How to reverse PCOS with low carb

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is common, affecting up to 10% of women of childbearing age. Beyond menstrual problems and other physical symptoms, it’s a leading cause of infertility.1

Fortunately, there’s an effective lifestyle treatment available.
 

Symptoms

Here are the most common symptoms of PCOS:

PCOS

  • Menstrual irregularities like irregular, skipped or heavy periods.
  • Inability to get pregnant.
  • Acne
  • Excess facial and body hair, showing up in a male pattern (including the upper lip, chin and chest).2
  • Obesity

 

 
 

Cause and treatment

PCOS is much more common in women with excess weight, type 2 diabetes, previous gestational diabetes and other results of insulin resistance and excess insulin. This also includes hypertension and cholesterol abnormalities.3 Many believe that PCOS is caused directly by insulin resistance and high insulin levels, like the other problems listed above.

It is well known that lifestyle changes resulting in weight loss can improve PCOS symptoms, and so can the type 2 diabetes drug Metformin.4

Given the strong connection to excess weight, high insulin levels and other metabolic problems, a low-carb diet is ideal for reversing PCOS. The low-carb diet is the only treatment that consistently and reliably lowers insulin levels and reverses the metabolic issues that include PCOS. Therefore, a low-carb diet should be the core of any effective treatment for PCOS.

Indeed, the limited available science shows great promise:

  • One small 2005 study followed 11 women with PCOS as they went on a ketogenic low-carb diet for six months. The 5 women who completed the study greatly improved their weight, hormonal status and perceived amount of body hair. Two of them became pregnant despite previous infertility problems.5
  • A 2013 study shows that even a very modest reduction in carbohydrates (from 55 to 41 percent of energy) can result in significant improvements in weight, hormones and risk factors for women with PCOS.6
  • Finally, a 2017 review of relevant studies finds that low-carbohydrate diets tend to “reduce circulating insulin levels, improve hormonal imbalance and resume ovulation to improve pregnancy rates”.7

Beyond the scientific evidence cited above, the clinical experience of doctors using it strongly support low carb as an effective treatment for PCOS.

Top 8 reasons to adopt a low-carb diet for polycystic ovarian syndrome

 
 

Reversing PCOS and getting pregnant

There are lots of stories of women reversing their PCOS symptoms and even suddenly getting pregnant after going low carb. It can sometimes feel like a miracle. Although of course, it’s not that kind of miracle, so getting pregnant still requires a partner, even on low carb.

This is simply biology. Low carb can lower insulin and reverse insulin resistance in PCOS, helping to balance the hormonal system. This enables ovulation and a normal menstrual cycle, while reducing or eliminating other symptoms.

Here are some brave women who have shared their stories:

  • Keto and intermittent fasting: "I am completely blown away by the changes"
  • "I didn't think the results would come this soon"
  • "Within three months of starting a well-formulated ketogenic diet, all flares were gone!"
  • "LCHF helped me get pregnant!"
  • How Bethany reversed her PCOS
 

All PCOS success stories

Here’s a longer post on the topic:

Trying to conceive? Try the better baby diet of beef, butter & bacon

Professional experience

Many health care professionals have also found carbohydrate restriction incredibly effective for helping people with PCOS reverse their disease and get pregnant. This includes Australian dietitians.

The fertility specialist Dr. Michael Fox has more than a decade of experience helping patients with PCOS and infertility, using a low-carb diet.

Dr. Fox found that compared to only using drugs, adding a low-carb diet for PCOS patients increased the chance of pregnancy from 45 to over 90 percent! This saves many people from needing in vitro fertilization, a very expensive option that still sometimes fails, instead getting pregnant in a safe and inexpensive way.

Here are two interviews with Dr. Fox:

  • In the first one he discusses the benefits of low-carb diets (ideally below 20 grams of carbs per day) in PCOS.
  • The second one is about how avoiding stressors – like frequent and intense exercise – can make it easier to get pregnant.
What to Eat to Get Pregnant – Dr. Michael Fox
Stressing Less to Get Pregnant – Dr. Michael Fox
Women, Hormones and Nutrition – Presentation by Dr. Michael Fox

More

Top 8 reasons to adopt a low-carb diet for polycystic ovarian syndrome

Dr. Michael Fox can be contacted at the Jacksonville Center for Reproductive Medicine.

 
 

 

Get started

Do you want to try reversing your PCOS using low carb? Sign up for our free 2-week keto low-carb challenge!

Alternatively, use our free low-carb guide, or for maximum simplicity try out our low-carb meal planner service – it’s free to use for a month.
 
 

 

More benefits of low carb

Why should you consider eating fewer carbs? There are many potential benefits, at all ages (although there’s hardly ever a reason for healthy kids to do a strict low-carb diet).

Here are some of the main benefits, and how to adapt a low-carb diet for your specific needs, to maximize the positive effects on your health.

The four most common benefits

More common benefits

 

Possible, less certain benefits

 

More

Improve this page

Do you have any suggestion – big or small – to improve this page?
Anything that you’d like added or changed? Any other problems you’d like to see addressed?

Comment below or e-mail me at andreas@dietdoctor.com.

14 comments

  1. Anne Ewan
    I'd like to see the sources and references for the studies and more specifics like what kind of epilepsy - any/every/or is this referring to a reduction in children suffering multiple (over a short period of time) . As a practitioner its good to be able to source these and know if the studies are small/double blind etc etc
  2. Alex
    What about diet outcomes for people taking medications that can cause rapid weight gain and metabolic syndrome, such as antipsychotics? Is there any help for these patients? Is there data to support lifestyle/diet changes for them?
  3. HabeebuRahman
    I am on LCHF for the last 6 months. I had great improvements in my diabetes. Blood glucose came down from 178 to 120 (fasting) with reduction of medication to 1/5th of what I was taking before. My weight reduced from 72 to 64 kg. Waist from 37 inches to 32. Triglycerides and HDL improved. Some unexpected benefits also came in due course.
    Great improvements in my neck and shoulder pain. Sinusitis almost disappeared. Constipation and hyperacidity no more.
    Great. Almost all chronic ailments are improved.
  4. Wb
    I was 178 lbs; getting ready to move up to a size 16 (US Sizes). I was diagnosed with PCOS. I finally decided I wouldn't allow myself to move up and started on Atkins (in the 90's) since my Dad had issues before and lost all his weight on Atkins. I dropped down to a size 10; lost 40 lbs, kept if off. Was able to have 2 children. My blood work all improved and I felt so good. Now, as I age, I have moved off Atkins and moved on to the Ketogenic way of life and feel even better. I wish I would have known all that 20 years ago. But this evolution of me has been fascinating. There are still naysayers that say this is an unhealthy way of life, but at least I'm alive, healthy, and more importantly, FEEL great. Probably wouldn't be if I hadn't since I have grandparents that died in their early 50's and I had all their issues. Does Lo-Carb work? It did for me. I'm living proof.
    Reply: #14
  5. Cassy
    The information regarding PCOS is incorrect. Doctors don't know what causes PCOS, and insulin resistance is a symptom of the disease. Nutrition can help significantly, but PCOS isn't caused by poor nutrition.
    Reply: #7
  6. 1 comment removed
  7. How can anyone know PCOS is not caused by nutrition (hard one to rule out) if they don't know what causes it?
  8. DrR
    PCOS is hereditary, not caused by poor nutrition
    Reply: #13
  9. Gail
    Not sure why a person would say PCOS is hereditary. I have it and not one single other person in my Mom's or Dad's history has had it.

    Unfortunately, I didn't find out I had it until I was 40, which leaves precious little time to have any babies.

  10. Caroline
    I have pcos & no one else in my family has it. In fact my family have lot's of children, I'm the only one with one child, my brothers and aunties and uncle's all have many children.
  11. Mina
    How about adrenal PCOS which is not caused by high insulin? The PCOS you are talking about in the article is ovarian PCOS. I have been on very low carb diet for 3 years and my hair started falling out even more than before. I'm not overweight but I have belly fat, infertility, facial hair, joint pain and hair loss even though I'm on strict low carb. Also, I lost my periods at 41 while on low carb. So please don't advertise low carb as miracle cure for everything! Why don't you write about people who strugle on low carb and offer solutions for those people?
  12. Kim
    I have a strong family history of PCOS,my grandmother,mother,sisters,me,daughters and granddaughters, I have started taking supplements of myo and d chiro inositol,after 61 years of 24hr cravings these help balance my insulin resistance and sugar so I'm able to stay on a low carb eatting plan.Low carb is the only way for me,I've been on diets since I was 8yo. Optifat,medifast,overeatters,ww,gastric bypass,pills(in the 70).
  13. HealedofPCOS
    Not true....nobody in my family has PCOS. I am the first. If that were true I would not have a family with 40+ cousins.
  14. TeeDee
    Just once I'd like to hear a good response to the question: what could possibly be 'unhealthy' about eating a meal of meat, poultry or fish with a hefty serving of vegetables? What exactly do they mean when they say it's unhealthy to eat that way? People who say it's 'unhealthy' are not too bright, in my opinion.
  15. Nia
    i have PCOS problem and i felt very weak emotionally... Then someone suggested me arogyam pcos kit .. i order 3 months kit and this kit shows result in 3 months and i conceive... Thanks Dr. Vipul and Dr. Sunaina a lot for giving me big happiness of my life.... thanks a lot

Leave a reply

Reply to comment #0 by