Functional Medicine Treatment For Using The Keto Diet In Women
The keto diet generally reduces total carbohydrate intake to 20-50 grams a day, utilizing an average of 70-80% fat from total daily calories, 5-10% carbohydrate, and 10-20% protein. By limiting carbohydrates, the body produces ketones from fatty acids and can burn these ketones for energy rather than burning glucose. Once in ketosis, the body will shift to using stored body fat for fuel. This process bypasses insulin production and the resulting issues many people have due to overconsumption of sugar and other highly processed carbohydrates. A ketone monitor can ensure that ketosis occurs.
Emphasizing healthy fats and nutrient-dense foods is essential to the keto diet. In practice, it is common to see that some individuals achieve ketosis while consuming high levels of saturated fat or poor overall food quality. Ketosis can be achieved this way. However, there is a subset of people that do not utilize saturated fats very well and should be especially mindful of the type of fat they consume. Those with a polymorphism on the Apo E gene would do well eating primarily unsaturated fats .
The keto diet is often combined with fasting and time-restricted eating to promote autophagy and potentially increase longevity. A cyclical approach and combining the keto diet with periods of slightly higher carbohydrate levels, including small amounts of healthy starches , can help women optimize the benefits of ketosis while mitigating health risks.
Like Many Things Low Carb Diets Are A Stress On The Body
Glucose is the preferred fuel source for every cell in the human body. When we restrict carbohydrate intake, were starving our bodies, and our brains of glucoseand forcing them to run on ketones instead.
That being said, not all stressors are bad. Many health-promoting practices such as exercise, cold exposure and saunas are also stressors and, as such, help the body adapt and become more resilient over time.
But when we live busy, modern lives that already involve work stress, relationship stress, traffic stress, bills stress, family stress and whatever else is going on – the low carb diet can become the straw that breaks the camel’s back and throws you into hormonal chaos.
Boosts Energy And Improves Sleep
Between hot flashes and mood changes, hormone disruptions can suck your energy dry. It can also disrupt your sleep, leading to poor levels of restorative rest.
A keto diet is packed with nutrient-dense fats and protein, which can both serve as a slower-burning form of energy. This means no post-meal crashes from blood sugar dives, and a steadier source of all-day energy.
Hormonal imbalances of any kind can trigger an increase of cortisol, the stress hormone, as well as disrupted neurotransmitters, leading to restless sleep. Keto helps to boost gut health, where a large portion of serotonin is made. It also helps to streamline cortisol levels, decreasing your bodys stress levels, leading to higher energy throughout the day and better sleep at night.
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Keto Could Impact Estrogen Balance
We need fiber to efficiently remove and detox estrogen from our bodies. Fiber is also critical for healthy gut bacteria that help balance our hormones. We need balanced hormones for so many reasons and if weight loss is on your mind, throwing off your estrogen isnt a good thing.
What Is A Low Carb Diet
There is no set definition for a low carb diet, and how many grams of carbs allowed per day on this eating style varies greatly. Following a low carb diet may mean replacing carbs with a high fat diet, a high protein diet, or a combination of the two. It also may be more general by just trying to restrict carb intake from sources like desserts and grains, while not making much change to other aspects of your diet.
Certain types of low carb diets are associated with benefits such as weight loss and improvements in metabolic markers such as blood sugar, cholesterol levels, and blood pressure. Yet its important to keep in mind that this greatly depends on what type of low carb diet is followed, how long its followed, and the health and demographics of the person following it . As mentioned, a low carb diet definitely isn’t for everyone.
Five Things Wrong With Most Keto Diets
Wellas Magdalena mentioned, she and others in her community have experienced issues when trying a traditional keto diet. A lot of what they experience is referred to as keto-flu, which can consist of nausea, fatigue, headaches, diarrhea, and constipation related to the diet. Keto-flu usually occurs during the transition from a previous diet to keto.
Keto-flu can create an immediate compliance issuea few days of the keto-flu often results in people quitting the diet .
Compliance is an issue beyond keto-flu as well, as there are many things that can impact someone getting into and staying in ketosis, such as eating the wrong quality or quantity of allowed foods. People may have difficulty simply digesting a keto diet. There are many non-dietary impacts as well. Youll see that hormone imbalances can come into play.
While there are a number of challenges with keto, here are 5 issues with keto that are quite common. The good news? Each of these issues is addressed in my Keto-Green diet.
What The Studies Say
One of the most recent studies about the ketogenic diet and testosterone was published in the Journal of strength and conditioning research. The authors used the ketogenic diet for ten weeks compared to the Western diet. They also combined both diets with a resistance training program.
After measuring body composition, blood lipids, testosterone, and other parameters, they reported :
- Both groups increased muscle mass and reduced body fat along with body weight. Their strength and power increase were similar.
- There were no changes in serum lipids. Reintroducing carbohydrates very rapidly in the keto diet increased triglyceride levels.
- The Western diet group had a testosterone reduction of 36 ng/dL. The keto diet group increased testosterone levels by 118 ng/dL.
One of the main concerns about the ketogenic diet is atherosclerosis and dyslipidemia. However, as noted in the study above, serum lipids remained unchanged in both groups. It was in the carbohydrate reintroduction phase that triglycerides increased.
According to other studies, some users may even experience decreased serum triglycerides. One of them reported a reduction of 105 mg7dL in obese subjects after using the keto diet for six months .
There is no long-term intervention using the keto diet to analyze the effects in atheroma plaques. However, atherosclerosis is a process that takes place when you have an antioxidant imbalance.
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How Keto Affects Fertility Levels
If your hormones are thrown off, keto could impact fertility and make it more challenging to get pregnant. Your body is smart, so if it feels stressed by nutrient depletion, it also knows that it’s not a safe environment to grow a baby.
That said, some studies have found that keto could actually help women with insulin resistance, especially with PCOS, get pregnant.
A review found that low carb and keto diets, with or without calorie deficits, improved the chance of pregnancy for women with PCOS. However, it’s not clear from the study whether the effect is mainly due to low carb or simply cutting out processed foods and refined flours two foods that majorly inflame anyone, but especially women with PCOS.
How The Keto Diet Impacts Cholesterol
It is important to highlight that a keto diet increases cholesterol availability. In other words, there is more cholesterol available for androgen production.
Does it increase good or bad cholesterol? The answer depends on the patient and the type of fat you consume.
In some studies, lipid fractions remain untouched . Others suggest an increase of bad cholesterol and a decrease of good cholesterol . Still, others show the exact opposite effect: an increase of good cholesterol and a reduction of bad cholesterol levels .
In this regard, the keto diet could be beneficial for patients with blood lipid problems or harmful , depending on how it is designed.
That is why its recommended to monitor before, during, and after keto. Its also recommended to have the diet designed by a professional to ensure optimal results.
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What Is A Ketogenic Diet
Just a reminder, a keto or ketogenic diet is when the majority of the foods and calories you eat, comes from FAT.
Its technically very low in protein and almost no carbohydrates.
Many people think that a keto diet just means little or no carbs and you can eat as much protein as possible.
For example, have a big steak and fry it up in butter.
But this is false because protein converts to glucose through gluconeogenesis.
Thus, the more protein you eat, the harder it is to get into ketosis. Its like youre still eating carbs because of the higher protein intake.
This is why a true keto diet is really hard to follow and a bit disgusting because its almost all fat.
For marketing reasons, people tried to make a keto diet more palatable and tasty by adding in lots of protein.
But later they discovered that it was really hard to get into ketosis because the protein was basically converted to glucose and sugar through gluconeogenesis.
Why Doesnt The Keto Diet Work For Some People
The answer is STRESS, which contributes to imbalanced hormones.
Simply put, stress affects your hormones, and hormones control your weight. So, if your hormones are out of balance mainly progesterone, estrogen, cortisol, and insulin losing weight will be nearly impossible even when following a traditional keto diet.
In times of stress, the hormone cortisol is released, increasing your heart rate, blood pressure, blood sugar , respiration, and muscle tension in response. When cortisol is produced, it also temporarily shuts down certain functions in your body that it considers unnecessary like digestion and reproduction.
Ideally, when a stressful situation is over, your bodily functions will go back to normal. Unfortunately, most Americans are under constant stress. Stress from work, your commute, artificial light, caffeine, alcohol, raising kids, financial responsibilities, toxins in our water supply and household products, inadequate nutrition, lack of sleep, and even intense exercise. Your body looks at every type of stress the same way and is trying to protect you.
The result? Cortisol is being continuously produced, and your body simply cant keep up.
If a woman is estrogen dominant, the extra estrogen in her bloodstream, not balanced by progesterone, will then stimulate the pancreas to produce insulin even without eating any sugar or carbohydrates!
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Why Cortisol Goes Up On Keto Diets
There are lots of reasons why cortisol goes up when carbs are very low. One primary reason is your body is trying to increase energy levels since theres a lack of glucose.
Just remember, in some ways, a ketogenic diet mimics starvation, which is stressful.
After a few days or weeks of a keto diet, your body goes into a metabolic state called ketosis, again stressful.
Your body will then use an alternative fuel source called Ketones to survive since no glucose is available.
Ketones for brain energy and fuel might be fine and even preferred by some people, temporarily.
But not long-term for many months and years.
And definitely NOT for muscle and anyone who exercises!
And before you start to debate me on this there are some people who do well on keto diets and can stay healthy long-term.
However, these are more of the exceptions than the rule. For most of us regular people, long-term keto diets will have negative effects.
Its Not You Its Your Hormones
Your hormones impact everything in your body, including your weight. Hormones send signals to your body, telling it what to do and how to function. Every aspect of your metabolism is regulated by hormones. When it comes to your weight, no matter how much you exercise or what you eat, if your hormones are out of balance, losing weight will be a struggle even when following the popular Ketogenic diet.
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How To Decide If Keto Is Right For You
There’s no way for me to tell you exactly how you will respond to the keto diet because we all have different genetics, ages, stress levels, sleep, and activity levels. As you will learn in this article, some can thrive on the diet while others may feel worse.
So here’s my advice to advice to you if you want to try a keto diet:
- Ask yourself why you want to follow keto in the first place. Is it for weight loss? To lower blood sugar? Improve energy levels? Keep your answer in the front of your mind so after following it for a few weeks, you can answer whether or not it’s helping you reach that goal.
- Pay attention to your body beyond the scale. How’s your energy, mood, and sleep? Are you hyper-focused on your diet and can’t think about anything else? If you notice any negative changes that last more than a few days, keto may not be a good fit.
- Check your menstrual cycle . Any changes may mean you need to take a pause because you could be stressing your body.
- Consider checking cardiovascular and blood sugar labs before and after following the diet for a few months.
In other words, it’s vital that you think about your personal reasons and have ways to gauge your response to the keto diet. Don’t go keto just because it’s a trend or you want fast results.
With all that said, let’s dive into the risks and benefits of keto.
Can People Having Thyroid Issues Remain Healthy On A Keto Diet
My experience and my physician peers who focus on this very topic all say yes! But it will depend on the woman and what else she has going onso the recommendation is to talk with your doctor, try it , monitor how you feel, test your levels, and go from there.
Generally, women need to be at around 20-40 grams of total carb per day to get into ketosis. My daily Keto-Green plate typically equates to 20-35 grams of carbs per day. But there are a lot of things that can impact ketosis: environmental toxins, other hormone imbalancesstress is a big impact. Ive had women in my program who never get into ketosis until they learn to manage their stress and reduce their cortisol levels.
Many things can affect a womans ability to be in balance across our major hormones, including our thyroid. I know that after dealing with the flooding aftermath and mold issues of 2 separate hurricanes last year that my own TSH sky-rocketed to over 5.4. But today on my Keto-Green program it is a beautiful number, 0.77, which is in the optimal range.
In talking with clinicians focused on thyroid disease, while most are ok with their clients trying out keto, they do typically recommend they not go lower than 20 grams of total carb per day, in conjunction with their thyroid hormone medication.
Interestingly, many people having Hashimotos have carbohydrate metabolism disorders so actually, feel better on a low-carb diet.
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The Ketogenic Diet And Cortisol:
Cortisol is the notorious stress hormone but it starts out innocently. When youre under stress, cortisol taps into protein stores and produces glucose for your body to use to flee or fight the stress. Good thing, right?
- But consistently high cortisol levels means consistently high stress levels, and your body and brain starts to tire.
- All that extra glucose means elevated blood sugar, which leads to all sorts of problems.
Because the ketogenic diet leaves the HPA-axis unaltered or potentially improved, then cortisol produced within the adrenal gland is fine. In fact, cortisol levels are low for those in ketosis, or completely unaffected.
If you feel particularly bad, here are a few points to consider:
Why Doesnt Keto Work For All Women
Low carb high fat diets are popular, with the ketogenic diet being the most popular of all in recent years. Most people think that a low carb high fat diet leads to weight loss simply because eating fewer carbs reduces insulin levels and burns fat. However, the classic keto diet doesnt work for many women. If you starve your body of carbohydrates over the long term, you may lose weight, but unfortunately this may cause additional problems, including disruption to hormone levels such as thyroid, the impact of which is discussed later in the article. Women also have other hormonal disadvantages that affect the success of a ketogenic diet.
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Is Keto Right For Women Over 50
It can be. In a recent study, 67% of older participants found that the keto diet helped them get closer to their goals, which included weight loss and glucose control.
While there are concerns about how the dip in estrogen after menopause may affect keto dieters, research is limited.
Animal studies exploring this diet may eventually pave the way for future human research, but we dont yet know how keto may affect women over 50.
Keto And Your Exercise Routine
Following a good exercise routine is required for any positive health outcomes, and keto is no different. But when it comes to hormonal issues, it is also easy to go too far into the red, and exercise too much. If you overtrain, you can quickly throw your hormones out of whack especially cortisol. The most common occurrence as it relates to keto is attempting to do high-intensity interval training too often. If you are in ketosis, doing HIIT more than three times per week may do you more harm than good. Just as your body needs exercise, your body also needs rest.
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