Most people agree that eating a healthy diet can help with most health conditions, including infertility but is the keto diet good for PCOS and will it help you get pregnant faster?
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Let’s start with the basics and look at exactly what PCOS is and why it could be helped by a ketogenic diet;
What is PCOS?
- PCOS is the leading cause of infertility and pelvic discomfort among women affecting over 7% of women in the US
- It is an endocrine disorder that affects women as they reach reproductive age.
- It is estimated that 70% of women or more who have the disorder are completely unaware that they have it
- Most cases are not discovered until women try to get pregnant and face difficulties
While PCOS is mainly thought of as a fertility issue and most women do not seek treatment until they wish to conceive, it has other effects that can impact your quality of life:
What are the common symptoms of PCOS?
To understand why the keto diet is good for PCOS, it is worth looking at the common symptoms of the condition:
For the majority of women with PCOS, their menstrual cycles will remain relatively normal although they may be longer than normal. Some women don’t ovulate at all and their periods may stop altogether. Most normal cycles occur from between 22 and 34 days, so an irregular cycle would be considered to be anything outside of those expected timelines.
These changes can also be marked by a decrease in the frequency, or the discontinuance of ovulation for several months. These periods may also become a time of heavy or very light bleeding.
PCOS causes the body to produce several androgens that cause your body to manufacture much higher levels of skin oils. This can result in more clogging of the pores, and thus cause serious acne. Young women who are going through puberty might even experience severe acne blemishes as a result of their overactive oil glands.
Increase in Hair Growth
Another commonly reported effect of PCOS, is the appearance and new growth of hair. This can be hair on the arms, face, chin, neck, sideburns and even the chest. This affects nearly 60% of all women with PCOS. This growth is due to androgens that excite the hair follicles in these body areas and cause new hair growth to take place.
Conversely, some women with PCOS experience other male effects in the form of hair loss. Though somewhat less common, the loss of hair can cause a lot of other issues that stem from a damaged self-image.
The androgens that affect the menstrual cycle also reduce the fertility in some women. This is mostly due to the irregular menstrual cycle and the lack of ovulation. The good news is that this can be treated naturally or with milder fertility medications such as clomid.
Being overweight can reduce fertility to a large extent, so if you are planning to get pregnant, then having an exercise regimen would go a long way to helping you increase your chances of becoming pregnant.
Insulin Resistance & Inflammation
Up to 70% of women with PCOS have or will show some signs of insulin resistance.
What is insulin?
Insulin is a hormone that stops your blood sugar from getting too high or too low when we eat.
What does insulin resistance do in women with PCOS?
Insulin resistance causes blood sugar levels to stay high which causes the pancreas to produce more insulin to try and get things back on track. Eventually this can lead to type 2 diabetes as the pancreas becomes overworked and is unable to fight against the insulin resistance.
Lifestyle can also play a huge role in how you experience symptoms. As already mentioned, weight gain and insulin resistance are tied in some ways. The part that is most import to remember is that weight gain can be a trigger that reveals PCOS.
In previous surveys, it had been discovered that many of the people who became subjects of the study hadn’t previously shown any symptoms of PCOS. They remarked that the symptoms only became apparent after period of weight gain.
Why is the Keto diet good for PCOS?
The keto diet may be the answer to a lot of PCOS symptoms due to something called ketosis and the extremely low carb allowane on the diet. In a sense, it is the next step up from the fertility diet that is recommended by many fertility clinics.
What is the ketogenic diet plan?
If you have read my article on The Fertility Diet That Changed My Life, you know that a diet with low carbs and high protein have been proven to help increase egg quality and improve the chances of getting pregnant in many women.
So how does the keto diet differ from the regular fertility diet and why is it specifically good for women with PCOS?
Keto diet basics
High fat – 60-75% of your daily calories
low carbs – 5-10% of your daily calories
Protein – 15-30% of your daily calories
Compare this to the regular fertility meal plan which recommends at least 25% protein and no more than 40% carbs and you can see that while the protein levels on both the keto diet and the fertility diet are similar, the carb levels are drastically different.
The reason the carb levels are so low on the keto diet is to force your body to go into ketosis which is when your body doesn’t doesn’t have enough carbs for your cells to use for energy. In ketosis, your body makes ketones which it uses instead of the carbs and it also starts burning fat for energy resulting in weight loss.
Ketosis is the reason that many think the ketogenic diet may be the best diet plan for PCOS sufferers.
How is the Keto diet good for PCOS?
The primary reason why the keto diet is so good for PCOS is because it naturally helps you to avoid foods that might negatively impact your insulin resistance.
Given that up to a large majority of women with PCOS have insulin resistance, it makes sense to treat this symptom when we are trying to reverse the illness.
The keto diet is also great for reducing inflammation in the body which can contribute to infertility.
How the Keto Diet helps reverse insulin resistance
Once your body is in ketosis and is metabolizing the fats that you have stored up, you’ll begin to lose weight, which will improve your insulin resistance. The keto diet can help increase the body’s sensitivity to insulin and regulate blood sugar levels.
As seen in the fertility diet, egg quality will be improved thanks to the lower carb levels and higher protein (aim to keep your protein at over 25% to get the optimal results).
Ketoacidosis gives you the same fertility benefits of the regular 30/30/40 fertility diet with additional benefits of reducing your insulin resistance and greatly increasing your chances of getting pregnant.
How to start a keto diet for PCOS
Part of having any successful diet is having some kind of a plan. If you take the guesswork out of your daily meal schedule, then it’ll be a lot easier to have a successful experience with your keto diet.
The diet itself will likely be a huge departure from your regular eating habits and may require a lot of meal planning in the first few weeks. You can use a meal planning app like Keto diet tracker (for ios) or myfitnesspal.com to track your macros.
What to eat and drink on the ketogenic diet
In general, you want to pack your diet with fertility superfoods and avoid processed and high carb food such as bread and pasta.
- Animal protein (meat, fish, eggs)
- Saturated fat (butter, coconut oil)
- Olive oil
- Vegetables but avoid root vegetables
- Nuts & seeds (walnuts & brazil nuts are especially good for fertility)
- Full fat dairy
- Drink water and fertilitea to help regulate your cycles.
Foods to avoid on the keto meal plan
- Processed food
- Juices & sodas
- Trans fats
- Processed meat
- Fast food
- Fruits (due to the carbs – berries are best)
Sample Keto Meal Plan
Below is an easy sample daily meal schedule that you can adapt as you wish. Most keto followers start the day with eggs as it’s an easy way to pack in the protein.
See below for the recipes.
Breakfast – Egg spinach pepper scramble or omelette
Lunch – Turkey Bacon Lettuce Rolls
Dinner – Taco salad
Keto Recipes for PCOS
Egg Spinach Pepper Breakfast
1 cup of spinach
I/2 sliced bell pepper
1 clove of garlic
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon of olive oil
Place pepper slices into the oil and lightly fry until they are soft, then heat and spread the spinach leaves out along the bottom of the pan. Stir the mixture until it’s decently mixed.
Mince the garlic and add it to the mix. Make a space in the center and cook the eggs however suits you the best. Remove from heat and serve for a power packed breakfast!
Keto Taco Salad
4 leaves of washed and rinsed romaine lettuce
3 teaspoons of salt
1 ½ tablespoon Chili powder
2 teaspoon of cumin
1 teaspoon of garlic salt
5 cherry tomatoes
½ cup of shredded cheddar cheese
⅓ cup sour cream
2 tablespoons chopped scallions
2 green onions
Brown the beef and once it is completely cooked, add the salt, chili powder, cumin, and garlic salt. Stir the mixture until the meat has a reddish color, then remove from heat. Slice the romaine lettuce thinly.
Cut up the cilantro and tomatoes into small pieces. Dice up one green onion. Add the chopped scallions. Add the cheddar cheese. Toss vegetables and top with the cooked meat and sour cream.
Turkey Bacon Lettuce Rolls
8 Large red lettuce leaves
8 slices of bacon
¼ lb of fresh oven roasted turkey
8 slices of provolone
⅓ cup of guacamole for spread
salt and pepper shakers
4 cherry tomatoes cut into thin slices (at least 5 or 6 each)
Lay each lettuce leaf out on a plate. Place the turkey on the lettuce as flat as you can, followed by the cheese, 2 slices of bacon the cherry tomato slices and then top with a small blob of guacamole. Sprinkle a little salt and pepper on the wrap and roll it up.
Keto Meal Planning Resources
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