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Can the Keto Diet Affect Our Hormones?

Feb 15 2020

Can the Keto Diet Affect Our Hormones?

How the Keto Diet Can Be Harmful to Natural Hormone Production 

 The keto diet has risen in popularity in our current day and age as both men and women have embraced this fad diet as a solution to their weight loss goals. This specific diet heralds weight loss by altering the consumption and quantity of the macro-nutrient, carbohydrates. There are three primary macronutrients that have a variety of purposes within our bodies: fats, carbs, and proteins. Each has unique properties and effects on the healthy functioning of our biology. Within the study of human biology, we understand that the human body is always trying to maintain an equilibrium or a perfect balance between all it’s working parts. This balance entails the food we consume to power the many moving parts at play. The nutrients we consume directly impact the various internal systems at play, especially that of the endocrine system. 

 Our endocrine system is responsible for the release of hormones, key molecular signallers that convey instructions and provide a catalyst for activating or deactivating internal processes. It’s often we see that diets that place extreme restrictions on the consumption of macronutrients can have harmful effects on the body’s natural hormone production. As a result, hormonal levels deviate and fluctuate, causing physiological symptoms to manifest.

This rapid-acting diet purports feeling more satiated than other diets while also touting improved mood, mental focus, and energy all by restricting carbs. Instead of carbs, you’re meant to retrain the body to utilize fats primarily. By switching to fats as the primary energy source over carbs, the body enters a state of ketosis. Dietary fats and stored body fats are then converted into ketones which replace sugars, or glucose, as the body’s energy source. So now, the body is pulling from your stored fat to burn as energy necessary to function correctly. When such a drastic alteration, such as changing the body’s energy source, occurs, there’s bound to be some kick-back from our biology.

It’s been found that while there are success stories from both men and women across the board, it’s essential to look at the long-term picture. In reality, the keto diet affects men and women disproportionately. Women, in the short-term, achieve drastic fat loss, but long-term have seen the reversal of their progress with other adverse side effects. On top of having the weight return, women are more prone to diminished muscle mass and contracting adrenal fatigue. It’s this adrenal fatigue that has ramifications on the body’s hormone production. 

Can Keto Mess With Your Hormones?

The female body has particular nutritional needs that emphasize complex carbohydrates for energy. Without those complex carbs, women experience shifts in serotonin, progesterone, and insulin for metabolism. Those three shifts can cause insulin levels to rise and cause those who’ve lost weight to as quickly regain much of it back. Furthermore, cortisol levels rise as a result of the body burning stored fat as well as muscle. The use of protein as an energy source places undue stress on the body, which spikes cortisol (the stress hormone). Prolonged cortisol levels cause hormonal imbalances where estrogen and testosterone over-compensate while progesterone levels straggle. This imbalance of hormones can exacerbate menstruation and conditions like endometriosis. It’s also been found that there’s a correlation between prolonged high cortisol levels with diabetes as the body becomes more insulin and glucose resistant. Read more on the impact of obesity on hormone production.

What is trying to be argued against keto runs counter to what the diet claims. Keto proponents insist that this diet can achieve hormonal balance or aid in restoring balance, but, in reality, dragged out nutrient restrictions aren’t conducive to such an argument. In fact, diets based so high in fat have further effects on women. Fatty diets cause an increasing shift in estrogen that is known to be capable of suppressing the thyroid, an organ that regulates the body’s metabolic rate (see thyroid diseases). This suppression leads to weight gain. Given the sensitive and complex nature of the hormonal requirements in women, putting that kind of suppression on the thyroid affects multiple hormonal interactions. Women on keto may, in the infancy or budding months of the diet, experience weight loss, but with enough time, hormonal imbalances as drastic as what’s caused by keto can cause a plateau or weight gain with time.

Proponents of keto view this not so much as a fad diet but more of a change to one’s lifestyle. It’s basic biology that this kind of lifestyle isn’t prudent towards sustained healthiness. Essentially, weight loss happens within this diet solely by tricking the body; however, you can’t trick it forever, and that’s when we begin to see some damaging health effects.

While keto is mainstream within our society, it’s important to recognize that just because everyone is doing it doesn’t necessarily make it safe or responsible to do so. If you are interested in a medically supervised weight loss program, Vitality Aesthetic & Regenerative Medicine can provide you with information you need to help determine if it’s right for you. You may also consider hormone therapy to lose weight. Our patients are provided baseline blood work to determine any existing deficiencies and are monitored throughout to evaluate their progress. We provide support and advise you every step of the way.