Although it completely challenges everything about the western diet as we know it, the Ketogenic diet (or keto diet for short) has surged in popularity in recent years. Since the late 70’s Americans have been encouraged to lower their fat intake and turn a blind eye to the high sugar content in almost everything we eat. But now, with the wealth of information we now have access to, it looks like those dietary guidelines present a direct conflict to what our bodies actually need.
This keto diet craze is based on the idea that your body will begin to break down fat into ketone bodies for fuel in the absence of carbs. Over time, your body will start to rely on fat as its primary fuel source instead of carbs. Not only does the keto diet target carbohydrates, but it also targets sugar in your diet. In fact, the keto diet completely removes sugar from the equation, leading to several ancillary health benefits by itself.
Just like any diet, the keto diet also has its champions and its naysayers. On the one hand, you have folks that swear it’s the only one that works, while others are still unwilling to flout the “low-fat rules laid” out by the establishment.
While the controversy will undoubtedly continue to rage, a broad segment of the population continues to look for answers for a very specific issue – menopause. So can the keto diet help with menopause?
While menopause is a natural biological process, the physical changes that come along for the ride are often the hot button topics. And rightfully so, the physical manifestations of menopause can wreak havoc on your and your body.
As you approach your 40’s, the subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) changes in your body, metabolism, and mood, are caused by fluctuating hormones. Here’s a quick look at a few of those changes.
During menopause, estrogen levels begin to decline. With that decrease in estrogen, women often notice a shift in body fat. The fat that was once deposited on the thighs and hips has now moved to the belly. Moreover, the decline in estrogen also leads to a rise in insulin resistance and impaired production of leptin (one of the hormones that regulate appetite and weight control). In both cases, the result is, you guessed it — weight gain.
Testosterone also begins to decrease with menopause, and that decrease, in turn, leads to a loss of muscle mass. Remember that muscle burns more calories than fat, so as you lose muscle mass, your metabolism begins to slow down.
As menopause kicks into gear, progesterone levels often begin to decrease as well. Low levels of progesterone have been associated with increased headaches, mood swings, anxiety, and depression.
Ghrelin (or the hunger hormone) also increases during this time, often leading to a dramatic increase in hunger and cravings. Of course, the result of that is more weight gain.
While your body is in a constant state of flux, the keto diet helps with menopause in a variety of ways.
Instead of burning through carbohydrates and sugar, the keto diet burns body fat for fuel. And while the hormonal changes in menopause include an increase in ghrelin, ketones actually work to decrease the hunger hormone. Moreover, studies have shown that the keto diet also suppresses one’s appetite because the high-fat content leads to improved satiety
Because the keto diet targets sugar, essentially removing it from your diet. As you consume less sugar, your insulin resistance is lowered. Coupled with a lower intake of carbohydrates, cells become sensitive to insulin again, leading to weight loss.
When carbohydrates and simple sugars are used as the primary source of fuel, you’ll inevitably experience energy dips throughout the day (as a result of spiking blood sugar levels). However, with the keto diet, you’ll likely see more sustained energy levels because you’re burning fat for energy instead of carbs and sugar.
The human brain is made up of more than 60% fat. So it stands to reason that fat is far more effective when it comes to supporting its processes. Ketones (as fuel for the brain) are pretty powerful sources of energy and significantly more efficient than glucose. Moreover, due to the high-fat content, the keto diet leads to an increase in the polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs, such as DHA and EPA), all of which are known to improve brain function.
The keto diet can help manage the symptoms of menopause. It burns fat as its primary fuel source, and the high-fat content leads to increased feelings of satiety, both of which can help with weight management during menopause. Additionally, the keto diet can boost energy levels, and improve one’s clarity and mood.
Want to learn even more about keto for women over 50? What You Need To Know About the Keto Diet For Women Over 50
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