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How intermittent fasting can cure Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome is responsible for a lot of complication, hopefully, we know that women can apply fasting to treat PCOS.
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Summary

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome is a very serious desease that has many different complications. Hopefully, doing intermittent fasting can help curing PCOS. In this article, we'll explain how.

If you need to find support while doing intermittent fasting, you can find help in our supportive intermittent fasting community for women only.

Written by
Vera Bokor
Health and Wellbeing Coach

Nowadays, many women are diagnosed with a very serious disease, Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (or PCOS for short), which makes their life very complicated.


Symptoms of PCOS?

PCOS has many different complications from acne and skin irritations to hair growth on a woman's face and all over the body, from rapid weight gain to pains and aches during the period, not having the period at all worse infertility. Early treatment can help prevent all the side effects of the disease and even reverse some of them in late stages(4).

Even though we all know that PCOS is closely related to obesity, and type 2 diabetes. Some young women and even teenagers who are not overweight and who don’t have diabetes also suffer from the disease. Why is that? Scientists, doctors, and researchers have found that PCOS always follows high levels of insulin and proved that it is a part of the metabolic syndrome spectrum(5).


PCOS Physiology

When a woman gets a lot of insulin due to an unbalanced diet, her ovaries start to produce a lot of male sex hormone testosterone, but also the same reason makes her liver decrease the secretion of another sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBD), which is needed to inhibit the function of free testosterone, so as the result there is more testosterone in her body and it is more active. This is why she has all the typical symptoms of PCOS with hair growth, skin problems, and weight gain (6).

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How are cysts formed and why is it related to infertility?

It comes from anovulatory cycles, which are caused by high levels of insulin and testosterone. They stop the follicle from developing at some point, the follicle doesn’t reach the side for the ovulation (the process called follicular arrest), and it never ovulates.

If the follicle doesn’t ovulate, it doesn’t become the luteal body which then involutes, it generally gets absorbed by the woman’s body. So the follicle stops development at the stage where it’s not excreted by the woman’s body and the woman develops the cysts, growing in numbers every month. 


If the follicle doesn’t ovulate and if there is no egg, because it is turned into a cyst, the woman can’t get pregnant. Based on the fact that testosterone is overproduced, the follicle development is stopped, cysts are created and all of it caused by high levels of insulin, we see that the main cause is hyperinsulinemia, a symptom of metabolic syndrome which we mentioned at the beginning of the article (2). 


We know the cause, let’s talk about the PCOS treatment.

Pink stetothscope.

The logical outcome to prevent PCOS, stop its development, and partly cure the disease is to lower insulin. We already know the way to stop the secretion of insulin and this way is quite simple and doesn’t take a lot of effort. It is intermittent fasting.


When a woman doesn't eat for a long pee, there are no insulin spikes in her body. First, it means her ovaries produce adequate amounts of testosterone. Second, the secretion of SHBD is not inhibited in the liver, so testosterone is bound by the hormone and is not available for her body. It is the first step to get hormones balanced (6). 


What happens next?  Because testosterone level is normal, her ovaries work properly. The follicle development goes through a full cycle and finishes with ovulation (4). If fertilization hasn’t happened, the woman's body gets rid of the luteal body and the period comes. The fact that the woman has a full cycle of follicle development and the period, tells us that the follicle cannot become a cyst.  


Of course, it takes a while to change the way her body works. A woman needs to be patient and practice intermittent fasting constantly to control insulin levels for balancing all the hormones. The normal level of testosterone stops male-type hair growth, the period comes monthly and usually on the same day. 

Intermittent fasting forces the woman’s body to use stored fat to produce the energy needed for proper functioning; that's where the extra weight goes away. Fasting also decreases inflammation which is the main cause of pains and aches during the period, and it leads to clean skin with no irritations. With only simple changes in her lifestyle, a woman can help herself with PCOS and prevent or reverse all the symptoms of the disease.

How can a woman apply fasting to treat PCOS?


First of all, she needs to make a significant change in her diet by reducing carbohydrates intake and the number of meals and snacks a day to a maximum of three meals. This helps with hyperthermia, which leads to a decrease in insulin and testosterone and lowers its harmful effects (1).

In the second step, she needs to check her body composition. For those, who are underweight or who are not looking to lose a couple of pounds, there can be chosen one of two simple fasting regiments: 16/8 or 18/6 (7). 

What does it mean? During the eating window of 6 or 8 hours, she has her three meals, and 16 or 18 hours she fasts. It is enough to control insulin and testosterone levels but maintain her weight. Significant weight loss leads to other problems with hormones as lack of estrogen.

What about a woman, who has had PCOS for a long time, which caused her to gain weight?  In such a case, a woman can start with a light regimen 18/6 daily to lower and stabilise insulin and a couple of times a week introduce longer fasts for 20-24 hours for the weight issue (3).

Fasting is a natural process for us. Many women have noticed that there is no problem to have a long fast because they feel better physically and emotionally due to balanced hormones, they are more energized because their bodies use more efficient fuel-far, they get in shape, this also has a positive effect on her mental health and stress hormones. What is more important is the symptoms of PCOS and the disease itself go away (8).

References:

  1. Barr Suzanne, Reeves Sue, Sharp Kay, Jeanes Yvonne M. An isocaloric low glycemic index diet improves insulin sensitivity in women with polycystic ovary syndrome. Controlled Clinical Trial J Acad Nutr Diet. 2013 Nov;113(11):1523-31. 
  2. Baptiste Catherine G, Battista Marie-Claude, Trottier Andréanne, Baillargeon Jean-Patrice. Insulin and hyperandrogenism in women with polycystic ovary syndrome. J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 2010 Oct;122(1-3):42-52.
  3. Chiofalo Benito, Laganà Antonio Simone, Palmara Vittorio, Granese Roberta , Corrado Giacomo, Mancini Emanuela, Vitale Salvatore Giovanni ,Ban Frangež Helena, Vrtačnik-Bokal Eda , Triolo Onofrio. Fasting as possible complementary approach for polycystic ovary syndrome: Hope or hype? Med Hypotheses. 2017 Aug;105:1-3. 
  4. González Frank, M.D. Inflammation in Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: Underpinning of insulin resistance and ovarian dysfunction. Steroids. 2012 Mar 10; 77(4): 300–305.
  5. Javed A, et al. Fasting glucose changes in adolescents with polycystic ovary syndrome compared to obese controls: A retrospective cohort study. Journal of Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology. 2016;28:451.
  6. Nestler J E. Role of hyperinsulinemia in the pathogenesis of the polycystic ovary syndrome, and its clinical implications. Semin Reprod Endocrinol. 1997 May; 15(2):111-22.
  7. Marshall John C, MD, Ph.D. and Dunaif Andrea, MD. All Women With PCOS Should Be Treated For Insulin Resistance. Fertil Steril. 2012 Jan; 97(1): 18–22.
  8. Rondanelli Mariangela, Perna Simone, Faliva Milena, Monteferrario Francesca, Repaci Erica, Allieri Francesca. Focus on metabolic and nutritional correlates of polycystic ovary syndrome and update on nutritional management of these critical phenomena. Arch Gynecol Obstet. 2014 Dec;290(6):1079-92.

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