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 (1).
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.
Insulin is a hormone that’s responsible for transporting sugar from your bloodstream to your cells, where it can be used as fuel (3).
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 (8).
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) (11).
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 (12).
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
Several studies have found that the ketogenic diet may decrease hunger and appetite, which could be especially beneficial during menopause (14).
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 (15).
However, more studies are needed to evaluate how the ketogenic diet may affect cravings and appetite in menopausal women specifically.
Some 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 (17).
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 (22).
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.
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 (25).
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 (27).
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.
The 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.