WellBeing by Well.ca | How a Low Carb Diet Affects Women's Health
A carb is one of three macronutrients that our bodies use for energy (the other two are protein and fat). They’re all used in the body to make the energy ‘currency’ that our cells use - ATP. All three macronutrients have various roles and each is important in within the human body.
Low carb diet, women's health
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Wellness

How a Low Carb Diet Affects Women’s Health

woman making smoothie

A carb is one of three macronutrients that our bodies use for energy (the other two are protein and fat). They’re all used in the body to make the energy ‘currency’ that our cells use – ATP. All three macronutrients have various roles and each is important in within the human body.

So, why are Carbs the Bad Guy?

It turns out, carbs are the most likely macronutrient for us to overeat, causing us to gain weight and crave more. At the same time, carbs are the least likely to make us feel full or stabilize our blood sugar.

Unfortunately, many of us in our modern-day society eat more carbs than our bodies can use for fuel, so we end up storing the rest as fat. Plus, we tend to choose simple carbohydrates sources (think granola bars, cereals, chips, and breads) that give us a quick energy boost, followed by a crash a few hours later.  Complex carbs do the opposite. They’re high in fiber and allow our body to slowly use the calories for energy, without a crash or overeating (since extra fiber in foods help to keep us full). These are foods like sweet potatoes, quinoa, berries, and beans or legumes.

Keto and Women’s Health

Keto is the process of using fat for fuel instead of carbohydrates. This can help your body burn body fat, lose weight, stabilize blood sugar, and crave less. Sounds great, right? Well, sort of.

This typically means eating less than 50g of carbohydrates, but it often means eating less than 20g per day to get your body adjusted. While this shift of your macronutrients can work short-term wonders for your waistline, more than a couple of months on this strict plan can start to throw off your hormones. We’re talking mostly about the thyroid hormone, and the hormones that regulate your menstrual cycle.

This imbalance happens because your body sees carbs as a ready-to-use fuel source, and a sign that you are not starving or under stress. Long term keto diets can signal to the body that it’s under stress, which means it wants to slow down your metabolism (thyroid) and shut off fertility (loss of ovulation or irregular cycles). Keep in mind, each body is unique and not every woman will respond this way, and not after the same period of time. However, most commonly we see these effects after several months of reducing carbohydrates below 75g per day (even if you’re eating enough calories from fat and protein).

Low-Carb vs. keto

Going on a low carb diet is not the same as going keto, and many women can see a significant improvement in their health when they reduce the amount of carbs as well improve the source of their carbs. The average woman eats about 150-200g of carbs per day on a standard North American diet. This would look like cereal for breakfast, granola bars, yogurt and fruit for snacks, sandwich for lunch, and a protein, starch, veggie for dinner. By simply reducing the total carbohydrates in half, we are left with an effective low-carb (not keto) diet, without risking our hormonal health.

If you’ve been thinking of trying to lower your carbs or even jumping into a keto-based diet, be sure to get some expert advice first. Boosting your fat content too quickly can hurt your digestion, while reducing carbs too much without the proper balance can cause adrenal issues (energy, recovery, midsection weight loss). Speak with your naturopathic doctor or holistic nutritionist about getting started the right way for your body.

Have you tried low-carb or keto diets? Let us know how it went for you in the comments below!

Do you have questions about your diet? Book an appointment with Dr. Laura to discuss your customized road to more natural health.

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Please Keep In Mind

This article is for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent diseases. We cannot provide medical advice or specific advice on products related to treatments of a disease or illness. You must consult with your professional health care provider before starting any diet, exercise or supplementation program, and before taking, varying the dosage of or ceasing to take any medication.

5 Comments
  • EH
    Posted at 16:22h, 07 January Reply

    My husband and I started keto a year ago (with some cheat meals/weeks through the year). On the topic of cycles… I’ve had the most regular cycles I’ve ever had in my life since starting! I’ve never felt better and I haven’t ever been as small as I am now. Yes it’s a huge lifestyle and mindset change, but we have both absolutely flourished on keto! 🙂 We will probably change it up a bit in the coming year… but I HIGHLY suggest even just cutting down on carbs…. it’s crazy when you start looking at how much are in the everyday things we eat, and how much we truly overeat!

  • Erin Rozanski
    Posted at 15:33h, 07 April Reply

    I’m glad you mention the connection between increasing fat and trouble with digestion. I have gone low carb and have had this experience upon increasing my fat. I wasn’t eating keto, just low carb, moderate protein and, as it turns out, more fat than my body could handle. I’ve started to cut down on the fat. So, my plate ends up looking like a lot of low carb vegetables, a reasonable amount of fat, and protein. Still no grains etc. I find that my body can tell when there is too much fat, so I just listen to the signs I’m getting, whether I feel sluggish or energized etc. Also I’ve found that (of course) there is a huge difference between monounsaturated and saturated fats, as regards the body’s ability to digest. So I try to steer clear of the latter. This seems to work for me.

  • Dr. Laura Belus ND
    Posted at 19:16h, 13 April Reply

    Great point Erin! Every person is different in terms of their dietary needs. Keep in mind that trouble digesting fats can also encourage us to keep our gallbladder and liver healthy (since they are responsible for fat digestion). If you need additional support feel free to connect on a free discovery call with either myself or one of our nutritionists/dieticians to learn how you can further support your digestion at well.ca/services

  • Angela Smith
    Posted at 12:27h, 20 April Reply

    I have been on a low carbohydrate diet for a few weeks now. My energy levels have significantly increased and I am no longer craving sugars.
    I have never felt better physically and mentally.
    I do admit to not intaking as much fibre as I should however I am gradually trying to improve this.

  • Dr. Laura Belus ND
    Posted at 16:33h, 24 April Reply

    This is great to hear Angela! Getting fiber levels back up should be done gradually, feel free to reach out to one of our nutritionists or dieticians if you need any additional support virtually! well.ca/services

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