You’ve probably heard of the Keto or Ketogenic diet in recent news. It seems everywhere you look people are reaping the amazing benefits a Keto diet provides.
But is the Keto diet right for you if you’re trying to conceive?
Your diet plays a major role in your fertility health. With a Keto diet, it’s all about eliminating carbs and adding more fat to your diet. This diet probably goes against everything you’ve heard in your life about “staying away from fattening foods.”
Guess what though?
Some fats are actually really good for the body. If you are struggling to conceive naturally and are needing a fertility boost, then Keto might be worth a try!
Not only will Keto give you the extra weight loss you’ve been looking for, but research is pointing to an increase in fertility health with Keto!
Let’s take a crash course in what the keto diet is and how it has the potential to increase your fertility health to help you successfully conceive!
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What’s The Keto Diet?
The ketogenic or keto diet is a low carb, moderate protein and high fat diet. One low carb, high fat diet you may have heard of is Atkins. While many people have done the Atkins program with much success, most people are now making low carb a healthy lifestyle.
On a typical Keto diet, there is simple ratio to follow: 60% fat, 35% protein and 5% carbs. This is a typical ratio, but depending on your needs.
While 60% of your daily calories coming from fat may seem gross, there’s actually a science behind eating so much fat. The 60% of fat you’re eating is supplying energy for your body to function.
When you decrease your carbohydrates and increase your fat intake, your body is put to work by burning stored carbs in your body. Once the stored carbs have been diminished, your body makes the switch to burning or running off fat to release ketones.
This is known as a state of ketosis. When you’re on the Keto diet, ketosis is what you want to achieve to burn off extra weight and reap the benefits of keto.
So far the keto diet seems simple right? Lower carb intake and up your fat intake!
As someone who was on Keto for a year, there’s a few things you need to know:
- 60% fats are healthy fats that come from sources like avocados and coconut oil, butter, etc.
- Calorie counting doesn’t matter with Keto. Just stick to your macronutrient ratio of 60/35/5. (This ratio does depend on your individual needs and can be adjusted).
- Once you get past the thinking that “fat is bad,” Keto meals are so good and you will actually begin to crave fat when you’re hungry (instead of carbs).
Please note that this is a simple crash course in what the Keto diet is. But this can help you get an idea for what the keto diet is all about.
Pros & Cons Of Keto
- Lowers bad (LDL) cholesterol
- Burns fat resulting in weight loss
- Suppresses appetite
- Lowers heart disease risk
- Reduces insulin levels
- Lowers blood pressure
- Improves mood, cognitive function, energy and sleep
- Helps balance hormones
- Limits certain food groups (potatoes, bread, sugar, etc.)
- Keto-flu (flu-like symptoms at the start of the Keto diet)
- Bowel irregularities (constipation and diarrhea)
- Not right for people who are predisposed to high cholesterol
- Becomes harder to eat out at restaurants
- Possible vitamin deficiencies
Although there are many good and bad things about Keto, these pros and cons need to be weighed before starting this diet to see if it’s right for you. Not every diet is right for every person.
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Common Causes Of Infertility
To know how the Ketogenic diet boosts fertility, we first have to look at some common causes of infertility.
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
Although no one knows the exact cause of PCOS, it still affects 1 in every 10 women in the United States. There are two underlying causes that experts agree upon:
High levels of male hormones
There are a group of male hormones known as androgens inside the body. While both men and women produce androgens, women normally produce less than men do. But if androgen levels are high in women it causes issues like irregular or absent periods, extra hair growth, acne, etc.
High insulin levels
When insulin levels are high, it’s normally do to excessive carbohydrate intake and low physical activity. This is also known as insulin resistance. In turn, the higher your insulin levels the more your ovaries produce androgens (male hormones). Insulin resistance is quite common in women with PCOS… Up to 70% are insulin resistant.
Overweight Or Obese
Obesity causes a host of problems when it comes to fertility. Period and ovulation troubles. Lower conception rates. Increased miscarriages and other pregnancy issues.
Studies concluded that women who are overweight or obese are at a 3 times higher risk of having infertility issues.
Type 2 Diabetes
A common risk factor link with being overweight is type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes not only affects your insulin levels, but it negatively affects your fertility. Such fertility issues associated with diabetes include problems with the ovaries, fallopian tubes and uterus.
How Can Keto Boost Fertility?
Like with any diet, weight loss is the number one goal. For those struggling to conceive due to obesity, the ketogenic diet provides weight loss while still maintaining lean muscle mass.
Studies have found that compared to a traditional low carb diet, the keto diet provides more effective weight loss.
Along with losing weight, the keto diet has been found effective in the (short-term) treatment and control of type 2 diabetes.
Those with type 2 diabetes who follow a keto diet were able to gain glycemic control and lose weight more effectively than those adhering to a traditional low-fat diet.
But what about the connection between PCOS and a Ketogenic diet?
Well… This is where the most positive research related to enhancing fertility and the keto diet comes into play! While I don’t want to bore you with numbers and confusing statistical studies, there are multiple studies about Keto and PCOS that are worth talking about.
Research Studies On Keto & PCOS
Research Study #1
A study conducted by the Delaware Institute for Reproductive Medicine found 120 women who were going through IVF treatment. Between 120 women, they were divided into two groups depending on diet: A low-carb group and a high-carb group.
58% of women in the low-carb group went on to have a baby! That’s over half within one group. On the other hand, the high-carb group only had 11% of women go on to have a baby.
From this study, the Delaware Institute for Reproductive Medicine suggests that women who are trying to conceive should consume no more than 35% protein and less than 40% carbohydrates.
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Research study #2
Another equally impressive study was conducted by the Cleveland Clinic. Researchers specifically wanted to know the effects of low-carb diets on insulin resistance with PCOS patients.
In a 6 month program, four women diagnosed with infertility and PCOS followed a ketogenic diet. After the 6 month keto program, they switched to a different low-carb program.
All four women lost weight between 19 and 36 pounds. Because of PCOS, each woman had irregular periods before starting a keto diet. But within 4 to 8 weeks, their periods were regular.
Even better… 2 out of the 4 women conceived naturally without fertility medication to induce ovulation. Impressed?
If a keto diet is what it takes to not take fertility medication again… I’m all in!
While this study from the Cleveland Clinic was rather small with only four patients, it yields promising results in the connection between the keto diet and PCOS.
Research Study #3
In 2005, researchers put a group of women with PCOS on a 24 week ketogenic diet.
After a 24 week keto diet, the group of women with PCOS experienced the following:
- 22% decrease in free testosterone
- 12% decrease in weight
- 36% decrease in LH/FSH ratio (luteinizing hormone/follicle-stimulating hormone)
- 54% decreased fasting insulin
On top of these great results, 2 women with past fertility issues became pregnant!
Research Study #4
Recently in 2014, a study placed obese women in fertility treatment on a 12 week low-carb diet. Researchers then compared this group of women with a control group who did not change their diet habits during fertility treatment.
Women placed on the 12 week low-carb diet plan lost an average of 20 pounds.
While the weight loss in the study is an amazing result… It get’s better when it comes to the results of conception and fertility treatment!
The 12 women in the low-carb diet group increased their pregnancy rate to 48%, while the control group was at a pregnancy rate of 14%. Along with a massive increase in pregnancy came a decrease in the amount of fertility treatment cycles.
Those following the low-carb diet had a successful pregnancy after only two treatment cycles. The control group had to have four treatment cycles to achieve a pregnancy.
Essentially, a low-carb diet decreased the amount of fertility treatment cycles these women had to do by HALF! That’s a lot of money saved!
While their treatment cycles were cut in half, those on the 12 week program experienced a 44% increase in live births!
These 4 studies tell us so much about how a ketogenic diet can absolutely help decrease PCOS symptoms and increase fertility that results in pregnancy.
There are many research studies yielding encouraging results for the ketogenic diet increasing fertility. However, more research needs to be done.
Honestly, the keto diet is still a pretty new diet. Some doctors will actually label it as unhealthy. But, there’s no doubt the ketogenic diet is a trending diet that keeps gaining in popularity!
Because it works! I wholeheartedly believe in the keto diet. Myself and my husband have had significant weight loss on it.
I began the keto lifestyle about 5 months after giving birth to my son. I hadn’t been producing any breast milk for a while and I was having troubles taking off the last few pounds of baby weight.
But I also wanted a complete diet revamp to eliminate unhealthy carbs from my diet. Goodbye French fries and ice cream! At about the 6 month mark of following a keto diet I lost 15 pounds.
While it’s not much, I definitely did not push myself to lose weight at a fast pace like many people do.
My husband lost a total of 25 pounds while on keto.
While both my husband and I cycled in and out of ketosis (it happens when you eat too many carbs) we still got back on the keto diet and restarted our weight loss journey.
Now that I’m pregnant with baby #2 I started my pregnancy 10 pounds lighter than my first pregnancy. And honestly… That’s because of keto!
The weight loss was great for me. But I feel the ketogenic diet also helped me eliminate unhealthy junk food and increase my overall fertility.
It’s important to remember that not every diet is right for every person.
There are many people out there that hate keto. But, it’s vital to weigh the pros and cons.
Next, look at the research. If you’re trying to conceive naturally or with fertility treatment you may want to give the ketogenic diet a try.
Always talk with your doctor first though, that way you can find out whether it will boost your fertility. This is especially true when it comes to increasing fertility with PCOS.
Have you tried a ketogenic diet yet? What were the positive and negative things you got out of it?