The symptoms of menopause can be challenging for many women.
The weight gain, hot flashes, skin changes, lack of sleep, low libido, irritation and mood swings that inevitably happen during this transition can make you feel extremely concerned about your health and well-being.
Luckily, you can manage these grueling symptoms with healthy habits, starting with your diet.
These side effects of menopause are caused by imbalances in sex hormones estrogen and testosterone.The ketogenic diet can help balance these hormones and potentially improve menopause symptoms thanks to its emphasis on healthy fats and protein.
Today we’re diving into how you can use a keto diet to manage your symptoms if you’re going through menopause. We’ll cover:
What Is Menopause and Why Does It Happen?
Menopause starts when a woman hasn’t had her period for over 12 months. It usually occurs in women over the age of 50 and it’s a sign that all of her available eggs have been depleted.
As a result, reproductive hormone levels — such as estrogen and testosterone– decrease. These hormonal changes can trigger metabolic problems and unwanted symptoms, including:
- Slower metabolism
- Glucose intolerance
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Insulin resistance
- Weight gain
- Night sweats
- Hot flashes
- Loss of libido
- Mood swings
- Skin changes
This happens because all the hormones in your body are connected. Therefore, when levels of reproductive hormones decrease, insulin (a glucose-regulating hormone vital for metabolizing carbs) also gets affected, causing the metabolic changes mentioned above.
The decrease in testosterone lowers your body’s ability to build new muscle mass, slowing down metabolism even further.
A reduction in muscle mass and insulin issues and, lead to:
- Fat gain, particularly around your stomach.
- Inflammation and oxidative stress
- speeding up the aging process
- Encouraging even more weight gain[*].
Fortunately, adopting a healthy diet that specifically promotes hormonal balance is one of the easiest ways to improve insulin resistance, maintain muscle mass, decrease inflammation, and maintain a healthy weight.
The ketogenic diet, a low carbohydrate, high-fat diet, has been proven to diminish a lot of the metabolic issues that occur during menopause because it helps to balance hormones.
6 Ways a Keto Diet Can Improve Menopause Symptoms
The ketogenic diet is a high fat, low carbohydrate approach. It’s not new, but it’s gained a lot of traction in the last few years, after the low fat, high carb diets have been shown to be the real culprits behind the epidemic of obesity, heart disease, and diabetes in America.
With a renewed public interest on the ketogenic diet for health and weight loss, new research is being done to discover all its potential health benefits — including hormonal ones.
Here are 6 reasons why a ketogenic diet is beneficial during menopause:
#1: Insulin Control
Although there have not been any specific trials on keto and menopause symptoms, we can learn a lot about keto’s effects on hormones from studies done on women with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).
From this research, we’ve learned that insulin and sex hormones are intricately connected.
Studies have shown that normalizing insulin levels with the ketogenic diet can help put sex hormones back into balance, improving symptoms like weight gain in women with PCOS[*].
This means that by improving insulin levels through a low carb, high fat diet, you could also balance sex hormones, and therefore see a reduction in common symptoms of menopause.
The impact that keto has on insulin makes it an ideal diet for balancing sex hormones and helping manage menopause symptoms.
Weight gain is one of the primary complaints of many women during menopause. It can seem like they are doing everything right, yet still gaining weight.
The bottom line is that low estrogen levels cause weight gain[*], and it seems to accumulate particularly in the abdominal area. This can ring alarm bells for women who were used to wearing a certain pant size and now nothing fits.
Often, they will attempt to cut calories to lose weight, but this can make certain symptoms of menopause worse.
First of all, low calorie diets slow metabolism. They also speed up the loss of muscle and bone mass, increasing the risk for osteoporosis[*].
Menopause in itself causes muscle and bone loss already, so why make it worse by following a low cal diet?
If you see the pounds creeping up, the keto diet can be a great way manage weight.
Evidence shows that a low carbohydrate, high fat diet can help women lose weight and keep it off.
In a 2015 study, postmenopausal women who survived breast cancer were asked to follow a low carbohydrate or low-fat diet. Those who followed the low carbohydrate diet lost 23.1 pounds, 7.6% body fat, and 3.7 inches in their waist in 6 months. Although both groups lost weight, the low carb group lost significantly more[*].
There are several reasons why the keto diet helps with weight management and may make it easier for women to maintain a healthy weight during menopause:
- A higher protein intake increases satiety. When you feel full and satisfied you are less likely to overeat[*]. Additionally, the elimination of most carbohydrates frequently results in overall lower calorie intake.
- A ketogenic diets balances hunger hormones. A 2013 study found that after 8 weeks on a ketogenic diet, subjects had stable ghrelin levels. Ghrelin is an appetite-stimulating hormone that increases hunger during most carb-based diets. In the same study, subjects also lost 13% of their body weight and had lower overall appetite ratings[*].
- Keto speeds up metabolism and calorie burn. Gluconeogenesis, or the creation of glucose from non-carb substances, uses up a lot of calories. Lipolysis, or the breakdown of fat for energy, also speeds up metabolism[*]. For women who are experiencing a metabolic slowdown, any diet that speeds up metabolism is going to be beneficial.
The bottom line is the keto diet may help stave off some of the weight gain experienced in menopause and can help normalize metabolism.
#3: Reduction of Hot Flashes
Hot flashes are an incredibly annoying symptom of menopause. They can disrupt sleep and make you feel really uncomfortable.
Although the exact cause of hot flashes is not known, they are likely related to low estrogen levels and their impact on the hypothalamus — a part of the brain that regulates body temperature.
Ketone bodies, created during ketosis, can help protect the brain and lower inflammation, which may in turn help regulate body temperature[*].
#4: Sex Hormone Balance
Loss of libido may be one side effect of menopause due to those fluctuating hormones. But, a high-fat diet can help improve both estrogen and testosterone levels, helping increase libido.
Sex hormones are made from fat. Following a low fat diet has been shown to reduce circulating sex hormones and in turn could reduce libido[*]. Research has also shown the opposite, that eating a higher fat diet improves sexual function in women[*].
Eating a high fat ketogenic diet gives your body the raw materials it needs to maintain sex hormone levels, an important factor in maintaining a healthy libido during menopause.
#5: Higher Energy Levels
Ketogenic diets can also help with energy levels.
When your body shifts to utilizing fat for energy instead of carbohydrates, there are no longer major swings in blood sugar that cause energy dips.
Also, your body now has an almost endless source of calories (your fat stores) to tap into whenever it needs, boosting your energy levels.
#6: Better Sleep
Adopting a keto diet during menopause can also improve your sleep.
Thanks to the reduction of hot flashes, improved blood sugar regulation, healthier weight, and regulation of hormones, good sleep will likely be a wonderful side effect.
The 4 Best Keto-Friendly Foods for Menopause
Some keto foods are particularly beneficial for women going through menopause because they directly help balance hormone levels.
Make sure to keep these in your pantry if you’re using the keto diet for menopause:
#1: Fatty Fish
The first food to include is fatty fish because it’s high in omega-3 fatty acids.
Hormonal imbalances can trigger chronic inflammation, which is the underlying cause of almost every disease. Eating foods high in omega-3s, such as wild-caught salmon, can help reduce this inflammation.
Omega-3s can also help battle mood swings, another common symptom of menopause.
#2: Iron-Rich Foods
Menopausal women are at risk for anemia, or low blood iron, but supplementing with iron can lead to iron overload.
A ketogenic diet high in iron-rich foods and can help stave off anemia. A woman following a keto diet should eat plenty of quality sources of heme iron, including:
- Grass fed red meat
- Organ meats, like liver
- Shellfish, like clams, oysters, and mussels
- Other fish, such as salmon or tuna
#3: Green Tea
Green tea may help manage symptoms of menopause. This powerful tea contains an antioxidant called epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) that helps improve metabolism and lower inflammation. It can also help regulate insulin during menopause[*].
#4: Foods With Phytoestrogens
Foods that contain phytoestrogens (estrogen-like substances) are not for everyone on keto, but they can certainly help women going through menopause.
Soy is one of the best sources of phytoestrogens. Include soy foods like tofu, tempeh, or soy sauce in your diet, which are all also low in carbohydrates and keto-friendly.
Many keto-friendly nuts and seeds are also high in phytoestrogens, including flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, and walnuts.
A Keto Diet Can Improve How You Live Through Menopause
The ketogenic diet is a great way to manage some of the challenging symptoms of menopause because it helps balance sex hormones, regulate your internal temperature, control weight, and improve insulin function.
Stock up on keto-friendly, hormone-boosting foods like fatty fish, green tea, and beef liver, and you’ll be on your way to reducing hot flashes, low libido, and unwanted weight gain.
Physical activity, stress management, and medical interventions can also help. Always consult with your health physician before starting a new diet.
Overall, a healthy lifestyle, including a keto diet, can help you feel better and improve your well-being during this transition.