Trying for a baby is a really exciting time, but it can also be really painful and difficult if you’re not getting pregnant as quickly as you’d hoped.
Many people dealing with infertility may at some point choose to address their diet to see if changes to what they eat could help improve their fertility.
There is some really promising research regarding the Keto diet for fertility.
Here’s a summary of the current research on Keto for fertility, along with a quick guide to choosing the best fertility eating plan for you personally.
But first, a brief note: we understand that fertility is a very sensitive issue for many people, and we want to be as compassionate as possible while unpacking this topic. That said, please remember that the information we share in this article is for educational purposes only and isn’t a replacement for the advice of your fertility specialist.
What Is Keto?
Keto is a very low-carb, moderate protein, high-fat diet. Generally, the macronutrient breakdown on Keto is 5% carbs, 20-25% protein, and 70-75% fat.
Ketosis may offer a number of health benefits:
- Epilepsy management: Keto initially came about as a therapeutic diet for people with seizure disorders, like epilepsy. Keto can be very effective at helping to manage these conditions.[*]
- Weight management: Ketosis also offers a number of benefits for people trying to lose weight, like helping them to feel fuller on fewer calories, preventing muscle loss, and regulating their blood sugar and appetite.[*]
- Blood sugar control: Additionally, Keto can help balance blood sugar levels, as well as the hormone insulin — which is one of the body’s key blood sugar regulating hormones. For this reason, many people with conditions like reactive hypoglycemia or type 2 diabetes have reported success on Keto.[*]
- Cognitive function: Emerging evidence suggests that Keto may help improve brain health, regulate mood, and prevent cognitive decline.[*][*]
- Inflammation: Keto also appears to be anti-inflammatory, so it may help with a number of conditions related to chronic inflammation.[*][*][*]
Can Keto Help with Fertility?
So, is Keto good for fertility?
Fertility can often be negatively affected by lifestyle factors that contribute to excess weight, poor blood sugar control, inflammation, and cellular stress. Since Keto can be helpful for these conditions, it may also show promise for improving fertility.[*]
There has been some research on low-carb diets for fertility, but not much on the Keto diet specifically. In a 2017 review of several studies, researchers investigated the effects of low-carb diets (containing 45% carbs or less) on women with infertility.
In five of the seven studies the researchers analyzed, a low-carb diet significantly improved reproductive hormone levels.[*]
However, only one of the studies in this analysis investigated a Keto diet, and it was from 2005. This small 24-week study contained only 5 participants, and two of them became pregnant during the study period even though they had dealt with fertility issues prior.[*]
While this is an area of intense scientific interest, the effects of Keto on fertility can’t be confirmed from the current data.
However, many fertility doctors take a Keto approach to diet at their clinics with great success.
One of the most well-known examples is Dr. Kiltz of CNY Fertility. He recommends a Keto diet — focusing on high-quality animal foods — for his fertility patients. One specialized type of Keto diet he suggests is the B.E.B.B.I. Diet (pronounced the “baby” diet). Each letter stands for a different food or type of food you can eat on the plan:[*]
- Ice cream (a specific recipe using grass-fed heavy cream, vanilla, eggs, and a very small amount of sugar)
You’re also allowed to drink coffee, tea, bone broth, and water.
This diet is a variation of a type of Keto diet known as Carnivore, which is completely based on animal foods. Another important aspect of this plan is intermittent fasting. Dr. Kiltz recommends eating just one or two meals per day on the program, but eating to complete fullness at each meal.
According to Dr. Kiltz, eating only these foods may help remove all of the major causes of chronic inflammation in your diet, allowing your body to function more optimally and improve your fertility.
Can Keto Help with Women’s Health?
Keto may also help with other aspects of women’s health.
Several studies have found that Keto diets may be very helpful for polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), an insulin resistance-related condition that is also a common cause of female infertility. Most of these studies noted great improvements in insulin resistance, weight and body fat, and hormone levels.[*][*][*][*][*][*][*]
In one of the most recent studies, 25 women with obesity and PCOS followed a very low calorie Keto diet (consisting of 800 calories or less per day) for 12 weeks. After the 12 weeks concluded, the women had:[*]
- Lost a significant amount of weight
- Improved their insulin sensitivity
- Improved their fertility hormone profiles
Still, most people aren’t going to follow a diet of 800 calories or less per day — nor is it safe to do so without strict medical supervision.
However, in another study that included only a mild calorie restriction, researchers found that women with obesity and PCOS following a Keto diet experienced greater improvements in weight and hormone status than women following a Mediterranean diet.[*]
However, remember that — although the evidence looks very promising — this is still an emerging area of research, and we can’t assume that a Keto diet will improve female hormone health or fertility in every case.
Who Should Try Keto for Fertility?
You may want to try Keto for fertility if you’re interested in optimizing your nutrition for fertility with a lifestyle that many people have found success with.
Additionally, Keto may be a good fit if you have other concerns that could be affecting your fertility, like your weight or your blood sugar levels.
Who Should Avoid Keto for Fertility?
Keto requires you to remove most sources of carbs from your diet, so there is an element of restriction involved.
For people with a history of disordered eating, this type of restriction can be difficult or triggering. In these cases, Keto may not be appropriate.
Keto can also present a unique challenge for some women due to natural hormone fluctuations and differences in female metabolic function. Anecdotally, many women have also found that including some healthy carbs in their diet is more optimal for their hormone function than a strict Keto diet.[*][*]
Additionally, if you’re working with a fertility doctor, be sure to follow their instructions regarding your diet and nutrition.
Does Keto Affect Male Fertility?
Keto may also influence male fertility.
Dr. Kiltz advises that the B.E.B.B.I. plan can help men or women with infertility.
In two men with obesity, researchers also found that sperm quality and testosterone levels improved after adopting a ketogenic diet.[*]
Additionally, one recent mouse study demonstrated that a ketogenic diet improved sperm quality and reduced cellular stress in male mice.[*]
However, since this evidence comes from just two isolated cases in humans and an animal study, it’s important to take these findings with a grain of salt.
How to Choose the Best Fertility Diet for You
If you’re interested in making changes to your eating habits to potentially improve your fertility, here are some things to consider when choosing your ideal diet:
- Consider your overall health and weight status. If you have an underlying medical condition or excessive body fat that may be affecting your fertility, following a specific diet may help you better manage your condition or lose body fat. For example, some people with autoimmune conditions report significant improvement from adopting a Paleo or Autoimmune Protocol diet, and Keto may be extremely helpful for fat loss.[*]
- Choose something you can stick with. It’s also important to choose an eating plan that’s practical for you and your current lifestyle and includes foods you enjoy eating. It will be hard to stick to a dietary pattern full of foods you dislike or require a lot of food prep and cooking time if you’re already busy.
- Prioritize food quality. No matter what diet or eating style you choose, prioritizing food quality is always a good idea. Try to minimize how many highly-processed foods are in your diet, and instead focus on whole ingredients and real foods. If they’re in your budget, you may also want to consider options like grass-fed or pasture-raised meats, pastured eggs, organic dairy products, and other organic produce.
- Follow your doctor’s recommendations. Finally, be sure to consider your fertility specialist’s advice regarding your diet, nutrition, fitness, and any dietary supplements you may want to include in your routine.
- Look for a routine that you could stick with into pregnancy. If you do become pregnant, it would be great to have a solid nutrition routine that you could continue to follow without needing to make any drastic changes. Keto could be the answer for some women, but other approaches may be a good fit too.
Keto may be a promising option for improving fertility in men and women. Emerging research shows that Keto may help balance hormone levels in women and improve sperm quality in men. It may also reduce insulin resistance, decrease inflammation, and promote fat loss — which could help correct some causes of infertility.
Still, there hasn’t yet been a lot of research on this topic. No matter what eating pattern you choose, be sure to follow the advice of your fertility specialist, focus on food quality, and choose something that you can stick with.