Hormones, and especially sex hormones, have a profound influence over many aspects of our health. From our moods and energy levels to bone health and the aging process, sex hormones seem to govern it all. And at no time is this more apparent than menopause.
Shifts in sex hormones are known to be the main culprit behind most menopause symptoms like hot flashes, weight gain, and vaginal dryness . And nutrition and lifestyle changes are known to provide some help in managing menopause hormonal imbalances and symptoms, but also in reducing chronic disease risk in postmenopausal women . One nutritional strategy that can help women going through menopause is the ketogenic diet, also simply known as keto.
What is the Keto Diet?
While there is plenty of research on how keto affects metabolic and neurological health, its direct influence on hormonal health is less studied. According to a study article published in the journal Obesity, a keto diet rich in monounsaturated fat and supplemented with ω3‐fatty acids did not lead to major changes in fasting total testosterone, free testosterone, and cortisol. However, it did lead to a 28% decrease in insulin and a 64% decrease in leptin. .
Such findings are important for women since both insulin and leptin play major roles in female reproductive health. Elevated insulin is associated with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), while low leptin levels are associated with menstrual irregularities in premenopausal women . In postmenopausal women, weight gain increases your risk of insulin resistance and high leptin levels have been linked to more severe hot flashes .
Studies on the effects of keto diets on female hormones have mostly focused on overweight premenopausal women, a category that is more prone to experiencing fertility issues associated with PCOS. Such studies found that the keto diet balances out hormones by lowering insulin levels . In healthy, adolescent girls, however, the keto diet causes irregular periods .
Keto and Menopause
Because there are no studies looking into how keto affects women in menopause, we can’t really say if this diet will or will not work for you. As already explained, the diet has a positive impact on insulin levels, which can help combat insulin resistance while you’re going through menopause. And because thi