The Keto Period Survival Guide
It’s that time of the month. Even though you are keto and loving it, your period can send all your best intentions out the window. Bloating, weight gain, cravings, ravenous hunger, we’ve all been there. And if you are new to the keto diet, your period might change.
So how do you deal with all the normal menstrual symptoms that happen around your period, along with any changes in your period, and still stay the keto course?
No worries, ladies. I’ve got your back.
Let’s talk Keto Periods
Can a Keto Diet affect your Menstrual Cycle?
Symptoms like cramps, bloating, weight gain, mood swings and irritability around your period are usually caused by rapid and normal changes in hormone levels. Changing levels of hormones like estrogen and progesterone, among others, are necessary for the different stages of the menstrual cycle. Without changes in hormone levels, your body wouldn’t be prepared for a possible pregnancy or be able to have a period to reset the system.
While hormone fluctuations are natural and normal, if you are new to Keto, you may find that your menstrual symptoms are accentuated.
Why Keto Changes Your Period
There are a number of reasons why starting a keto diet might change your periods, and most of them are connected to hormones.
A ketogenic diet can cause changes in the ratio of estrogen to progesterone (NCBI Research Link), two of the big players in the female cycle. For people with a large amount of weight to lose, there is often rapid weight loss in the first couple of months on Keto. That rapid weight loss changes the estrogen-progesterone balance.
This is because estrogen & other sex hormones can be produced by and stored in fat cells (Science Daily Research Link). When the triglycerides that are stored in those fat cells are released for energy use (yeah, ketosis!), estrogen is released along with it. This causes a spike in estrogen in your system, which throws the balance with progesterone out of whack. This state of estrogen dominance can have numerous effects on your period.
Keto affects your hormones in some very good ways, namely by reducing insulin because of your reduced carb intake. However, reduced insulin doesn’t exist in a vacuum. All of our hormones affect each other, and reducing your insulin level may affect your sex hormones, as well. Insulin resistance and hyperinsulimia will cause a decrease in estrogen production. If you lower your insulin levels, you start to correct those insulin disorders, and you will most likely correct that estrogen deficiency, which is a good thing. But all adjustments in hormones take time and you may see some menstrual side effects while your body sorts it all out.
Stress, both mental and physical, causes hormone changes, too. Transitioning to ketosis is perceived by your body as a stressor, which can raise cortisol, another major hormone. If you’ve already got a lot of stress in your life (and who doesn’t?!), a big change in diet will add to that stress load.
When stress levels are high, your body increases production of cortisol, and progesterone levels also fluctuate. This again throws the estrogen-progesterone ratio out of balance, and menstrual irregularities may occur. Once you are ketone-adapted, though, cortisol levels return to normal and your periods should, too.
It’s not all bad news, either. Some of the very good changes that a ketogenic diet can bring for women include increased fertility and possible treatment for PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome), a common endocrine disorder that is associated with obesity, chronically high insulin levels and insulin resistance.
If you are a Keto diet beginner and seeing abnormalities in your period (heavy periods, more frequent periods, losing your period or more), chances are your body is just making adjustments to your new normal. A ketogenic diet brings big changes, and they are probably very good for you in the long run. But big changes require some time to adjust, so be patient while your body figures out the new system.
Hormonal birth control seems to make matters worse but most women report that their cycle still evens out on its own, without changing their birth control routine.
If your menstrual changes are extreme, visit with your medical professional to make sure everything is a-okay.
With time, your ketogenic diet will most likely help you achieve more balanced, ideal hormone levels. Once you are ketone adapted and your body has found its new normal hormone levels, you may find that you have less negative symptoms around your period. Hang in there!
How to deal with your Keto Period
Handling the negative symptoms associated with your period is top priority while your body is making the transition to being ketone adopted. If you are on a Keto diet in order to lose weight, you may be frustrated by weight gain right before or during your period. This is a common and most likely due to water retention.
Do yourself a favor, and put the scale away for the days around your period. If you do gain some weight around your period, you will lose it when your period is done. Watching the scale closely during this time is only going to lead to more frustration.
Let the scale go and focus on taking care of yourself.
Be Prepared for Period Cravings
Food cravings are a big one for me. Sometimes they are nutritional (I seriously crave liver around my period, which is high in iron, a mineral we lose during menstruation.) More often, though, cravings are emotional.
Many women crave sweet and salty foods, and the temptation to go back to old favorites from your previous way of eating can be rough. Eating high carb or highly processed foods will most likely make you feel like crap, causing more bloating and cravings. Stay away from that vicious downward spiral with these awesome Keto period friendly foods.
- Keto Vanilla Ice Cream – This easy low carb recipe is incredibly and has only 5 ingredients. Rich, creamy, and delicious, it’s also almost zero carb. If you don’t have an ice cream churn, my Chocolate Avocado Mousse will also do the trick for ice cream cravings, and you only need a few minutes and a food processor.
- Chocolate– My go-to chocolate when I have a craving is often the Avocado Mousse or Chocolate Coconut Fat Bombs. If I really want a chocolate bar, I reach for Lily’s 70% Dark Chocolate Stevia Sweetened Chocolate Bar with Sea Salt. Since it’s sweetened with stevia, I know I don’t have to worry as much about limiting my serving size in order to keep my carbs down. And the less will power I need during my period, the better!
- Salty – If you’re craving salty foods, you’ve got a number of great Keto options. Salted nuts that are dry roasted are great, and we love Royal Hawaiian Macadamias with Sea Salt. Pickles and pork rinds dipped in any of our Fat Booster dip recipes are also good. For a meal, you can’t beat our Chili Cheese Dog Casserole, which is serious comfort food.
- Taco Bowl – I often crave Mexican food, too. Do you? But I’d much rather stay at home in my comfy pants than go out to a restaurant, and our No Cook Keto Taco Bowl is ready in five minutes. Like all the recipes in our No Cook Keto meal plan, there’s no cooking, it’s fast, easy and hits the spot.
- Check out Our Favorite Keto Snacks post for even more ideas!
If you’re hungry, eat. There is a lot going on in your body during your period, and there very well may be a good reason for extra hunger.
There’s no need to deprive yourself. Stick to Keto friendly foods and don’t stress if you go over your normal daily calories.
A few extra keto calories won’t derail you. Why add the extra stress of fighting your hunger to the mix? It will pass and you’ll be back on your normal keto game in just a few days.
No matter what feelings, cravings and symptoms you experience around your period, don’t toss in the towel. Keto is still here when your period is done, and everyday is a new day.
Whether you rock your period this month or it rolls you, you can succeed on keto. A little forgiveness and grace go a long way, particularly when you aim them at yourself.
What are your favorite period survival tips? Leave me a comment with what helps you through!
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Founder Advantage Meals
Angela earned her Master’s Degree in Holistic Nutrition 14 years ago and began her lifelong journey of nutrition and wellness learning. She began keto meal planning and cooking over a decade ago when she began working with local clients who were under the direct supervision of a medical doctor. Angela is the author of No Cook Keto, the easiest keto meal plan available.
Disclaimer: I am neither a licensed nutritionist nor medical professional. I never prescribe diets. I only share my personal experiences and those of my clients for informational purposes only. Nutrition details are provided for informational purposes only, and should not be considered medical nutritional data. You should consult your medical professional before making any major changes in the way you eat.