG.
So, how does the keto diet factor in here? The keto diet is an eating plan that focuses on minimizing your carbs and increasing your fat intake to get your body to use fat as a form of energy. People on the keto diet usually have no more than 50 grams of carbs a day, but some keto fans aim to have no more than 20 grams a day.
As you may (or may not) know, carbs convert into glucose (sugar) in the body, and insulin is needed to take that sugar to your cells for energy. Limiting your carb intake—like you would on the keto diet—can help relieve the insulin resistance that can occur as a result of having PCOS, but likely only for the short term, says Scott Keatley, RD, of Keatley Medical Nutrition Therapy. However, building lean body mass (read: muscle) and losing weight will help your body