Is the Ketogenic Diet Helpful or Harmful for Menopausal Women?

By | 2018-06-30T06:00:16+00:00 June 30th, 2018|Health, Ketogenic Diet, Perimenopause and Menopause|0 Comments

I’m not going to lie: I used to think I was invincible. In my younger years, I lived by the calories in, calories out rule of maintaining my weight and controlling my health. If I put on a few pounds or felt a little tired, I would just eat a little less and exercise a little more. It always did the trick.

Then I hit my mid-40s. Sleepless nights, hot flashes, angry outbursts, anxiety, depression, and stubborn weight all seemed to fall upon me in a matter of months. And, just as suddenly, my old tricks for regulating my health weren’t working anymore. I felt like I was living in someone else’s body and I hated it.

What went wrong? How did I stray off of my health path?

The more I searched for answers to solve my new and unwelcome health situation, the more one thing became incredibly clear:

Menopause was looming.

There was no doubt that I was entering the time of my life when my hormones were on a speedy decline, causing new symptoms to pop up all the time. And I couldn’t make those symptoms go away with the solutions I had relied on for years.

But when I found the ketogenic diet and fasting, my whole world changed.

Why is everything so hard when you start to hit the menopause years?

The struggles of perimenopause and menopausal women are the stuff of legend. Here are just a few of the symptoms that come with mid-life for women:

  • belly fat
  • brain fog
  • insomnia
  • memory loss
  • headaches
  • hot flashes

These symptoms appear because our bodies are now on a rollercoaster of hormonal fluctuations. According to many experts, our sex hormones start rapidly declining as early as 35-years-old, with most women officially hitting menopause in their early 50s.

In this 15-year time frame, here’s what happens:

Estrogen declines, causing:

  • A shift in body fat from hips and thighs to abdomen.
  • A rise in insulin resistance, which causes weight gain.
  • Impaired production of leptin and neuropeptide Y, hormones that help regulate appetite and weight balance.

Testosterone declines, leading to:

  • a loss of muscle mass and, as a result, a slower metabolism.

Progesterone declines causing:

  • an increase in anxiety and depression.

Ghrelin (the hunger hormone) increases causing:

  • a dramatic increase in hunger and cravings.

To learn more about these hormonal shifts, this is a good read.

To add to the misery, in response to these significant hormonal shifts, your gut microbiome goes through a massive shift as well. This happens because we lose the protective benefits of estrogen.

Put simply, women have two types of estrogen, one helpful and one harmful.

Helpful estrogen protects microbial diversity.

Unfortunately, during the menopause years, women start to see a natural decline in the beneficial estrogens, which causes the good bacteria in her gut to become vulnerable and easily destroyed. And with a reduction in helpful bacteria comes a reduction in neurotransmitter production, ultimately leading to more chronic inflammation, a slower metabolism, and poor sleep.

Harmful estrogens can lead to breast cancer.

If a woman’s gut microbiome is depleted from antibiotic use and stress as she enters menopause, she risks a rise in harmful estrogens. This is one of the reasons that post-menopausal women are more likely to get breast cancer than perimenopausal women. A healthy and diverse microbiome will help regulate these harmful estrogens and ultimately protect a menopausal woman against breast cancer.

So now that you can see the hormonal complexities of a menopausal woman, why is the ketogenic diet such a gift to these women?

Ketones help the menopausal woman in several ways

Part of the magic of the ketogenic diet is the rapid increase in something called ketones. Ketones can serve the menopausal woman in several ways:

1. Better mental clarity

  • Because ketones are a better fuel source for the brain than glucose, keto diets give menopausal women an astonishing mental clarity and can even help prevent Alzheimer’s.

Learn more about the fat-fueled brain.

2. Reversing insulin resistance

  • The less sugar you consume, the more sensitive your cells become to insulin. For many menopausal women, a low carb diet is exactly what the cells need to become insulin sensitive again.

Learn more about the effects of the ketogenic diet on insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance.

3. Less hunger

  • Even as a rise in ghrelin during menopause is causing an increase in hunger and cravings, going keto can help mitigate that hunger due to the satiety factor of the diet.

Learn more about how the ketogenic diet can help suppress your appetite.

4. Limitless energy

  • Most of my menopausal patients report incredible amounts of energy when they switch to a keto diet. This happens because you stabilize your blood sugar and no longer have dramatic highs and lows with your glucose levels.

Learn more about why keto gives you an energy boost.

More good news: the ketogenic diet is incredibly time-efficient. An element of fasting is part of the ketogenic diet, primarily intermittent fasting, which is when you easily sustain 13 to 15 hours without food every day.

If you are like many of the menopausal women I coach, you have a crazy busy life. Career, travel, social demands, driving teenage kids to sporting events, visiting your college-aged kids… your plate is full!

When you implement the keto diet, you change your energy source from sugar burning to fat burning. This means you can go for long periods of time without food. Nothing is more convenient for the overscheduled rushing menopausal woman than not having to eat every few hours.

Fasting is also an incredible way to reset your microbiome.

How to create the perfect synergy between keto and menopause.

When women start their keto journey, many of them feel that they’ve found the fountain of youth.

But perimenopausal and menopausal women really need to approach the ketogenic diet differently.

The biggest mistake I see so many menopausal women make when they begin the keto diet is eating too few carbs. Because their hormones are rapidly declining, menopausal women really do need SOME carbs.

As we discussed above, your estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone levels are rapidly declining as you enter menopause.

This is important: to make estrogen, you need insulin. So if you are low carb all the time with very few insulin surges, your estrogen levels will plummet even more. This is why I encourage my menopausal patients to cycle in some carb load days with their keto days.

What does a carb load day look like?

On a carb load day, you add in healthy carbs that will help your body make progesterone and raise your insulin levels just a little to give your body the tools it needs to make estrogen. Healthy carbs include beans, potatoes, tropical fruits, and brown rice.

With a few important tweaks, keto and menopause can be a match made in heaven.

I know this can be confusing. That’s why I created the Ketobiotic Reset for Women. I wanted to give menopausal women a 30-day plan they could follow that would give them the benefits of the keto diet while feeding their microbiome and elevating crucial hormones. Menopausal women should start the Ketobiotic Reset on Day 1 and go all the way through to Day 30.

You can download the Ketobiotic Reset for Women for free here.

Unlike my other Resets which are designed to be followed for limited time periods, this protocol features a food plan that menopausal women can follow for life. It offers an amazing variation of low carb, high carb, high protein, and fasting, all with a focus on the most important nutrients necessary to make hormones.

You can read more articles about the benefits of keto and some important do’s and dont’s while following a ketogenic diet on my website.

I know that’s a lot to take in but now that you are armed with this information, you can implement keto and conquer menopause!

If you have any questions about keto and menopause, you can find me on Facebook in my Resetter Tribe. Just request to join the group and I’ll add you to this amazing community of like-minded women! You can also subscribe to my weekly newsletter to keep up with the latest information about women’s health and visit my site to read more articles about resetting your health!

Cheers to amazing health… and success with going keto while menopausal!

Dr. Mindy