April 6, 2018 By Leanne Vogel July 18, 2018
How keto women are affected by a low-carb diet – what happens to hormones on keto, and how to adjust the ketogenic diet to work best for women.
Your diet is one of the most important aspects of your overall health, so before choosing a specific diet to follow, it’s important to know everything you can about it. You may have heard negative things about a ketogenic diet, especially when it comes to women following the diet. Some health experts are saying that a keto diet negatively affects a woman’s hormones. While your diet and nutrition definitely affect your hormones, it’s a myth that the keto diet has negative effects.
Unfortunately, many women rely on word of mouth or what they read on the internet to help them make decisions about their health, rather than seeking out better information about keto and how it affects women’s hormones. Misinformation can keep women from trying keto, which is unfortunate because many women would benefit significantly from a ketogenic diet, especially those who suffer from conditions like PCOS, endometriosis, or uterine fibroids.
Read on to learn more about how a ketogenic diet can impact your hormones and how you feel day to day, and what you can do to make adjustments. In this post we’ll discuss the ketogenic diet’s impact on hormones, how you feel, and what adjustments to make.
Trying a ketogenic diet could be helpful for women who are:
Keto is a great option for so many individuals, especially women. Of course, it’s important to discuss your individual condition and health with your doctor so that you can get a correct diagnosis and get help tracking any changes in your body.
When your body is in ketosis, is it bad for your thyroid? No, it isn’t – for a few reasons. Let’s take a look. Low carb diets (the keto diet is low carb) and calorie restrictive diets lower the thyroid market hormone known as T3. T3 cells make your other cells use up more energy, and, because of this, scientists believe that a reduction of the T3 hormone could possible increase lifespan – it both conserves energy and reduces free radical production
Both T3 and T4 hormones regulate your metabolism, body temperature, and heart rate. Much of the T3 in your body binds to protein, while the rest of free T3 circulates through your blood. But just because your T3 levels are lower doesn’t mean that your thyroid won’t function properly. Hypothyroidism is often caused by high levels of thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH), and low levels of T4 in your blood. In response, the pituitary gland works hard to try to get your thyroid gland to produce more T4 (which causes high levels of TSH). But the thyroid doesn’t respond to the pituitary gland (which causes low levels of T4). When your T3 is reduced, though, the thyroid is referred to as “euthyroid,” which means a normal thyroid.
The HPA (hypothalamus, pituitary, adrenal) axis is the big three when it comes to hormonal production. The hypothalamus secretes hormones, which communicate with the pituitary and adrenal glands and tells them to do their jobs producing the hormones they are supposed to. Being in ketosis does not mess this up. In fact, it does just the opposite. A true ketogenic diet can actually increase hypothalamic stimulation, which benefits the HPA axis. There just isn’t any evidence that a keto diet negatively affects the HPA pathway. Ketone signaling uses a different pathway that might be even more efficient. In fact, hypothalamic neuropeptides are very elevated in a ketogenic diet. Hypothalamic neuropeptides are great at hypothalamic stimulation. Ketones can cross the blood-brain barrier, and signal these neuropeptides.
Cortisol is known as the stress hormone. When your body is under stress, cortisol will tap into your protein stores and produces glucose. Your body would naturally use this glucose to either run from the stress or fight it. In most cases, this would be a good thing. But if your cortisol levels are constantly high, and you’re always stressed out, your brain and body get tired. The extra glucose produced by your protein stores will elevate your blood sugar, and that’s no good for your body. Remember how the ketogenic diet potentially improves the HPA axis? It means cortisol, which is produced within the adrenal gland, is fine. When you’re in ketosis, cortisol levels stay low.
However, if you’re on a keto diet, and you feel bad, here are a few things to keep in mind:
If you’ve had an irregular flow for most of your life, a keto diet might normalize this. If you’ve been on birth control and lost your period, or if you have natural amenorrhea (serious athletes and breastfeeding moms could get this), your period could come back, heavy to start.
At first you may have a heavier flow, lasting for longer than normal. Once your body adjusts to the changes in estrogen and fat storage, you can expect your period to return to normal, or even end up being better. While wany PMS symptoms (back ache, acne, cramps, etc) often improve, Ketosis doesn’t cure bloating. This is because of the surge of estrogen that happens during that part of your cycle.
It’s also true that hormones affect your insulin sensitivity. If your blood glucose surges or drops, it is normal. After your period, it should get back to regular levels.
If you’re hungry during your period, you need to eat! When you’re finished ovulating, your body gets ready to pump out estrogen and progesterone. These hormones can cause hunger. Try keto friendly chocolate or cake recipes, or indulge in bacon or steak.
Try these 11 lady-specific tips:
For more on how to balance your hormones on a ketogenic diet, join Happy Keto Body – the only doctor-approved 12-week membership program for women on keto.
An alkaline diet can have some amazing effects on your body – including anti-aging, balancing hormones, lowering inflammation, and detoxifying. Many ketogenic diets tend to miss out on this. Before you go keto, it’s best to restore an alkaline pH first, so you don’t feel uncomfortable or overly hungry.
An alkaline diet supports your overall health by reducing symptoms associated with PMS, menopause, and infertility by helping to increase nutrient absorption. Eating foods that are high in certain minerals but not very acidic can also help. The body is naturally alkaline, but modern processed food diets tend to make us more acidic, which causes a whole host of issues, like bone loss, muscle loss, and a lowered immune system. You can test your pH with a urine testing kit. The goal is to ideally have a urine pH level between of 7.0–7.5.
When you combine an alkaline diet with a low-carb diet, many women experience a reduction in their symptoms because of the high nutrient intake, and a lowered amount of toxic substances. Your diet, however, isn’t the only way to affect your pH level and hormones. Stress, sleep and sunlight are other variables.-Fasting is also a great way to maintain anti-aging as well, and can be very healthy. Fasting is particularly great for post-menopausal women for this reason. It allows the body to take a break from digestive functions, and focus on repairing the rest of the body. The body’s resources go towards restoring your cells instead of digesting. Women should eat a light dinner, and then fast for about 13-15 hours between dinner and breakfast. You may see improvements in blood sugar control and weight. Another option is to skip dinner one or two days a week. Tea or broth can help curb hunger. For most women, this is not a big deal, unless the woman is very active. Try cycling your fasting so you fast on two or three non-consecutive days a week. On these days, exercise only lightly or do yoga, so you don’t feel tired or extra hungry.
Think of this as a way to feel better and heal your body as opposed to a quick fix for weight loss. Try it for a few months to test the effects, and try trial and error to figure out what’s best for your body. First, try focusing on alkaline, and then slowly add in fasting and keto.
Aside from the side effects that your body starts out experiencing while it adjusts (constipation, cravings), you may also have bad breath, menstruation issues, adrenal or thyroid issues, or low energy levels. While you may feel bad at first, remember that your body needs time to adjust. These things should clear up in just a few weeks. Remember to sleep well, reduce your stress, drink plenty of water, and stay moderately active.
A keto diet doesn’t affect hormones on its own. Hormonal issues tend to have other causes like:
Rule out these other causes before giving up on keto.
Another step you can take before you decide keto isn’t right for you…
Join a keto community and training course for women.
It’s the perfect way to get a ton of confidence that you’re following keto the way that works best for you.
So many women feel uncertain about keto or overwhelmed by all the information they find on the web. That’s why I created…
The only keto membership program designed by women for women, and with contributions from a Naturopathic Doctor.
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Starting a ketogenic diet doesn’t have to be overwhelming or hard. The transition can be simple and before you know it, you’ll be astonished by the benefits beyond weight loss. Things like a clear mind, extra energy, balanced emotions and balanced hormones.
Find out how women all around the world are adapting the ketogenic diet to work for their lifestyle and discover how you can use keto to heal your body.
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Hi! I’m Leanne (RHN FBCS)
a Keto Nutritionist, host of The Keto Diet Podcast, and best-selling author of The Keto Diet & Keto for Women. I want to live in a world where every woman has access to knowledge to better her health.