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Defined as an eating plan that decreases carbohydrate intake and focuses on increased consumption of healthy fats and proteins, the Ketogenic (Keto) diet prompts the body to enter a state of ketosis. Ketosis causes the body to consume fat and not glucose for providing the energy we need for our daily tasks. Usually, a keto diet consists of 55–60% fat intake, 30–35% protein and 5–10% carbohydrates intake. Women over 40 can find a tool for managing their bodies’ changes in the keto diet, especially during perimenopause. This article brings you relevant information about keto for women over 40. 

How does perimenopause impact women?

Many women experience changes in their bodies and disposition after 40: weight gain, lower muscle mass and bone density, poor quality sleep, fatigue, night sweats, mood swings, headaches, hot flashes, low libido. These symptoms, which occur even though no changes in life conditions, food intake or physical activity routine, are especially visible during perimenopause and menopause.

Perimenopause is when women experience these types of symptoms before menopause sets in. During perimenopause, the fat storage pattern changes, so women begin to experience weight gain mainly in their midsection and not their hips, thighs or bottom, as it happens after puberty.  

Perimenopause can start as early as the mid-30s, but for most women, it’s usually the mid-40s. Perimenopause can last from 4 to 10 years and is caused by decreasing estrogen and progesterone levels. 

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Does the keto diet affect women’s hormones?

Although no detailed studies are available to show the direct influence of keto on reproductive hormones, this diet can help regulate the balance of hormones such as insulin. In charge of transporting sugar (glucose) from the bloodstream into cells, insulin resistance is one of the manifestations of menopause. It is associated with hot flashes and night sweats and occurs when the cells don’t respond well to insulin produced by the body. Insulin resistance increases the amount of insulin, which can increase the risk of developing a chronic disease.

A study published on Springer Link indicates that the keto diet might improve insulin resistance and decrease insulin levels, which makes keto a valuable tool in regulating this hormone.

Is keto good for women in their 40’s?

Simply put, YES!

Lower estrogen levels can cause changes in the fat storage pattern, even when the food intake and energy burned during sleep are reduced. 

The hormonal changes can also cause a loss in muscle mass, where calorie-restricted diets (including keto) come into play since it enables a more efficient protein sparing.

A study published by The National Library of Medicine and conducted on almost 89,000 females between 49 and 81 years has compared the effects of 4 different diets. The study concluded that a low carb diet presented lower risks of weight gain than other diet types. The participants were allowed a daily carbohydrate intake of 163 grams, whilst the keto diet limits carbohydrates to below 50. 

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The keto diet can help women manage better their cravings and hunger and improve the intake of valuable nutrients 

During perimenopause, many women experience an increase in appetite. This increase in appetite is due to lowering estrogen levels and changes in hormones that regulate appetite – leptin, ghrelin and neuropeptide. Hence, a diet with fewer calories can help women control their cravings and hunger. Keto can help achieve this while also including:

  • vegetables and avocados for their magnesium and potassium content;
  • meat and eggs – for B vitamins and protein intake;
  • nuts and seeds for an optimised intake of magnesium and vitamin E; 
  • Green leafy vegetables whose folate content can also decrease the severity, frequency and duration of hot flashes.

How to enhance the benefits of keto for women over 40

To manage the impact of perimenopause more efficiently, women can enhance the benefits of the keto diet by taking two additional steps: stress management and physical activity. These two aspects are relevant at any age, but even more so for women that are experiencing the effects of perimenopause.

Stress management is essential during this life stage. Hot flashes, mood swings, poor sleep or night sweats are symptoms that would stress anyone, at any age, not just women experiencing perimenopause. Low levels of estrogen and progesterone are associated with a higher risk of suffering from depression and anxiety. They can have a negative impact on our body’s ability to cope with stress. Stress causes cortisol to build up, leading to abdominal fat storage.

When women see the changes their bodies go through, they start following one diet after another, trying to return to their previous shape. When these diets don’t work or don’t work as women expected, they increase their focus on losing weight, and they become even more stressed than before, which makes their efforts less efficient.

The best approach is to acknowledge what is happening and accept that no diet in the world can prevent perimenopause from happening, and understand that the symptoms cannot be avoided, just managed.

Physical activity like long walks, agility training or resistance training can help reduce stress. As we age, we tend to be involved in less physical activity, which can lead to a decrease of muscle mass, fat build-up or decrease in mineral density of bones. However, as various studies have indicated, physical activity is responsible for many health benefits, including alleviating perimenopausal symptoms.

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One final thought on keto for women over 40

Perimenopause, as well as menopause, can be a frustrating, challenging time. You need to know that you are not alone, as many other women go through the same thing worldwide. Calling on others’ support can help you navigate smoother through this challenging period.

Also, it’s essential to know that while the keto diet can improve the symptoms of these two life stages, it is not a fit-to-all solution. 

Healthy eating patterns, regular physical activity and a conversation with your healthcare provider can help you understand and manage better the symptoms and effects of perimenopause and menopause.

 Should you have any questions about how the keto diet can fit into your lifestyle when you’re over 40, feel free to contact me.