Is Intermittent Fasting Effective in PCOS Management?

PCOS and its symptoms are different for every person, and women must learn to manage it in a way that works for their body. While there are a variety of treatments to help women manage PCOS, intermittent fasting may be one of the most natural, affordable, and effective solutions available. Intermittent fasting has been shown to improve 73.3% of patients facing menstrual cycle irregularities, particularly those associated with PCOS[1]. With these statistics, there’s a good chance that, like these other women, intermittent fasting could be a permanent solution to your PCOS.


What is PCOS?

PCOS (Polycystic ovary syndrome) is a common hormonal disorder that affects ovaries in women. Symptoms vary depending on the person, but PCOS often results in irregular menstrual cycles, weight gain, infertility, excess body hair, and acne.


How Intermittent Fasting Reduces PCOS Symptoms

Intermittent fasting (IF) may help reduce or eliminate the symptoms of PCOS by:

  • Reducing insulin resistance [2].
  • Reducing body fat and overall weight [3].
  • Improving menstruation cycle regularity.
  • Decreasing chronic local inflammation of different organs [4].
  • Decreasing the levels of androgens [5].


Benefits of IF in PCOS Management

Following are the three major benefits of IF in PCOS management.

  1. Role of IF in Insulin Resistance- the key feature of PCOS

    Insulin resistance is the most common symptom of PCOS. Because the body resists the action of insulin, the pancreas lowers blood glucose levels by secreting more insulin, despite having insulin in the blood. Higher insulin levels affect ovulation and increase androgen levels (male hormones) in women. Because the insulin release is stimulated by eating, insulin and androgen levels can be controlled through intermittent fasting.

  2. Role of IF in fat reduction in PCOS

    The decrease in insulin levels increases the growth hormone in females, which increases the metabolic rate (how many calories you burn through daily actions) and decreases fat, which further improves insulin sensitivity. Once this cycle begins, it will start mending the hormone disruption caused by  PCOS.

  3. Role of IF in chronic inflammation of PCOS

    Because PCOS symptoms include chronic low-grade inflammation, a significant increase in inflammatory markers like CRF (C – reactive protein) has been noted. However, inflammation can be reduced through intermittent fasting – during fasting periods, the body can heal through apoptosis (where the body kills off unneeded or unhealthy cells).


Does IF Work For Everyone With PCOS? – A Dietician’s Perspective

During my clinical experience, I have helped hundreds of female patients alleviate PCOS symptoms, including fertility issues and insulin resistance, through intermittent fasting and its benefits.

However, people sometimes stuff their eating window with carbohydrates that spike insulin levels and defeat the purpose of intermittent fasting for PCOS. To get the best results possible, you should follow this dietary regimen under the guidance of a registered dietitian.


Tips To Get The Best Results From  Intermittent Fasting

  • During your eating window, don’t take in too many carbohydrates (foods containing high amounts of sugar).
  • Stop eating when you feel full.
  • Plan to fast during your sleeping hours.
  • Start with a short fasting window and gradually increase your fast when you feel comfortable.
  • Focus on what you eat as well as when you eat. Healthy food is key.
  • Don’t hesitate to ask a registered dietitian for advice.


The Bottom Line

Intermittent fasting has been scientifically shown to help fight PCOS through different methods, including fat reduction and decreased insulin resistance. Reliable data based on current evidence shows that intermittent fasting helps regulate the menstrual cycle and decrease chronic low-grade PCOS inflammation[6].

However, for the best results, you need to be careful about your diet and deliberately choose healthy foods during your eating windows.Intermittent fasting, along with healthy food choices, 6 to 8 hours of sleep, low stress levels, and regular physical activity is an effective approach to PCOS management.



[1] Li C, Xing C, Zhang J, Zhao H, Shi W, He B. Eight-hour time-restricted feeding improves endocrine and metabolic profiles in women with anovulatory polycystic ovary syndrome. Journal of translational medicine. 2021 Dec;19(1):1-9.

[2] Furmli S, Elmasry R, Ramos M, Fung J. Therapeutic use of intermittent fasting for people with type 2 diabetes as an alternative to insulin. Case Reports. 2018 Sep 18;2018:bcr-2017.

[3] Cho Y, Hong N, Kim KW, Cho SJ, Lee M, Lee YH, Lee YH, Kang ES, Cha BS, Lee BW. The effectiveness of intermittent fasting to reduce body mass index and glucose metabolism: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of clinical medicine. 2019 Oct 9;8(10):1645.

[4] Lee JH, Verma N, Thakkar N, Yeung C, Sung HK. Intermittent fasting: physiological implications on outcomes in mice and men. Physiology. 2020 May 1;35(3):185-95.

[5] Chiofalo B, Laganà AS, Palmara V, Granese R, Corrado G, Mancini E, Vitale SG, Frangež HB, Vrtačnik-Bokal E, Triolo O. Fasting as possible complementary approach for polycystic ovary syndrome: Hope or hype?. Medical hypotheses. 2017 Aug 1;105:1-3.

[6] Nair PM, Khawale PG. Role of therapeutic fasting in women’s health: An overview. Journal of mid-life health. 2016 Apr;7(2):61.