Written by: Suzie Walker



Time to read 7 min

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is one of the most common hormonal disorders among women of reproductive age, affecting up to 1 in 10 (potentially more as many women go undiagnosed). 

The symptoms of PCOS include irregular menstrual cycles, excess androgen levels, increased body hair, ovarian cysts, abdominal weight gain and infertility issues.  It really is a total nightmare for anyone to go through.

However, there is good news for women suffering from this horrid condition: 

Emerging research suggests Keto can help with PCOS!

Let's dive in and learn all about PCOS and the Keto Solution...

what is pcos

Understanding PCOS

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is the most common endocrine disorder affecting women of childbearing age. 

PCOS involves a hormonal imbalance that leads to frustrating symptoms, including:

  • Menstrual irregularities - The hallmark of PCOS is irregular periods. You may miss cycles altogether or experience heavy, prolonged bleeding.
  • Fertility Challenges - PCOS is the most common cause of infertility among women. Ovulation issues make it difficult to get pregnant. This often leads to stress, anxiety, and depression.
  • Weight Gain - Up to 80% of women with PCOS are overweight or obese. Losing weight with PCOS can be extremely frustrating and hard to accomplish.
  • Insulin Resistance - Poor insulin sensitivity and high insulin levels are familiar with PCOS, driving weight gain and increasing diabetes risk. And once you are insulin resistant, you will find it much harder to lose weight.
  • Skin Issues - Acne, oily skin, and excessive hair growth afflict many women with PCOS. This can be unsightly and embarrassing to the person dealing with these issues.
  • Mental Health Impacts - Depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, and reduced quality of life are all common in those suffering from PCOS. It affects not only the patient but also the surrounding friends and family.

PCOS has unpredictable symptoms that can leave women feeling like their bodies are working against them. Skipping periods for months followed by hefty bleeding. Painful ovarian cysts. Wild hormonal imbalances. Unwanted excess body hair. The list goes on and on…

PCOS can also increase the risk of developing health conditions such as heart disease, excess hair growth, cardiovascular disease, diabetes mellitus, and metabolic syndrome if left unaddressed.

But if we are being honest, we mainly hate PCOS because of dreaded weight gain, especially around the belly area!

losing weight with pcos

Why is it SO Hard to Lose Weight with PCOS?

One of the primary reasons for difficulty in losing weight with PCOS is the association of the condition with insulin resistance, which affects up to 80% of sufferers.

High insulin levels and poor insulin sensitivity often accompany PCOS, leading to increased hunger and cravings, making it harder to stick to a healthy diet. Blood sugar levels are spiking and dropping, and adding fat to that mid-section becomes so very easy.

Yes, insulin resistance can also lead to your body storing more fat, particularly around your abdomen, a common symptom of PCOS. This is especially prevalent for women following a high-carb Western diet full of bread and sweets!

And that's where the Keto Diet comes in…

what is keto

What is the Keto Diet?

The Keto Diet, or Ketogenic Diet, is a low-carb, high-fat diet regimen that helps individuals achieve various health benefits by getting the follower into the blissful fat-shedding state of Ketosis.

Ketosis occurs by dramatically reducing carb intake (usually to under 50g net carbs per day) and increasing healthy fats. This is when your body starts producing ketones, an alternative energy source, through fat breakdown.

When embarking on a ketogenic diet, you should monitor your carbohydrate intake closely, replacing high-carb foods such as pasta and bread with healthier substitutes like low-carb vegetables and high-fat keto foods such as nuts, meats, and dark chocolate!

While PCOS can't be cured, lifestyle changes can help manage symptoms.

So, could the ketogenic diet provide natural relief for PCOS?

is keto good for pcos

Is Keto Good for PCOS?

For overweight or obese women with a high body mass index, picking up the low-carb, high fat approach could be a real life-changing (and extending) decision.

Research has shown that a ketogenic diet can lead to significant weight loss in overweight women with PCOS, which can benefit PCOS management as weight loss has been linked to improvements in various PCOS-related symptoms.

For women who are not exactly overweight but are struggling with fertility issues, ovarian cysts, and the other brutal symptoms of this condition, studies show that Keto may be the way forward...

This research indicates ketogenic diets may improve several factors underlying PCOS:

keto effects on pcos

For many women with PCOS, improvements in insulin, weight, hormones, and inflammation lead to better overall management of the condition and better health.

So... Should I Eat Less Carbs if I have PCOS?

So, eating fewer carbs will improve insulin resistance. What else will it do?

Well, lowering your carbohydrate intake may also help reduce low-grade inflammation and improve insulin secretion! Which can also really help manage PCOS symptoms.

recent study found that adopting a ketogenic diet also improved liver function markers, a common issue among women with PCOS. 

Can I lose my PCOS belly?

Yes! If you are an overweight or obese woman, adopting healthy eating habits and lifestyle changes is crucial to counteract the increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease and high blood sugar

Lowering carbs and upping fats to get into ketosis will lead to favourable body composition changes, including that dreaded belly fat! No other diet is as effective as Keto at ridding yourself of that middle-age spread that seems impossible to shift.

Weight loss on a Keto diet can help in regulating hormone levels and reduce the symptoms of PCOS.

Pregnancy, Fertility and PCOS

Pregnancy, Fertility and PCOS

Many women with PCOS struggle with getting pregnant and carrying a pregnancy to term.

PCOS is the leading cause of female infertility. Up to 74% of women with PCOS have trouble conceiving due to chronic ovulation problems. Without regular ovulation, eggs cannot be released typically to allow fertilisation.

Even among women who conceive with PCOS, the risk of miscarriage is elevated. Studies show that 20-30% of pregnancies in women with PCOS result in miscarriage, a rate 2-3 times higher than average.

Weight gain and obesity, familiar with PCOS, further hamper fertility. Carrying excess weight impacts ovulation, embryo implantation, and pregnancy outcomes. Losing 5-10% of body weight can improve ovulation and fertility.

Hyperandrogenism, or excess male hormones, also drives infertility in PCOS. Elevated testosterone disrupts menstrual cycles and ovulation. Excess testosterone is linked to increased miscarriage risk as well.

pcos pain

What does the 2023 Study have to say about PCOS and Keto?

recent study published in the Journal of the Endocrine Society indicated that the keto diet may help lower testosterone levels in women with PCOS. 

This report will be like music to the ears of those out there struggling with infertility issues! Heightened testosterone and androgen hormones negatively affect fertility in women with this PCOS, so the confirmation that following a Keto diet can reverse these symptoms is fantastic.

As many reproductive-aged women with PCOS experience infertility, weight gain, and other metabolic health issues, the results from this study could provide the basis for new, individualised dietary recommendations involving the Keto Diet!

  • Following the keto diet for at least 45 days, women with PCOS Experienced Significant Weight Loss and Improved Reproductive Hormone Levels. 
  • Their follicle-stimulating hormone ratios decreased, indicative of a Greater Likelihood of Ovulation, and their testosterone levels dropped, potentially alleviating symptoms such as excess hair growth.

These advancements in understanding the correlation between the ketogenic diet, PCOS, and fertility serve as an essential step in helping women of childbearing age with this syndrome.

This study indicates that the outlook for women with PCOS who wish to conceive can be enhanced through a Keto diet! That is amazing news for the women out there struggling with infertility issues.

So, how can you get started on Keto?…

get started on keto

How do I get Started on Keto?

Transitioning to a keto diet takes commitment and preparation, even more so when having to deal with the symptoms of PCOS! 

But just remember, that if you prepare well, and maintain the Keto Diet long enough to get into Ketosis, you may see a real reduction in your PCOS pains. It will be worth it in the end!

First, you will have to significantly reduce those pesky carbohydrates from your fridge to reach ketosis. 
Going on a low-carb diet can feel a little strange if you haven't done it before.

Here are some tips to get started smoothly:

get started on keto infographic

Give your body time to adapt. Be patient, tweak your approach as needed, and don't be afraid to ask for help. You've got this!

Finally On... Keto and PCOS

We were delighted to see this new PCOS report at the Keto Collective. The fact that the ketogenic diet is a potentially beneficial approach for managing PCOS, especially for overweight women, is fantastic for those suffering from this debilitating condition.

Heres a roundup:

The Ketogenic Diet may help manage PCOS symptoms by promoting weight loss and improving insulin resistance. This is especially important for obese women who score high on the body mass index.

New Research shows that Keto can help decrease testosterone levels in patients and improve their chances of successfully conceiving. This is massive news for PCOS sufferers who have been struggling to get pregnant due to the condition.

Testosterone Levels dropping potentially alleviates symptoms such as excess hair growth that some women have to deal with daily.

If you are struggling with PCOS and the horrendous symptoms it brings with it. Or maybe you have been working with infertility issues for some time. It may be time to think about adjusting your diet and lifestyle. 

If this is the case, it is worth speaking to your GP about this new research and taking on the Keto Diet as a partner in the battle against PCOS.

  • RELATED: If you want to know more about Keto, and how to get started on your own journey, you may want to read our Beginners Guide to Keto 

Suzie Walker - Keto Collective

Suzie Walker

Suzie Walker is a qualified Nutritional Therapist from the College of Naturopathic Nutrition London and co-founded The Keto Collective, a company that aims to make it easier for those following the keto way of eating to find whole food, great tasting, keto alternatives to their everyday favorites.