Keto And Menopause: Can a Low-Carb Diet Help?
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Keto And Menopause: Can a Low-Carb Diet Help?

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Keto And Menopause: Can a Low-Carb Diet Help?

Posted 2 years ago

Brian Stanton

Brian Stanton

Author

Ari Magill, M.D.

Ari Magill, M.D.

Scientific Reviewer

Expert Approved

A lot of women are wondering if a Keto diet makes sense during the transition to menopause. They’re considering if a low-carb diet can help with hot flashes, insomnia, mood swings, weight gain, and other symptoms of this challenging process. 

But while there is research on Keto for postmenopausal women[*], there isn’t much data on Keto and menopause. There are, however, clues in the literature.

The clues indicate both potential benefits and risks of eating Keto around menopause. It’s not black and white. The human body is complicated, and menopause only complicates things further. 

Let’s cover the basics of menopause first, then we’ll see how Keto fits in. Keep reading. 

What Is Menopause? 

Menopause is defined as the cessation of a woman’s menstrual cycle for at least 12 months. It’s a normal occurrence that’s part of the aging process. 

Most women experience menopause in their late 40s or early 50s, but about 5% become menopausal between 40 and 45, and about 1% before 40.[*

When someone says they’re “going through menopause,” they’re referring to the transition period from premenopause to postmenopause.[*] This transition period, which often lasts 5 to 10 years, is called perimenopause.

The signal that kicks off this transition is when the ovaries start to run out of eggs.

When the ovaries start to run out of eggs, they no longer respond to a hormone called follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), which in turn prevents the release of luteinizing hormone (LH) and the release of an egg (ovulation) each month. As a result, estrogen falls and menstruation ceases.[*

But it’s not an on-off switch. The transition is usually gradual and often bumpy. 

What Are the Symptoms of Menopause?

What symptoms should a woman expect during perimenopause? Let’s see what the stats say.[*

About 75% of women experience vasomotor symptoms during perimenopause. These include hot flashes, night sweats, migraines, and palpitations. 

About 60% of women experience urogenital symptoms like low libido, sexual dysfunction, vaginal dryness, and increased urgency (to pee).

And about 45% of women experience psychogenic symptoms like insomnia, mood swings, anxiety, irritability, loss of confidence, and loss of self-esteem.   

Another common symptom is weight gain, especially around the belly. This is probably the symptom that Keto is best for remediating. 

Keto for Menopause: Potential Benefits

Is Keto the best diet for menopausal women? That’s not clear yet, but here are some potential benefits. 

#1: Weight loss

Many women going through menopause have difficulty losing weight. Or they gain weight.  

Why? One reason is that ghrelin—a hunger hormone—is elevated during perimenopause.[*] More hunger, more overeating. 

That’s where Keto comes in. Since a Keto diet reduces ghrelin levels, it may help menopausal women with weight management and weight loss.[*]

Keto may also be effective for weight loss after menopause. One study found that obese postmenopausal women lost an average of 20 pounds after 25 days of ketogenic dieting.[*

#2: Hormonal health   

The fall in estrogen during perimenopause not only disrupts menstruation. It also disrupts insulin function.[*

Insulin is a hormone that regulates blood sugar and fat-burning capacity. When insulin function is compromised (a condition called insulin resistance), it can be harder to lose fat due to enhanced inflammatory signaling.[*] This, unfortunately, may contribute to menopause-related weight gain.

Though it hasn’t been tested in menopausal women, the Keto diet was shown to improve insulin function in women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)[*][*], among other populations.[*

#3: Inflammation 

Hot flashes are the most notorious symptoms of menopause. But what causes them?

Inflammation is a likely culprit. Researchers have found that various inflammatory markers are elevated in perimenopausal women with hot flashes and night sweats.[*

Keto may help by suppressing inflammatory processes like the NLRP3 inflammasome.[*] More research is needed, but it’s an interesting theory to chew on.  

Keto for Menopause: Potential Risks

Before covering the potential risks of Keto for menopause, a quick disclaimer: The Keto diet isn’t for everyone. In particular, underweight people, those with a history of eating disorders, children, and pregnant or nursing women should be cautious with carb restriction. 

Also, those using Keto to manage a chronic condition (like type 2 diabetes or cancer) should do so only with medical supervision. 

With that said, here are more specific risks:

#1: Keto flu 

Many people experience headaches, brain fog, muscle cramps, low energy, constipation, or insomnia when first going Keto. These symptoms are often referred to as Keto flu.

Perimenopause is challenging enough without Keto flu symptoms. Because of this, menopausal women may want to hold off on Keto. (Note: you’ll learn useful tips soon for preventing Keto flu). 

#2: May raise cholesterol levels

Around menopause, falling estrogen causes blood vessels to constrict and LDL cholesterol levels to rise. Both represent a potential increase in heart disease risk.[*

A Keto diet may also raise LDL cholesterol levels. In one small study, a Keto diet led to a 39% rise in LDL cholesterol in young, healthy women.[*

Why? Researchers believe that an increase in dietary saturated fat is to blame. 

But multiple large reviews have found no link between saturated fat intake and heart disease, so the issue is far from settled.[*][*

Tips for Going Keto During Menopause

If you decide to go Keto during menopause, consider these tips to ease the transition:

  • Take electrolytes. Keto flu symptoms are often caused by electrolyte deficiencies
  • Eat non-starchy vegetables. Getting enough fiber helps prevent constipation, a common Keto flu symptom. 
  • Reduce saturated fat. If your LDL cholesterol spikes on Keto, consider shifting your fat calories towards monounsaturated fats like olive oil, avocados, and nuts. 
  • Get enough sleep. For concentration, fat burning capacity, appetite management, mood, and much more—7 to 9 hours of sleep is the ticket.[*][*][*]  
  • Manage stress. When you're stressed, it not only increases irritability but also the fat-storage hormone, cortisol.[*]  
  • Track macros. Dial in your fat, protein, and carb ratios on Keto with the help of the Carb Manager app. 
  • Exercise. A daily exercise routine mitigates disease risk and improves quality of life in most humans, including menopausal women.[*]
  • Be realistic with weight loss goals. Keto is a lifestyle, not a 14-day weight loss diet. Be patient.  

One last note. Keto probably isn’t the best menopause diet for every woman, but it’s worth experimenting with. Follow the above tips, listen to your body, and (if possible) track your bloodwork and you’ll be in a good position to succeed. 

Comments 11

  • SpectacularKale202397

    SpectacularKale202397 a year ago

    Patience!

    • MarvellousArugula207954

      MarvellousArugula207954 a year ago

      Hi can you explain more about the keno diet I've heard a lot about it and I just wondered what it was like is there any brochures or anything about it you can 10 send to me and tell me more about thank you this is Julie

      • FeelinBeachy

        FeelinBeachy 2 years ago

        Thank you so much for this article. It was very helpful and insightful.

        • SplendidMacadamia426977

          SplendidMacadamia426977 2 years ago

          I am 55. Weighed 115kg 25/09/2021 and today 23/10/2021 I weigh 107kg. I started following ketogenic diet with intermittent fasting some days 16:8 and other days 20:4. My joints aches in the morning and after prolonged periods of sitting have disappeared. It is amazing.

          • SpectacularArugula731457

            SpectacularArugula731457 2 years ago

            What are your thought with keto and rheumatoid arthritis?

            • SplendidMacadamia426977

              SplendidMacadamia426977 2 years ago

              I don't know if I had rheumatoid arthritis but my joint pain has certainly almost disappeared over a month of giving up sugar and unhealthy carbs. All the best.

          • PropitiousMacadamia697198

            PropitiousMacadamia697198 2 years ago

            I’m in menopause (suddenly after a full hysterectomy as I had ovarian cancer). I have been doing keto for 2 weeks and have put on a couple of pounds! I’m going to keep at it though.

            • SplendidMacadamia426977

              SplendidMacadamia426977 2 years ago

              Are you doing intermittent fasting as well? I have lost 8kgs in a month. Also surgical hysterectomy.

            • PropitiousCauliflower239917

              PropitiousCauliflower239917 2 years ago

              I'm in surgical menopause too, as I had cervical cancer, I've been using this app for about a week, I've been doing keto for years, but now I'm tracking the macros I realise I was eating too much protein ( the extra protein coverts to sugar in glucogenesis ) so knocked me out of ketosis... so far I've lost 3 pounds but I do intimitant fasting too.

            • eatingcleanketo

              eatingcleanketo 2 years ago

              Count total carbs instead of net carbs. This will help.

            • Jackiegross

              Jackiegross 2 years ago

              Hello I’ve gained too any suggestions