How Ketogenic Diet Impacts Women

I started my experimentation with the Ketogenic Diet (or “keto” for short) a month back [that would be the June of 2016]. It involves eating less than 20g carbohydrates per day. There has been loads of researching, learning, tracking, shopping, and cooking. Hopefully I will come back to report my results and share my learning here shortly.

Magnesium supplement

Magnesium supplement

For now, I want to make a note of this experience.

I have been spotting for the last three days and it was odd because I had not missed any BC pill. Without further delay (three days was already too long to ignore it any more), I set out on my Internet search for the probable reason. There were two things to check out - one, the impact of diet switch to keto, specifically in women and in women on BC pills, and second, the addition of magnesium supplement (which, in my case, exactly coincided with the onset of the spotting). I was horrified to discover that my new keto diet might be the culprit. :( (None of the readily available literature on the Internet indicated spotting as a side effect of the magnesium supplement.) While browsing through the search results, I was more shocked to learn of the astonishing number of keto women who suffer because of the impact this diet has on menstruation and in the number of different ways women suffer!! I could not have imagined that this diet could impact women differently had I not shown the symptoms myself. Here are some of the articles and threads that I found insightful:

Estrogen is stored in fat cells. On a low/no carb diet you lose fat at an accelerated rate because your body is going through ketosis and is now using fat for energy as opposed to glucose (sugar/carbs). As you are losing the fat the estrogen is also being released into your body. Which affects your birth control in such a way as to induce a period.

All female patients reported menstrual irregularities. This is not uncommon, considering that menstrual irregularities are reported in other high-ketone states such as starvation.

Certainly science has shown that leptin levels are sensitive to both calorie restriction and carbohydrate restriction and that women experience a greater leptin decline than men in response to dietary restriction and weight loss. More and more research is indicating that leptin is an important endocrine mediator, acting on pituitary, adrenal, thyroid and gonadal axes, as well as playing a role in bone formation. Another well-documented side effect of both ketogenic diets and starvation is bone demineralization. Starvation and carbohydrate restriction can also both produce thyroid downregulation.