Studies have shown that following a low-carb diet can help reverse PCOS symptoms and improve fertility. It is recommended for women with PCOS that they should modify the foods they consume. It’s not necessarily a “diet”, but a change in types of foods consumed. The daily diet should mainly consist of 15% carbohydrates, 45% protein and 40% healthy fats for improvement in PCOS symptoms.
When following a low carbohydrate diet, carbs are limited to 20-50 grams per day, which is significantly lower than the typical Western diet that is high in refined carbohydrates. By reducing carbohydrate intake, insulin levels are lowered, which decreases insulin resistance, a key condition in women with PCOS.
Insulin is a hormone that regulates blood sugar levels. Insulin resistance occurs when cells in the body become resistant to insulin, resulting in higher insulin levels in the blood. This can lead to weight gain, irregular and missed periods, inflammation, and other metabolic imbalances that contribute to PCOS.
Research has shown that following a low carb diet can help improve insulin sensitivity, reduce inflammation, and lower the risk of type 2 diabetes, all of which are associated with PCOS. In addition, managing a low carb diet can help improve weight loss and body composition, which are important factors for improving fertility in women with PCOS.
For example, a pilot study published in Nutrition and Metabolism in 2005 evaluated 11 women with PCOS who followed a low carb diet 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. Two of the women who had struggled with infertility even successfully conceived during the trial.
Two other 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.
A 2017 review published in Nutrients also found that low-carbohydrate diets reduce insulin levels, improve hormone imbalances, and help to resume ovulation, improving pregnancy rates. In fact, these positive results were seen in 86 percent of the women studied.
To follow a low carb diet, higher in protein and healthy fats, it is important to focus on healthy fats such as avocado, olive oil, and nuts, as well as protein sources like organic grass-fed meat, eggs, and wild-caught fish. Non-starchy vegetables such as leafy greens, broccoli, and cauliflower can also be included in the diet. Women with PCOS are not recommended to consume dairy products, however, substitutes such as coconut or almond mild are fine. Also, no- sugar added Greek yogurt is a good healthy snack.
In addition to following a low-carb diet, there are other lifestyle changes that can help improve hormone balance and fertility in women with PCOS. For example, choosing organic without the use of pesticides and added hormones can help to protect the endocrine system.
Adding flaxseeds to the diet can help reduce testosterone levels in women with PCOS, and consuming clean-source omega-3 fatty acids from eggs and wild-caught fish, or high-quality fish or krill oils, can improve insulin sensitivity and reduce insulin resistance. Adding proper supplements suitable for women with PCOS can be beneficial.
It is important to note that while the low carb diet can be beneficial for women with PCOS, it is not a one-size-fits-all approach. It is always recommended to consult with a healthcare provider or registered dietitian before starting any new diet or lifestyle change.
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