You may have heard the rumors about the relationship status of keto and menopause.
For some looking to control their menopause symptoms, this popular low-carb diet seems to provide the answer.
And for those wanting to manage chronic conditions like type 2 diabetes, it also seems to get some glowing reviews.
But the picture is far from a perfect one.
In fact, sometimes keto appears to make some symptoms worse and even increase certain health risks.
So, is keto a menopause diet that can harm or heal at this time?
Let’s have the conversation.
In this article 📝
- Keto and menopause: What’s the connection?
- What is a menopause keto diet?
- Does keto work for menopause belly fat?
- Is keto good for menopause symptoms?
- Does keto increase estrogen?
- Is keto good for perimenopause?
Keto and menopause: What’s the connection?
To understand this, it helps to first understand what happens before, during, and after menopause.
Menopause is defined as the moment 12 months after the credits have rolled on your last period.
The build up to this (AKA perimenopause) usually starts in your forties and lasts into your early fifties.
In some rare cases, perimenopause can kick into gear in your late thirties. 😳
At this time, your body stops releasing eggs to be fertilized, and your reproductive hormones—namely estrogen and progesterone—slow production.
As your body prepares for this major shift to its next chapter, it may give you some rather loud clues as to where it’s at. 📢
For some women, symptoms are brief and subtle, for others, they are intense and long-lasting.
There’s just no one way to do this thing.
If menopause is having a bearing on your day-to-day functioning, you may be on the lookout for lifestyle changes that can make it all more manageable.
The research is still young, but it looks as though what you eat may help ease some symptoms.
Enter keto (aka the ketogenic diet).
What is a menopause keto diet?
The ketogenic diet is a low-carb, high-fat, moderate-protein diet.
Basically, the diet is based on the premise that there are two different sources of fuel for your body—the one being glucose, which comes from eating carbohydrates, and the other being ketones, which are made from stored fat.
If you deprive your body of glucose by cutting back on the carbs, you can reach what is known as a state of ketosis.
This is where your body will start burning fat to provide fuel in the form of ketones.
To make ketosis happen, you rapidly decrease your carbs, focus on your fats, and moderate your protein.
This Harvard review breaks it down as about 70–80% fat, 5–10% carbs, and 10–20% protein.
Other reputable sources place the macronutrient distribution of a ketogenic diet at 55-60% fat, 5-10% carbohydrates, and 30 to 35% protein
Does keto work for menopause belly fat?
In recent years, keto rose to fame as a tool for weight loss—and it’s definitely getting points in the popularity department.
In this survey of registered dieticians, keto ranked as the most popular diet in the US for 2020.
But it’s not without its controversy.
As a weight-loss tool, it can be difficult to maintain.
Also, it can be heavy on processed, salty foods, and, as this review suggests, it may come with long-term health risks.
Sure, Low-carb diets can be beneficial for balancing blood sugar and keeping it stable, but it’s important to keep in mind how keto affects other menopause symptoms.
We dive into the details below.
Is keto good for menopause symptoms?
The research is young, and the effects of keto on menopause are all over the map.
We’ll give you the good with the bad:
1. Keto flu
Within a week of starting a ketogenic diet, many people experience some negative side effects.
It’s well reported—and its effects look uncannily similar to menopause symptoms.
The jury is still out on exactly what causes the keto flu.
It could be that you’re going through some sort of detox. It could be an immune response. Or perhaps it’s a change to your gut microbiome.
Whatever is at the heart of it, it’s not ideal if it’s making your menopause symptoms worse.
Luckily, the keto flu tends to pass within a few days, so if you’re wanting to battle through it, it’s possible.
2. Weight loss
If you’re seeking keto for menopause belly, you’re not alone.
Many women gain weight during menopause—likely because aging is associated with slowing metabolisms.
And then there’s the (not so) small matter of hormonal fluctuations.
The average weight gain over the menopausal transition is five pounds.
And while for some women, keto can be an appealing option for weight loss during menopause, we’re here to tell you there’s no shame in the weight gain.
Do what makes you genuinely feel good inside and out.
3. Cognitive function
In very early studies, it seems that a keto diet may have a positive effect on memory, attention, and task-switching.
A welcome solution when you consider the increasing evidence linking menopause with cognitive decline.
So, if you’re noticing a decrease in your attention, forgetfulness, lack of focus, or total brain fog, know that it’s not a reflection on you—all signs point to perimenopause and pre-menopause.
Good news is these decreases in cognitive performance tend to normalize postmenopause.
But if you just can’t wait until then, Keto could be the key.
According to the American Diabetes Association, type 2 diabetes tends to be more common after menopause
And, women diagnosed with type 1 before the age of 30—or type 2 between 30 and 39—have a higher risk of early menopause.
Research shows that keto may help in the management of type 1 diabetes by balancing insulin levels—but it’s definitely not appropriate for everyone.
While a keto diet might help manage diabetes, it also comes with the risk of diabetic ketoacidosis.
This happens when your body breaks down fat too quickly and, for those with type 1 diabetes, it can be potentially life-threatening.
5. Cardiovascular response
The effects here are both positive and negative.
As this literature review tells us, keto can have a positive effect on cardiovascular risk factors in the short term by helping reduce cholesterol and manage type 2 diabetes.
But it’s not all good news.
Because of the high-fat content of a ketogenic diet, there could be some negative effects here, too.
There’s not enough research to confirm that a keto diet can help stave off or treat cancers.
But there is some potential here.
One 2019 study suggests that the ketogenic diet could create an unfavorable metabolic environment for cancer cells.
And a low-carb diet could improve the quality of life for cancer patients.
Perhaps in the future, it may be used as a complementary therapy, but more studies and trials are needed.
7. Bone health
This 2020 study shows a potentially negative link between bone health and a ketogenic diet.
This is mainly down to the low-carb, high-fat diet having a negative impact on markers of bone remodeling.
And because menopausal women already have an increased risk of injury because of their decreasing bone density, it may be best to approach keto with caution.
Or at least until more study has been done.
Does keto increase estrogen?
Because menopause causes a decline in your estrogen supply, upping your estrogen intake seems like the right way to balance things out.
Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) is one option that can be appropriate for some women.
But, experts stress, it’s not the one one.
Natural remedies for menopause have shown equal promise for non-HRT users.
So can keto do the job?
There’s some evidence to suggest a link between estrogen and keto—but it might not offer the results you’re after right now.
In the subjects of the study—and, granted, they were mice—there was a marked difference in sex responses to the diet.
The evidence proposed that higher levels of estrogen may actually make the diet less effective.
So what about other hormonal effects? Is there anything else that’s important to know?
Does keto mess with hormones?
Again, nothing is really confirmed either way here.
And another hormone-related keto intervention?
It may help suppress your appetite by influencing ghrelin—the hunger hormone—and this could contribute to long-term weight loss.
Is keto good for perimenopause?
Keto during menopause may work for you—but it’s worth proceeding with caution.
Like any diet, keto is just not for everyone.
And if you’re not so into the keto idea but still want to explore some dietary interventions to support you through this time, there are other options.
For example, a low-fat, vegan diet may have a positive impact. 🌱
Yep, according to this 2021 study, combining a low-fat, vegan diet with whole soybeans resulted in a reduced frequency and severity of hot flashes.
Plus, an improved quality of life in psychosocial, physical, and sexual domains in postmenopausal women.
Sign us up!
No doubt about it, menopause and keto intersect in intriguing ways that can be empowering for many women.
And as you ride the wave of hormonal shifts, switching up your dietary strategies can be a valuable tool in your arsenal.
Really, it’s all about finding the right balance, understanding your unique needs, and moving compassionately through this transformative life stage.
The best menopause diet is the one that secures you ease, sustainability, and confidence.
You’ve got this.