As I learn more and more about the ketogenic diet, I’m fascinated by how many benefits there are to eating a higher fat diet. I was surprised
to discover that many people in the ketogenic dieting groups reported not only
weight loss, but also improved health. Many of them had been suffering from polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), but after a time on the ketogenic diet, they were able to conceive. Many of them refer to their children as “keto babies.” After seeing many of them chatting and talking about their improved fertility, I decided to do some research into why the ketogenic diet was beneficial.
Causes of Infertility
The medical profession defines infertility as the inability to get pregnant after one year of trying. Infertility is commonly thought of as a woman’s issue, however it can affect men as well. In thirty five percent of couples, the man is having an issue with infertility. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that approximately twelve percent of women in the United States ages 15-44 have difficulty conceving a child and carrying it to term.
The most common causes of infertility are insulin resistance, obesity, and inappropriate hormone levels. When your body is experiencing any of these conditions, it becomes more difficult to get pregnant and carry a child. There are too many additional demands from your body in order to recreate an additional life when you have hormone issues, obesity or insulin problems.
Insulin and Fertility
Insulin has an impact on your fertility and in the conception process. Insulin is an important hormone that controls how your body changes food into energy by absorbing glucose from your bloodstream and moving it into your cells. Every function of the body relies on having normal insulin levels.
PCOS and insulin resistance often go hand in hand. Insulin resistance occurs when insulin is chronically elevated. Excessive carbohydrate intake and physical inactivity lead to insulin resistance.
When you are insulin resistant, your cells stop responding normally to insulin. Your body can’t easily absorb the blood glucose from your blood stream. Therefore, it produces more and more insulin to keep up with the glucose demand.
Elevated levels of insulin stimulate the ovaries to produce more androgens, which are “male hormones.” This leads to the development of PCOS.
Insulin resistance is strongly associate with type 2 Diabetes. Type 2 Diabetes is connected to female sexual dysfunction and issues with the fallopian tubes, uterus and ovaries. Often women who suffer from type 2 Diabetes have difficulty in the bedroom with desire, lubrication, arousal and pain during intercourse. When sex is avoided due to pain and lack of desire, the chances of becoming pregnant severly decline.
It is important to note that over seventy percent of women with PCOS have insulin resistance. Statistics also demonstrate that over eigthy percent of women in the United States with PCOS are obese or overweight. These factors comine and contribute to infertility.
Improves Conditions that Harm Fertility
The conditions that are playing a role in infertility – obesity, insulin resistance and PCOS – have shown improvement for people who are following the ketogenic diet. A ketogenic diet can help women lose weight quickly and effectively. It improves type 2 Diabetes by reducing insulin resistance. Getting insulin levels normal and keeping them there can trigger healing within the body and assist proper function of the other hormones that support pregnancy.
Research has demonstrated that obesity can factor into a woman’s infertility. Women who are overweight or obese have a tendency to struggle with mensturation and ovulation issues. Their conception rates tend to be lower. They also often suffer from miscarriages and other pregnancy complications. Studies have shown that the risk of infertility is three times as high in obese women. The causes of obesity can vary, however the ketogenic diet is very beneficial for weight loss. Getting out of the obese category will improve your chances at becoming pregnant.
Hormones and Fertility
There are some key hormones that required in order to have a baby and for your body to function properly. Some of the hormones that the body produces are known as androgens. Androgens are a group of hormones that are commonly referred to as “male hormones.” Men and women need androgens, but they require different amounts of this hormone.
Androgens are produced in the ovaries, adrenal glands and fat cells in women. They play an important role in many hormonal functions, such as the synthesis of estrogen, puberty, prevention of bone loss, and sex drive.
Excess amounts of androgens in women can produce irregular menstrual cycles, acne and excessive hair growth. Having an excess of fat cells can lead to an overproduction of androgens.
The primary femal sex hormone is estrogen. It is secreted mainly by the ovaries, but also in small amounts by the adrenal glands. An imbalance of estrogen levels will prevent ovulation and the thicking of the lining of the uterus. This makes it difficult for a fertilized egg to implant there.
Another hormone that plays a key role in pregnancy is prolactin. It is produced in the pituatary glad. Prolactin stimulates breast development and milk production. Elevated levels of prolactin can trigger infertility by inhibiting ovulation.
Lutenizing Hormone (LH) and Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) are other hormones produced in men and women that play a major role in puberty and fertility.
Abnormal levels of LH and FSH interfere with the production of eggs and semen. Therefore, abnormal levels of these hormones hinder one’s ability to reproduce.
A 2005 study showed that women who were put on a 24 week low carbohydrate diet had the following impact on their hormone levels:
- 12% reduction in body weight
- 22% reduction in percent free testosterone
- 36% reduction in LH/FSH ratio – bringing them into normal range
- 54% decrease in the participant’s fasting insulin levels
These decreases in hormone levels tend to positively impact a woman’s fertility. During the 2005 study, two women became pregnant despite prior fertility issues.
Getting Started with the Ketogenic Diet
The ketogenic diet is one of the least expensive diets that will improve your fertility. The first thing that I would recommend is to download a free version of the Ketogic cookbook, Bacon and Butter. This will give you some great recipes to learn as the ketogenic diet becomes a way of life.
The second step you can take with the ketogenic diet is identifying what foods are carbohydrate rich and start cutting them out of your diet. You can drastically reduce your bread and pasta intake until you don’t have any around the house and then simply not buy it anymore.
Finally, you should connect with other people who are doing the ketogenic diet. There are facebook groups that share recipes and success and struggles. It can be extremely helpful to learn from other people. If you are looking for support with the ketogenic and getting pregnant,