Menopause is a biological process marked by the cessation of menses and a natural decline in reproductive hormones in women. It can be accompanied by symptoms like hot flashes, sleep problems, and mood changes (1Trusted Source).
Modifying your diet under the guidance of a healthcare professional is a simple strategy that may help balance your hormone levels and alleviate certain symptoms of menopause.
In particular, the ketogenic diet is a high fat, very low carb diet that’s often recommended to provide relief from menopause symptoms.
However, it may also be associated with several side effects and not a great fit for everyone.
This article reviews how the ketogenic diet may affect women with menopause.
The ketogenic diet may be associated with several benefits, specifically for menopause.
Improves insulin sensitivity
Menopause can cause several changes in hormone levels.
In addition to altering levels of sex hormones like estrogen and progesterone, menopause can decrease insulin sensitivity, which can impair your body’s ability to use insulin effectively (2Trusted Source).
Insulin is a hormone that’s responsible for transporting sugar from your bloodstream to your cells, where it can be used as fuel (3Trusted Source).
Some research suggests that the ketogenic diet may improve insulin sensitivity to promote better blood sugar control (4Trusted Source).
One study found that following a ketogenic diet for 12 weeks improved insulin levels and insulin sensitivity in women with endometrial or ovarian cancer (5Trusted Source, 6Trusted Source, 7Trusted Source).
However, it’s unclear whether the diet could offer similar health benefits for menopausal women without these types of cancer.
Another review reported that reducing carb consumption may decrease insulin levels and improve hormonal imbalances, which could be especially beneficial for menopause (8Trusted Source).
Not only that, but studies also suggest that insulin resistance may be linked to a higher risk of hot flashes, which are a common side effect of menopause (9Trusted Source, 10Trusted Source).
May prevent weight gain
Weight gain is a symptom of menopause that’s often attributed to alterations in hormone levels and a slower metabolism.
In addition to experiencing a decrease in calorie needs during menopause, some women may undergo height loss, which could contribute to an increase in body mass index (BMI) (11Trusted Source).
Although research on the ketogenic diet specifically is limited, some studies have found that decreasing carb intake may help prevent weight gain associated with menopause.
For example, one study in over 88,000 women found that following a low carb diet was linked to a decreased risk of postmenopausal weight gain.
Conversely, following a low fat diet was tied to an increased risk of weight gain among participants (12Trusted Source).
However, it’s important to note that the low carb diet in this study was not as restrictive as the ketogenic diet in terms of limiting carb intake.
Could help combat cravings
Many women experience increased hunger and cravings during the transition into menopause (13Trusted Source).
Several studies have found that the ketogenic diet may decrease hunger and appetite, which could be especially beneficial during menopause (14Trusted Source).
According to one study in 95 people, following the ketogenic diet for 9 weeks increased levels of glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1), which is a hormone that regulates appetite, in women (15Trusted Source).
Similarly, another small study noted that a low calorie ketogenic diet decreased appetite and levels of ghrelin, the hunger hormone (16Trusted Source).
However, more studies are needed to evaluate how the ketogenic diet may affect cravings and appetite in menopausal women specifically.
SUMMARYSome research suggests that the ketogenic diet may improve insulin sensitivity, prevent weight gain, and decrease appetite and cravings.
While the ketogenic diet may offer several benefits for women going through menopause, there are some side effects to consider.
First, research suggests that the ketogenic diet may increase levels of cortisol, which is a stress hormone (17Trusted Source).
High levels of cortisol can cause side effects like weakness, weight gain, high blood pressure, and bone loss (18Trusted Source).
Increased levels of cortisol can also increase levels of estrogen, a sex hormone that slowly starts to decline during menopause (19Trusted Source, 20Trusted Source).
This can cause a condition called estrogen dominance, meaning that your body has too much estrogen and not enough progesterone (another sex hormone) to help balance it out (21Trusted Source).
Although more research is needed in humans, one study in mice found that administering a high fat diet increased estrogen levels and weight gain, compared with a control group (22Trusted Source).
Excess levels of estrogen can decrease the production of thyroid hormones, which may cause side effects like low energy levels, constipation, and weight gain (23Trusted Source, 24Trusted Source).
This may be one reason why many women have difficulty maintaining weight loss in the long term on the ketogenic diet.
The ketogenic diet can also cause the keto flu, which is a term used to describe the set of symptoms that occur as your body transitions into ketosis, a metabolic state in which your body starts burning fat for fuel instead of sugar.
Furthermore, the keto flu could worsen certain symptoms of menopause, including fatigue, hair loss, sleep problems, and mood changes (25Trusted Source, 26Trusted Source).
Still, keto flu symptoms typically resolve within a few days to a few weeks and can be minimized by staying hydrated and getting plenty of electrolytes (25Trusted Source).
Keep in mind that the ketogenic diet is intended to be a short-term diet plan and should not be followed for extended periods.
Additionally, although the diet may result in temporary weight loss, many people often regain some weight back once they resume a normal diet (27Trusted Source).
Be sure to consult a healthcare professional before making any changes to your diet to prevent any adverse effects on your health and ensure that you’re meeting your nutritional needs.
SUMMARYThe ketogenic diet may increase levels of cortisol and estrogen, which can alter thyroid function and contribute to weight gain. The keto flu may also temporarily worsen certain symptoms of menopause, including fatigue, hair loss, and mood changes.
The ketogenic diet may offer benefits for women going through menopause, including increased insulin sensitivity, decreased weight gain, and reduced cravings.
However, it can also alter hormone levels, which could affect thyroid function and cause several adverse effects. What’s more, the keto flu may temporarily worsen symptoms of menopause during your body’s transition into ketosis.
Though the ketogenic diet may work for some women going through menopause, keep in mind that it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution for everyone.
Be sure to speak with your healthcare provider, set realistic expectations, listen to your body, and experiment to find what works for you.