Average Age: Puberty – ~40’s
Characterization: Normal Menstrual Cycle
General overview: The normal pre-menopausal cycle is 28-days in length and consists of the follicular phase (day 1-13) and the luteal phase (day 15-28). Menses (period) occurs around day 1-5 and ovulation occurs at approximately day 14.
Ovulation is the process by which an “egg” or a follicle is released for fertilization (by sperm) and implantation into the uterus. Once the egg is released, the corpus luteum forms in its remnants and produced progesterone. Progesterone acts to protect the fetus if a fertilized egg is implanted (which is why progesterone levels are high after ovulation). If pregnancy does not occur, then the uterine lining is shed (menses/menstrual bleeding) for the process to occur again.
For more information on the menstrual cycle and recommendations for how to manipulate your diet and exercise around your cycle, check out the Women’s Health Keto Class, which goes over this in much more depth.
Average Age: ~40’s, lasts 4-5 years
Characterization: Abnormal Cycle, decrease in estrogen levels
Symptoms: Irregular periods, weight gain, mood swings, hot flashes, night sweats, decreased libido, etc
General Overview: Perimenopause is a period before menopause (the complete stopping of the menstrual cycle) occurs. This point in time is characterized by low estrogen levels, which can lead to a variety of symptoms. While the process can’t be prevented, symptoms can be minimized or treated. One key way to improve symptoms is to increase estrogen levels. Always remember to speak with your physician about your specific needs and they will likely either suggest medication to increase or stabilize estrogen levels or to increase estrogen-rich foods in your diet. Some keto-friendly, estrogen-rich foods include flax seeds, sesame seeds, and soy.
Menopause & Postmenopause
Average age: ~51-55
Characterization: 12 consecutive months since the last period
General overview: Menopause is characterized by permanent cessation of period, reduced estrogen and progesterone levels. Postmenopause is the period of time after menopause. Symptoms of menopause include:
- Easier to detected: hot flashes, vaginal dryness, decreased libido, skin drying, skin sagging
- Harder to spot: Increased risk for osteoporosis, insulin resistance, muscle loss
Similar to perimenopause, this process cannot be stopped, but stabilizing hormone levels can help improve symptoms. Some ways to improve estrogen levels include:
- Increasing phytoestrogens in your diet. Phytoestrogens bind to estrogen receptors and carry out actions similar to estrogen, but not all are the exact same. In fact, some phytoestrogens can increase estrogen, while others can decrease it. For example, wheat bran can decrease estrogen levels, whereas sesame seeds increase levels. Try adding foods like flax seeds, sesame seeds, and soy into your diet.
- Increase other needed minerals into your diet! Other micronutrients can help improve symptoms of menopause. For example, iodine can help improve thyroid health, which can help prevent associated weight gain. Foods like shrimp and kelp are rich in iodine. Cognitive health can decline as you age, so foods, like fatty fish, that are rich in DHA are important! As mentioned, one other side effect of menopause is increased risk for osteoporosis. This is due to the fact estrogen helps protect bone health, but when estrogen decreases, it is important to focus on alternative ways to prevent bone injuries. Foods like broccoli, sesame seeds, and cheese are all keto-friendly and rich in calcium. Additionally, vitamin D is also important for bone health and can be obtained through foods like eggs and mushrooms, or by simply spending more time outside!
- Your doctor may prescribe mediations to help increase estrogen levels. They may also recommend supplements like DHEA, which is a precursor to estorgen.
- Your diet plays a huge role in hormone production! Research actually suggests that the ketogenic diet may improve hormone balance to improve symptoms of menopause direction. Additionally, the ketogenic diet may help indirectly by improving metabolism, reducing insulin resistance, reducing inflammation and oxidative stress, and protecting muscle density.