Should I try the Keto diet? The question I get asked at least once a week. If you jump on social media, there are a ridiculous amount of 'wellness' people promoting this diet, sounds too good to be true right?! These people also swap and change diets with the latest trend and more than likely won't be #PCOSKETO it in 6 months. Then what?!
Let's break it down.
WHAT IS THE KETO DIET?
The latest trend. The ketogenic (or keto) diet is 75-80% fat, 5% carbs and the rest protein. The concept behind it is our body naturally uses glucose (from carbohydrates) for energy, whereas you restrict the glucose and therefore your body switches to run off ketones (from fat), so it is running off fat, not carbs.
People following the diet limit themselves to 20-50g of carbs each day. To put this in perspective that is a maximum of 1 medium banana and 1/2 cup of cooked rice, not other carb for the rest of the day, no milk, yoghurt, fruit, limited veg, grains, bread, dessert. The most recent National Nutrition Survey found Australians are eating 222g of carbs each day, a lot higher than 20-50g on the keto diet (1).
Which means you are missing out on vitamins and minerals which are important for your immune system, strong hair & nails, skin health.
KETO = HANGRY GUT BACTERIA
Ok ladies, I know this sounds harsh, but it's true. If you have been following me for awhile, you know my passion for gut health is just as strong as womens health. I can assure you the keto diet and your gut microbiome are not friends.
KETO DIET = LIMITED CARBS = LIMITED FIBRE = HANGRY GUT BACTERIA
Research has shown there is a link between PCOS and IBS. A study on a group of females found 42% of the women with PCOS also had Irritable Bowel Syndrome, compared to only 10% of the women without PCOS (2). I don't think it is wise to further disrupt the diversity of the gut bugs.
Yes, it may be effective but PCOS doesn't go away. Keto is not a cure for PCOS, while you are on it, it may manage some symptoms and maybe help you lose weight. But what happens when you want to eat like a normal person and engage in social situations. In a small study of 11 women with PCOS following a keto diet, there were improvements in their health BUT 6 of the ladies dropped out of the study because it was too difficult to follow long term, that's more than half (3). So we need to find something that you can do forever.
Did I mention there are some awkward side effects of following the keto diet, foul smelling breath, constipation, fatigue, nausea and headaches (4).
DROP CARBS, DROP WATER WEIGHT
Ok, so from a biochemistry angle *puts scienc-y glasses on*. When you stop eating carbs, you will drop water weight. You know when you hear ladies say "omg I started this new diet and I have lost 5kg this week!" What they really mean is they have lost about 3-4kg in water weight. Let me explain, when we eat more carbs than we are burning, they get stored as glycogen in our muscles and liver for when we need it (ie. when we haven't eaten for a few hours or during prolonged, intense exercise). For every 1g of carb/glycogen stored, it pulls with it and also stores 3-4g of water. So, when we cut carbs, we burn through these stores really quick (you notice a difference within a 24 hour period-I told you it is quick!) and because you are burning these carbs-the water goes with it.
But you start eating carbs again, you put the weight (and more) back on. Not cool.
LET'S TAKE A MOMENT
I want you to honestly think about a life of not eating ice cream, fresh juicy fruit, potatoes, bread...or chocolate.
Now, think about the time you would spend counting every gram of carb, buying ketone strips, stressing over whether or not you can (should) be eating something-looking for an alternative or whether or not you are in ketosis and what you could be doing with that time.
That's what I thought.
The Keto diet may sounds good in theory, but it is not practical in the long-term.
HERE'S WHAT TO DO INSTEAD
Enjoy a variety of tasty, colourful fruit & veg
Eat dark, grainy bread!
Limit 'Added Sugar'
Pair carbs back with protein and/or fats
Become BFFs with Fibre
Allow yourself to enjoy a treat when you feel like it!
Most importantly, I want you to feel relaxed, and confident in your food choices, and have a good relationship with food and your body!
I promise you ladies, you don't need to restrict or remove carbs to live happily and healthily with PCOS. It's about choosing the right amount of the right carbs. I work with ladies al the time and see huge improvements in their health and mental wellbeing by learning how to eat for PCOS. Carbs are not the enemy here friends.
I'D LOVE TO HEAR FROM YOU
If you have any questions regarding PCOS, feel free to send me a DM on instagram or email
Do you have PCOS and need help managing your diet to feel good? Get in touch or book an appointment here
If you know someone who you think would benefit from reading this, please forward or share it.
1. Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2011-12. Australian Health Survey: Nutrition First Results – Foods and Nutrients, 2011-12 http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/4364.0.55.007main+features12011-12 Accessed November 2017.
2. Mathur, R., Ko, A., Hwang, L.J. et al. Polycystic Ovary Syndrome Is Associated with an Increased Prevalence of Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Dig Dis Sci 55, 1085–1089 (2010) doi:10.1007/s10620-009-0890-5
3. Mavropoulos, J. C., Yancy, W. S., Hepburn, J., & Westman, E. C. (2005). The effects of a low-carbohydrate, ketogenic diet on the polycystic ovary syndrome: a pilot study. Nutrition & metabolism, 2, 35. doi:10.1186/1743-7075-2-35