A low carb diet is the best way to lose weight. It lowers insulin, the hormone that tells the body to store fat, and makes the weight loss journey a success. In recent years, the ketogenic diet with its low carb intake has proved to be especially efficient for losing pounds.
While the diet has many benefits, it also demands a little bit of caution. Especially if you are a woman.
A man’s body does not go through any hormonal changes throughout the month, as a result, men find the ketogenic diet to be very rewarding and non-problematic. Women, however, go through a complicated hormonal cycle every month.
Besides hormone fluctuation, a woman’s body is eager to make stocks for rainy days or for a possible pregnancy. Even if you cut your food intake dramatically, your body will be reluctant to shed any pounds.
High insulin is the cause of energy being stored instead of spent. In women, high estrogen is also the culprit of fatty deposits. High estrogen leads to many serious conditions, for example, ovary or breast cancers.
Estrogen is regulated by another female hormone: progesterone. Its task is also to prepare your body for pregnancy.
The fact is that an average woman in the western world has high estrogen levels and low levels of progesterone. Because progesterone is too low, it cannot regulate estrogen levels. This has adverse consequences for health.
How do we lower the first and raise the second? By raising the level of progesterone.
What happens on the Ketogenic Diet?
When first starting out on a ketogenic diet, some women experience heavy periods. This is due to the fact that fat deposits contain estrogen and as the fat is released, so is the estrogen. This results in heavy periods.
Long-term ketosis, on the other hand, reduces the levels of both female hormones in the body, estrogen, and progesterone.
A woman with very low hormonal levels enters a state similar to menopause. The consequence of low hormones is hair loss, sleeping disorders, bloating, and low libido.
Is there a way out of this?
How our Hormones Work
First, let’s take a look at how our hormones work.
An average woman has a 28-day cycle. The first day of the cycle is the first day of the period.
The week of the period is the most peaceful time where both hormones, estrogen and progesterone, are low. It is a good time for dieting and even fasting because cravings will be less pronounced and weight will come off more easily (day 1 to 8)
The second week of the month estrogen starts rising, at the same time your fertility window is opening. The last two days before ovulation and on the day of ovulation estrogen is very high (between day 13 and 15).
During this period, have some estrogen-boosting foods to support your body.
Immediately after ovulation estrogen declines, and on the third week of the cycle, progesterone becomes active (from day 20 or 21 until the period). Its task is to prepare the body for the period.
On day 20, start consuming progesterone-boosting foods. Do this until you get your period.
Perimenopause and Menopause
Estrogen starts rapidly declining after the age of forty. Before hitting menopause, estrogen gets on a roller-coaster and fluctuates, sometimes being high and sometimes low, which makes this stage of life very challenging.
Along with estrogen, progesterone starts declining as well. Levels of progesterone drop even more significantly than estrogen levels.
Perimenopausal women should track their cycle. If the cycle is longer than usual, your body needs more progesterone to trigger the period. As soon as you notice spotting, tender breasts or bloating, increase your progesterone-supporting foods.
Menopausal women can do the keto diet anytime in the month. They are encouraged to pick a specific time during the month to include progesterone and estrogen-building foods to avoid hormone-related diseases.
The Role of Estrogen
Estrogen is a major sex hormone in the body, but it is not responsible for pregnancy only, as many people think.
Here are some important things that estrogen regulates in your body:
- Estrogen is responsible for sexual development during puberty
- It builds up the lining of your uterus every month in preparation for pregnancy
- It helps protect against heart disease, decreases inflammation and controls the cholesterol levels
- It manages your mood by influencing the production of serotonin, the happy hormone.
As you can see, if estrogen in your body is low, not only your health will be compromised, but you will also be moody and depressed.
To assist your body in estrogen production, especially during the time of ovulation, include the following foods in your diet:
- Flax Seeds
- Sesame Seeds
- Dried Fruit
- Wholegrain Bread
- Alfafa Sprouts
The Role Of Progesterone
Progesterone is a kind of supervisor hormone since it balances the effects of estrogen. In addition to that, it:
- Helps prepare the body for a potential pregnancy
- Keeps your menstrual cycle healthy and regular
- Balances blood sugar
- Increases metabolism
- Acts as a natural diuretic
- Promotes normal sleep
- Improves thyroid function
- Increases libido
As mentioned, from day 20 in your cycle until your period, consume foods that will boost progesterone in your body.
These foods are
- Magnesium-Rich Foods: dark chocolate, nuts, avocado, tofu, legumes
- Vitamin B6 Foods: fish (salmon), eggs, milk, carrots, bananas, lean beef, and ricotta cheese
- Zinc-rich foods: shellfish, seeds, whole grains, vegetables, Greek yogurt, lean pork chops, kale, and turkey.
A popular way to balance the hormones is taking the Vitex Chaste Tree supplement. It supports progesterone and successfully treats premenstrual symptoms and cycle irregularities.
In a study, 178 women took vitex in capsule form for 3 full cycles. Compared to the control group, the women in the test group experienced 50% improvement/reduction in symptoms. These include mood swings, anger, irritability, headache, breast tenderness, and bloating.
Weight loss and low carb diets help promote overall health. However, as a woman, you must also consider what the ketogenic diet is doing to your hormones. Long-term dieting may have severe consequences for your health. Fortunately, this may be avoided by taking regular breaks from your diet and providing your body with nutrients that it needs for normal functioning.