What is PCOS?

Polycystic ovary syndrome is the most common hormone abnormality of reproductive-aged women, occurring in up to 10% of such individuals. It is characterized by overproduction of the androgen testosterone, menstrual abnormalities when ovulation does not occur and enlarged ovaries containing multiple small follicles (polycystic ovaries).

Causes

The exact cause of PCOS isn’t known.

Factors that might play a role include:

Excess insulin. Insulin is the hormone produced in the pancreas that allows cells to use sugar, your body’s primary energy supply. If your cells become resistant to the action of insulin, then your blood sugar levels can rise and your body might produce more insulin. Excess insulin might increase androgen production, causing difficulty with ovulation.

Low-grade inflammation. This term is used to describe white blood cells’ production of substances to fight infection. Research has shown that women with PCOS have a type of low-grade inflammation that stimulates polycystic ovaries to produce androgens, which can lead to heart and blood vessel problems.

Heredity. Research suggests that certain genes might be linked to PCOS.

Excess androgen. The ovaries produce abnormally high levels of androgen, resulting in hirsutism and acne.

Symptoms of PCOS

Some of the symptoms of PCOS include:

Irregular menstrual cycle. Women with PCOS may miss periods or have fewer periods. Or, their periods may come every 21 days or more often. Some women with PCOS stop having menstrual periods.

Too much hair on the face, chin, or parts of the body where men usually have hair. This is called “hirsutism.” Hirsutism affects up to 70% of women with PCOS.

Acne on the face, chest, and upper back

Thinning hair or hair loss on the scalp; male-pattern baldness

Weight gain or difficulty losing weight

Darkening of skin, particularly along neck creases, in the groin, and underneath breasts

Skin tags, which are small excess flaps of skin in the armpits or neck area

How is PCOS Diagnosed?

The first step in diagnosing PCOS is to have a complete history and physical examination performed by a trained health care provider. A careful history and physical examination can detect whether androgen excess is causing male-pattern hair growth (hirsutism), acne or hair loss and whether ovulation is occurring normally. Physical examination also can detect high blood pressure and increased abdominal obesity as risk factors for diabetes and cardiovascular disease in individuals who are overweight.

Blood tests then can be performed to determine whether the ovaries are functioning normally or producing excess amounts of androgen. An ovarian ultrasound also can be done to measure the size of the ovaries and determine whether they have a polycystic appearance

Keto and PCOS

Let me start off by saying that there is no known cure for PCOS. However, a ketogenic diet can help treat, or reverse some of the symptoms of PCOS.

Studies have shown than about 70% of women with PCOS, also have an insulin resistance. Insulin resistance means that your body cannot properly respond to the insulin that it makes. As a result, this causes your blood sugar to increase.

Insulin is a hormone made by the pancreas that allows your body to use sugar (glucose) from carbohydrates in the food that you eat for energy or to store glucose for future use.

Ordinarily, the cells in our ovaries produce some of our essential hormones, including estrogen and progesterone. These cells also secrete a small amount of testosterone which is essential for many bodily functions, including libido and bone formation. However, when you have high insulin levels it causes your ovaries to overproduce testosterone. This increase in testosterone is what causes the facial hair growth, acne, hair loss, and missing periods.

A ketogenic diet assists with regulating insulin resistance because it switches your body’s fuel source from glucose to fats. When you remove sugar and carbs from your diet, your body will use up all the extra glucose in your blood. You’ll be able to reset your blood sugar and insulin levels since all the extra sugar floating around in your blood will be gone after a few days on a very low carb diet.

As your body starts to run on ketones, it will make less insulin because there will be less glucose to handle. This will make your muscle and fat cells more responsive to that insulin. Thus, lessening or completely reversing the symptoms that are caused by the excess insulin.