When women experience the symptoms of menopause, they can feel a range of emotions as well as general concern for their health. Menopause symptoms are challenging but a normal part of aging, even for women like us at Konscious Keto.
Between changes in weight, the notorious hot flashes, irregular sleep, low sex drive, and depression along with other symptoms, it’s no wonder this can be a troubling time for some with symptoms that can be hard to control.
Surprising or not, your diet can be a gamechanger in how you experience symptoms of menopause. The keto diet is specially designed to regulate bodily hormones that happen to be incredibly beneficial to women in menopause.
An emphasis on healthy fats and moderate protein can improve the negative side effects you can experience during menopause as well as regulate sex hormones.
This guide on the ketogenic diet menopause connection will cover:
- What is menopause and how it affects women’s bodies
- The role estrogen plays in females of all ages
- How you can increase estrogen levels
- How the keto diet can help alleviate menopausal symptoms
What is Menopause?
Typically, women begin to experience menopause after age 50. It’s a natural function that all women eventually go through. Menopause means that a woman’s body is depleted of her eggs, and she can’t make babies anymore.
The most significant sign of menopause is when the woman no longer gets her period. Her body has no need for a period anymore since it is no longer creating eggs.
A major result of menopause is the woman’s hormone levels changing drastically.
Since the body is suddenly creating fewer hormones, the body experiences other symptoms of menopause as well:
- Intolerance to glucose
- Low metabolism
- High blood pressure
- Insulin resistance
- Hot flashes
- Mood swings
- Nights sweats
- Loss of sex drive
Since not all hormones are related specifically to our sex, other hormones are affected besides estrogen.
Insulin is a hormone that regulates blood glucose. Insulin is also needed to metabolize carbohydrates. This means when a woman’s body becomes resistant to insulin, as a result of menopause, she can develop serious health issues.
Testosterone is another hormone that decreases with menopause. Yes, women have estrogen and testosterone in their bodies.
Although women’s bodies make only small amounts of testosterone, it’s needed to build muscle mass.
A decrease in muscle mass can lead to:
- An even slower metabolism
- Weight gain
- Overall speeding up of the body’s aging process
You’ll notice there’s a big focus on insulin and metabolism when it comes to menopause.
One of the best ways to counteract the negative effects of menopause on your insulin response is to adopt a diet that is designed to balance hormones and train your body to rely on other sources of energy and metabolic regulation.
This is where the ketogenic diet-menopause connection comes into play. The ketogenic diet is a low-carb, high-fat diet that is designed to do exactly what is described above: train the body to rely less on the insulin response and regulate the body’s metabolic and hormone functions.
Below is a more in depth explanation of how estrogen plays an important role in the body and how to use the keto diet to maintain your hormone balance even after menopause.
Estrogen’s Role in Your Body
Estrogen is a sex hormone that is crucial to the development and regulation of the female body. The hormone is produced in the ovaries.
Estrogen is what regulates the development of secondary sexual characteristics in women like breasts, pubic hair, and the menstrual cycle.
Once menopause takes place in a woman’s body, her estrogen production drops drastically.
Although the body is fully developed, it will go through changes if estrogen is no longer there to maintain what it has helped develop during puberty and adulthood.
Besides being a requirement for the development of secondary sexual characteristics, estrogen is needed for all-over health in women.
A woman’s reproductive health is probably the most obvious factor that is affected by estrogen. During a woman’s ovulation, estrogen levels rise and cause the release of an egg.
Listed below are the other areas of a woman’s reproductive health that estrogen is needed for:
Estrogen is needed in the fallopian tubes to build a thick wall of muscle. The muscles within the fallopian tubes contract to transport the egg and sperm.
The uterus is lined with a mucous membrane that is maintained and strengthened by estrogen. Estrogen also enhances blood flow, proteins, and enzymes.
Finally, estrogen stimulates the muscles within the uterus to contract, which is needed for giving birth to a baby and shedding tissue during menstruation.
Estrogen regulates the mammary glands in the breasts. The hormone controls the growth and swelling during puberty and ovulation.
Estrogen is also what signals the body to stop producing milk when a baby is no longer breastfeeding.
Estrogen is needed in the body to regulate cholesterol. It can increase the good HDL cholesterol and it can decrease the bad LDL cholesterol.
When blood flow needs to increase, estrogen will relax and dilate blood vessels so blood can pass through more easily.
Many people believe estrogen’s role in heart health is a reason why women are at a higher risk for heart disease, especially once they reach age 65.
When women reach menopause, their estrogen levels drop. This drop in estrogen allows bad cholesterol to build up and not enough good cholesterol is produced.
It’s possible this drop in estrogen is one of the factors in heart attacks and strokes in women.
Estrogen plays an important role in regulating insulin. The estrogen hormone is what moderates the body’s sensitivity to insulin. It plays a part in the pancreas secreting the insulin and nutrient homeostasis.
On top of that, estrogen also helps control the accumulation of lipids and inflammation.
What Happens to Estrogen as you Age?
Once women reach age 50, their estrogen production changes drastically. It’s part of the aging process that all women go through. It is about this time the body is unable to produce eggs.
Since estrogen is a hormone, the body no longer needs the same amount it did before to regulate sexual functions.
Your body still produces low levels of estrogen during and after menopause, but in a much lower quantity.
Estrogen is still needed for regulating your sensitivity to insulin, controlling inflammation, stimulating blood flow, and monitoring good and bad cholesterol.
Since estrogen production becomes so low, these other areas are affected. A low estrogen level can make women in menopause more likely to gain weight, become at risk of stroke or heart attacks, or develop diabetes.
There used to be a solution to low estrogen, called hormone replacement therapy (HRT). HRT was used to increase estrogen levels. New evidence has shown that there are long-term side effects of using HRT that can be fatal.
Short-term use of hormone replacement therapy is still sometimes prescribed, but it is often advised to not use it long-term, even during menopause.
The other way to help supplement a loss in estrogen is by consuming phytoestrogens. Phytoestrogens naturally occur in plant-based foods.
Again, replacing estrogen can have harmful long-term effects, but consuming food with phytoestrogens can help reduce symptoms of menopause.
Phytoestrogen foods are listed in greater detail further down in this guide.
Signs You May Need More Estrogen
No matter the age, all women can experience low estrogen. The most susceptible to low estrogen production is girls who have not yet reached puberty and women who are about to go through menopause.
However, men also have some estrogen and can also experience the negative side effects of a deficit.
The symptoms of low estrogen are very similar to the symptoms of Menopause, but there are more to consider:
- Painful sex
- Increase in UTIs
- Irregular or missed periods
- Hot flashes
- Sensitive breasts
- Brain fog
Hormone replacement therapy may not be the best way to combat your low estrogen, but there are natural ways you can help stimulate estrogen production, whether you are pre-, post-, or mid-menopause.
How to Increase Estrogen Naturally
One of the fabulous benefits of the ketogenic diet menopause connection is that it helps to increase and maintain estrogen levels naturally.
Not only can you eat keto foods that have estrogen in them already, but the ketogenic lifestyle helps combat the areas that estrogen typically helps regulate.
Eat More of These Foods
There are 4 main keto foods that are especially helpful for women. The foods listed below can directly affect your hormone level balance and help combat the negative metabolic symptoms of Menopause.
Fish that are oily or fatty are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s are very helpful in reducing inflammation, which is common when the body experiences a hormonal imbalance.
Fatty fish include salmon, tuna, and mackerel. Omega-3 fatty acids are also considered helpful in reducing mood swings.
Women with Menopause have been known to have iron deficiencies and develop anemia. Iron supplements are available, but it’s also very easy to over-consume iron.
The best way to have an iron-rich diet is simply to eat iron-rich foods. The keto diet is chock full of these and include:
- Red meats
- Organ meats
There was a study done that suggests green tea may improve insulin sensitivity and overall metabolism (1). Green tea is also believed to help reduce inflammation.
An antioxidant in green tea, called epigallocatechin gallate, may help manage Menopause symptoms. However, the benefits of green tea are a common reason it is marketed as a weight loss tool.
Phytoestrogens are plant-based, naturally occurring estrogens that may help women who have Menopause balance their hormones. There are several types of keto foods you can eat that are rich with phytoestrogens:
- Soy sauce
- Other soy-based foods
- Pumpkin seeds
Cut Down On Sugar
Monitoring sugar intake is very important for women to do, especially during Menopause. Again, this is related to the body’s natural insulin response.
As mentioned earlier in this guide, a woman’s body can become resistant to insulin, even if sugar is still being eaten.
The best way to combat this is to train the body to use ketones for regulating your metabolism and other bodily functions instead of insulin.
Sugar is a component of carbohydrates. By eating a low amount of carbs on the keto diet, you are training your body to produce more ketones and less insulin.
This is great for women during Menopause because cutting down on sugar means they are less likely to experience the consequences of insulin resistance.
Use a Ketone Supplement
Sometimes plant-based foods alone are not enough when it comes to training your body to produce ketones instead of insulin. One way to directly supplement ketones into your diet is through the use of exogenous ketones.
Exogenous ketones are beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB), and they usually come in a powdered form, much like a protein powder. You can blend exogenous ketones into your keto smoothies, baking mixes, or anywhere else that you see fit.
By directly consuming ketones, your body has just received a fuel source it can immediately use to regulate hormones and metabolism.
Exogenous ketones, then, can be used to help combat your Menopausal symptoms in relation to insulin.
Keto Activate is a great and popular type of exogenous ketones. Chocolate ketones won’t make your food taste bitter, and it’s easy to incorporate into the keto diet.
Don’t Exercise Too Much
Exercising has not been proven to directly help during Menopause. However, using exercise to regularly maintain a healthy weight is important in managing other symptoms.
The great news is you don’t have to exercise a lot to maintain a healthy weight, and you don’t have to do strenuous activity when you do exercise.
There are two reasons why doing intense exercise on the keto diet is bad:
- The keto diet is not designed to fuel intense workouts and massive muscle growth. When your body naturally produces ketones in a regulated manner, it is best to perform low-impact workouts in short increments. Your body will not have the energy for a high-performing workout without a surge of blood glucose, which is what you are trying to avoid.
- Intense exercise makes you sweat. Not only is your body losing water when you sweat, but it’s also losing essential electrolytes your body needs to stay healthy.
Here are a few types of low-impact exercises you can do while on the keto diet to help maintain your healthy weight during Menopause:
- Low-Impact strength training
- Basic stretching and stability practices
Drink More Herbal Tea
Herbal teas have all sorts of benefits, depending on the type of tea. Herbal teas are especially helpful in the keto diet and for women with menopause, but their effects can benefit anyone.
Menopause comes with symptoms such as hot flashes, mood swings, inflammation, and drops in estrogen.
Listed below are herbal teas that have shown to be helpful in alleviating some of these symptoms:
- Black Cohosh - hot flashes
- Chasteberry - mood swings and hot flashes
- Ginkgo - mood swings and brain fog
- Maca Root - low sex drive
- Red Clover - hormone imbalance and hot flashes
- Valerian - headaches
- Green - insulin sensitivity and high cholesterol (4)
While Menopause cannot be stopped, the keto diet is very useful in improving how women over 50 experience their Menopause.
The foods eaten in the keto diet can help maintain an estrogen level as well as supplement the body with minerals estrogen typically helps produce.
Adding exogenous ketones to the body and cutting down on sugar will help reduce the likelihood of becoming resistant to insulin, which can result in diabetes.
Using ketones as a fuel source also helps balance the sex hormones, reduce hot flashes, and maintain a healthy weight.
Foods you can consume on your keto diet to aid the body in Menopause include fatty or oily fish, green tea, and other foods rich in iron.
Exercise is also an important factor in staying healthy during Menopause and on your keto diet. Low impact workouts requiring short bursts of energy will be the most beneficial in managing weight.
The ketogenic diet can be a great aid in making Menopause an easy and normal part of the aging process, and there is still ongoing research being done to find the full benefits of the keto diet and estrogen.