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Intermittent Fasting for Women With PCOS

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Kasparas Aleknavičius, MD November 22, 2021
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Intermittent fasting is a terrific dietary protocol to boost health in most people. But what about intermittent fasting for women with PCOS? Can this harsh medical condition be improved with the use of IF? We’ll dive into the specifics right away.

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What Is Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)?

PCOS is a common ailment affecting approximately 6–12% of women of reproductive age in the US. It is usually a combination of a hormonal imbalance and a collection of cysts on the ovaries.

While it may seem mainly hormone-related, PCOS can actually cause much more severe health conditions, including infertility, high cholesterol levels, or even heart disease. Also, since most with PCOS are insulin-resistant, this condition becomes a huge risk factor for diabetes. 


Some women with PCOS can experience a combination of symptoms, while others don’t notice any of them at first. The most common red flag is fertility issues, as that’s when most women get checked for PCOS for the first time. However, you won’t be able to know for sure unless you consult with your health care provider, who might confirm a few of these symptoms:

  • Hair growth in more masculine areas of the body because of an increased male hormone level
  • Acne
  • Hair loss
  • Acanthosis nigricans (darkening skin) in groin, underarms, and back of the neck
  • Sleeping issues
  • Headaches
  • Heavy and/or irregular periods
  • Fertility issues
  • Unwanted weight gain
  • Cysts on the ovaries


Unfortunately, the causes of PCOS are unknown. It’s still debatable whether genetics or weight fluctuation have any part in this. Still, a healthy lifestyle seems to mitigate the risk a bit, so preventative measures against PCOS are the best way to avoid this disorder.

Current Treatment

Since major issues like high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease are more common among those diagnosed with PCOS, it’s essential to get treatment if you and your doctor decide to do so.

Since the symptoms are far-reaching, most of the treatments are dedicated to one of the symptoms. For example, some look to treat PCOS-related acne while others want to improve their fertility. Many treatment protocols also recommend a healthy lifestyle since many individuals are overweight and/or struggle with high blood sugar levels.

There are also medications used to treat the various symptoms and risk factors that come with PCOS, so make sure you take all of the options you can with caution.

Fasting and PCOS

We know that PCOS can cause an array of long-term issues and doesn’t have a known cause. Healthy lifestyle changes seem to help lower the risk of side effects best, even though there isn’t a cure at the moment, rather than methods to alleviate the symptoms. So, what does this have to do with intermittent fasting for women with PCOS?

Well, fasting is known to improve insulin sensitivity and regulate hormone levels, both of which are significant PCOS traits. Women with PCOS are best-suited to an IF protocol to maintain a healthier lifestyle to lower this condition’s effects. How should you go about it?

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Guidelines for Intermittent Fasting for Women With PCOS

In addition to IF, women with PCOS should look to adopt other healthy lifestyle choices, including:

  • Calorie control
  • Regular exercise
  • Optimal sleep habits
  • Stress management

When implementing intermittent fasting, it’s best to start with 14-hour daily fasts. It seems that women benefit from them as much as men who fast 16+ hours per day.

Starting with longer fasts than this can be too difficult and lower your quality of life. In fact, 14-hour fasts are easy to implement and can ease the transition to a healthier lifestyle and weight management practices.

Here is an easy daily schedule to adopt 14-hour daily fasts (remember, the hours you sleep already count as fasting!):

  • 8:30 AM – Wake up, drink a glass of water.
  • 9:30 AM – Break your fast with a healthy meal rich in protein and micronutrients.
  • Throughout the day – Eat your desired amount of meals, ensuring your account for calorie intake.
  • 7:30 PM – Eat your last meal of the day and fast until the next day at 9:30 AM.

An established daily schedule with the same feasting and fasting windows seems to improve adherence and enjoyment. Remember, you and your doctor know best when it comes to your situation. Never start a new dietary program without consulting your primary health care provider to ensure it’s the right path to a healthier, more enjoyable life.

Key Takeaways:

  • PCOS is a troublesome condition with many side effects that afflict 6–12% of women of reproductive age in the US.
  • The cause(s) of PCOS is unknown, but treatments exist and can be effective when combined with a healthy lifestyle.
  • Intermittent fasting provides an opportunity to reduce major symptoms of PCOS, including improved insulin sensitivity and regulating hormone levels.
  • Establish a daily routine after talking with your doctor to ensure that IF is a good way to tackle the side effects of PCOS!

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Kasparas Aleknavičius, MD
  • Head of Medical Affairs at Kilo Health
  • Medical Doctor at Vilnius University, Lithuania
  • Partnering with the EU-funded Young50 and EUPAP projects

Kasparas Aleknavicius is a medical doctor that graduated from Vilnius University, working as head of medical affairs at Kilo Health. After nearly 5 years in the industry, Kasparas focuses on digital health and is looking for innovative ways to help people lead healthy lifestyles through digital health and wellness platforms.

You can find Kasparas on LinkedIn and follow his latest research on Medium.

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