Does the Keto Diet Impact Fertility?
You’ve probably heard of the ketogenic diet. The keto diet is a hot topic and for good reason; it’s said to offer many health benefits like:
- Curing epilepsy and PCOS
- Promoting weight loss
- Stabilizing blood sugar level
- Helping people conceive after years of infertility
What is keto?
The keto diet is low-carb and high in fat in order to keep your body in a metabolic state called ketosis.
What it Does
Our bodies normally burn carbohydrates for energy. When you restrict the number of carbs, the body is in a ketosis state.
Instead of burning carbs, the body will now break down stored fat which is a more consistent form of energy. You’re literally turning your body from a sugar burner to a fat burner.
In the process, your body creates molecules called ketones, a source of fuel for the body.
Effects on Fertility
We’ve been told sugar is bad since we were kids – it gives us cavities and provides little to no nutrition.
But did you know our body breaks carbs down into sugar too (glucose specifically)? That’s right. Those salty fries and bread turn into sugar. Try as we may, sugar is hard to avoid. And it causes many negative, lasting effects on the body.
The higher the sugar intake, the more erratic blood sugar levels become (cue the sugar crash). When cells try to break down sugar into energy, major structural and hormonal imbalances occur:
- Cells become insulin resistant. They’re no longer able to metabolize sugar.
- The body produces more glycation end products. These molecules trigger more inflammation and contribute to molecular dysfunction.
These imbalances wreak havoc on our reproductive system. Sperm and egg cells may not function the way they should, therefore, causing miscarriages.
In fact, some Reproductive Endocrinologists, including Dr. Kiltz from CNY, suggest their patients use keto to improve the rate of success for IVF.
Keto Quick Tips
We’re not sugarcoating this – a keto diet is harder than it looks.
Keto has been sensationalized as a means to eat unhealthy food, but that’s not how it works. Nutrient-rich foods are key for a successful keto diet. Here are a few tips to get all the health and healing benefits from the diet:
- Everyone digests carbs differently. It comes down to genetics. Some peoples’ bodies are faster at processing carbs than others.
A fun way to find out how fast your body processes carbs is by doing the cracker test. You take one cracker and chew for 30 seconds. Because our saliva breaks down carbs into sugars, you’ll notice the cracker beginning to get sweet. If it’s within the 30 seconds, your body is able to quickly process carbs.
- Quality matters. For example, there’s a big difference in the nutritional makeup between grass-fed beef or grass finished compared to a factory-raised, grain-fed beef.
The highest quality food (and organic when possible) remains key here.
- There are different versions of keto. Your version of keto may be different than your friend, spouse or what you read online.
Male and female carb intake can be different due to hormone differences. Sometimes, a “carb up” will be necessary to regulate hormones, and that’s ok. It’s about finding the right balance for you.
- Metabolic flexibility is an option. Metabolic flexibility occurs when your body is completely adapted to fat. In other words, it can switch back from the ketosis state.
It’s similar to cyclical keto, but the body must be fully adapted to fat first. If not, it’s likely you won’t see the benefits and may actually feel worse.
- Fat doesn’t make you fat. To be successful with your keto diet, you must unlearn the ideas that all fat is bad or that fat makes you fat.
Due to misinformation, trendy low-fat diets have become popular since the 70’s. Now, there’s a wealth of info out there that debunks this false science. Check out Nutrition Coalition for more info.
Finding the Right Balance
Whether you start keto or do the basics to eliminate toxic foods while on your path to parenthood, it’s about listening and being receptive to your body to find the right balance for you.
You should consult your physician or reproductive endocrinologist before switching to a keto diet as it may not satisfy everyone’s nutritional needs.
For more information visit www.progyny.com/education.