Far from being a new fad diet, the keto diet a very low carb, high fat diet has been used by doctors since the 1920s to treat patients with serious illnesses. In recent years the keto diet has steadily been gaining more attention, due to how it promotes weight loss by forcing the body to burn fat for energy. More than ever before, a wider audience is now considering trying the keto diet, including those interested in benefits beyond weight loss. Examples include a reduced risk for diabetes, increased energy and protection against age-related neurological diseases. (1)
One problem with the keto diet, however, is that to date,research studies aimed at investigating its efficacy and safety have involved only men or animals (mainly mice). Some have been skeptical then that the keto diet can work equally well for women. Others question whether its necessarily a good idea for women to even try keto given the fact that womens hormones tend to be more sensitive to most dietary and lifestyle changes.
According to certain experts in womens health such as Dr. Anna Cabeca, adouble board-certified Ob-Gyn and Regenerative and Anti-Aging Medicine expert following an alkaline ketogenic dietmay be one of the most helpful lifestyle changes that both women and men can make.
From her experience, A keto-alkaline diet honors our bodys natural design. Dr. Cabeca has personallytaken care of more than 10,000 women through a combination of her online programs and in-office treatments, seeing firsthand the dramatic results that the keto alkaline diet can yield.
The answer is yes! In the years that Dr. Cabeca has been using the keto diet to help treat women, especially those in perimenopause or menopause, shes hardly ever seen the diet fail to produce benefits. Her clients and patients have experienced weight loss, improved blood sugar control, better quality sleep and reduced menopause symptoms like hot flashes or night sweats.
Dr. Cabeca came up with the concept of combining an alkaline diet with a keto diet after weighing the benefits of very low-carb eating on one hand, with some of the negative feedback she was receiving from clients on the other. Although many of her clients experienced weight loss quickly and reliably while reducing their intake of carbs, many also reported dealing with side effects like nausea, fatigue and constipation due to the keto diet.
The keto diet involves getting up to 80 percent of daily calories from sources of healthy fat, a significant change for most of her patients who were accustomed to running on carbs, caffeine and sugar for energy. It became clear that something else had to be adjusted in order toprevent the side effects associated with the keto diet. This is when she came up with the idea to focus on restoring alkalinity first and foremost.
1. How exactly does an alkaline diet fit into a keto one? And why is that so important for women?
While a ketogenic diet helps normalize blood sugar (glucose) levels and can help you maintain or reach a healthy weight, an alkaline diet is beneficial for its anti-aging effects especially lowering inflammation, boosting detoxification, and promoting hormonal balance, immunity and more. Traditional ketogenic diets usually miss the important factor of restoring alkalinity. For many patients the key is to reach analkaline pH first before beginning keto in order to prevent feeling agitated, anxious, uncomfortable or overly hungry.
How does an alkaline diet work?An alkaline diet supports overall health including reducing symptoms related to infertility, PMS or menopause by helping to balance your internal pH level and increase nutrient absorption. Eating foods that are high in key minerals but not very acidic can reduce common symptoms or disorders by promoting a more alkaline environment, the natural and preferred state of the body. Research shows that maintaining a more alkaline urine pH level can protect healthy cells and improvegut health. (2)
Also known as alkaline ash diets, reducing acidity (such as from coffee/caffeine, alcohol, refined grains or processed meats) has benefits for the cardiovascular system due to how it prevents plaque formation in blood vessels, can help decrease kidney stones, helps to maintain bone mass and is beneficial for reducing muscle wasting due to aging.
What sort of negative health effects might an overly acidic pH level contribute to? A few include: bone loss, muscle loss, and higher susceptibility to frequent infections or illnesses.One way to track if your body is adapting well to an alkaline diet is testing your urine pH level. The pH scale ranges from 114, with seven being neutral and anything higher than seven beings alkaline. The goal is to ideally have a urine alkaline pH level between of 7.07.5 (a number that is slightly more alkaline than acidic).
2. Will an alkaline keto diet prevent the lack of energy and other side effects that some feel when they try low carb dieting?
Mostly likely, yes. A common finding is that focusing on eating an alkaline diet in addition to a low-carb keto diet will dramatically help curb side effects for many women (and men too!). The reason is because of high nutrient intake, enhanced detoxification and reduced reliance on uppers like caffeine (some even overdosing on caffeine) and sugar for energy.
3. What other factors should be considered, besides someones diet, that can influence their pH level?
While its an extremely important factor, your diet is not the only variable that affects your pH level and hormones. Other factors that influence alkalinity, aside from the foods you eat, include: the level of stress you deal with on a daily basis, how much sleep you get nightly, the amount of sunlight exposure you get and the level of environmental toxicity youre exposed to.
4. Intermittent fasting (IMF) is often recommended in concert with a ketogenic diet. But many wonder whether or not IMF is advisable for women or safe.
According to Dr. Cabeca, Fasting is a key aspect of a healthy diet and has many anti-aging effects. In particular Dr. Cabeca recommends fasting to women during or after menopause due to its anti-aging effects. For example, a 2016 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that when women went12.5 hours between dinner and breakfast (a common form of fasting), the overnight fast seemed to help improve immune system functioning to the point that it reduced their risk for breast cancer. (03)
Why is intermittent fasting beneficial for women, especially if theyre in perimenopause or menopause? Fasting allows the body to take a break from digestive functions and instead to focus on essential repair work and reaping the many other benefits of rest. In other words, when fasting, the bodys energy resources go towards restorative work (like repairing tissue and balancing hormones) rather than digestive processes like producing stomach acid to break down food.
She has found that when women stick to eating a lighter dinner, and then abstain from eating for about 1315 hours between dinner and breakfast, they experience improvements in their weight, blood sugar control, etc. She recommends that women try avoiding eating after 8 p.m. or experiment with eating only two meals per day, with tea or broth between meals to help curb hunger. Another option is to try skipping dinner altogether on 12 days per week. For most women, when attempting IMF, its not recommended to snack between meals unless the woman is very active (such as an athlete in training) or dealing with a hormonal issue such as adrenal burnout.
5. How long should an alkaline keto diet be followed?
Its best to approach this change in eating as a way to feel better and become healthier, rather than as a fad diet or weight loss quick-fix. Dr. Cabeca recommends giving it sixmonths to test the effects, keeping in mind that some trial and error is expected along the way. The dietshould ideally be approached in step-wise fashion, focusing on alkaline first before adding in fasting and the keto aspect.
How exactly can women eat a diet that is both alkaline and allows them to stay in ketosis? Are there any foods on the keto food list to avoid eating even though they are technically low carb?
Dr. Cabeca feels its critical to add in plenty low-carb alkalizing choices (fruits and veggies) to a ketogenic diet for optimal benefits and prevention of side effects. She especially recommends nutrient-dense foods like avocado and dark, leafy greens.
Here is a list of no-carb to moderately low-carb foods that women (and men, too) can include in an alkaline keto diet:
While they might be okay every now and then, in general its not recommended to eat much fruit or high-carb veggies that taste very sweet in order to maintain ketosis. While working towards reaching a more alkaline, ketogenic state (ketosis), try to minimize or exclude these foods:
There are various ways to practice intermittent fasting on keto, including some that are less likely to trigger side effects like fatigue or cravings. Crescendo fasting gives you a break from fasting throughout your week, but is still very helpful for achieving the benefits of IMF. Dr. Cabeca and other experts, such asAmy Shah, M.D.,advise their patients to check their urinary ketone levels (using ketone strips) and to aim for testing positively for ketones about three days per week.
Work towards cycling fasting days so youre fastingon 23 nonconsecutivedays per week (e.g. Tuesday, ThursdayandSaturday). Stick to only light exercise or yoga on fasting days to reduce feeling exhausted or hungry, keeping higher intensity activities for your non-fasting days.This approach allows for more dietary and lifestyle moderation because the goal isnt to eat 100 percent perfectly all the time.
Addressing the major sources of physical and emotional stress in your life is essential for healing underlying hormonal imbalances and fertility issues. Aim to get 79 hours of sleep each night to reset your hormones daily. Lack of sleep can really affect your digestion, appetite and energy levels!
Several ways to manage stress include: getting enough moderate movement and exercise, yoga and/or meditation, taking slow walks outside, journaling or reading, being more social by joining some type of group or team, resting more, prayer, etc.
If your body is having a hard time adjusting to a keto diet, try to eat more fiber from veggies, nuts or seeds and also drink enough water to help hydrate the intestines to relieve constipation. Dr. Cabeca recommends starting the day with a big glass of hot water with lemon and a pinch of cayenne pepper.
Through the remainder of the day try to drink half your weight in ounces of water daily (for example, 65 ounces or a little more than 8 glasses if you weigh about 130 pounds). Taking probiotics is also a good idea due to how this helps replenish the gut with healthy good bacteria.
Aside from constipation and initial cravings for carbs or sugar, other side effects you may experience while transitioning to an alkaline keto diet (especially if youre also beginning fasting) can include keto flu symptoms likemenstruation issues, adrenal or thyroid issues, fatigue or low energy levels.
While sometimes it might feel like things are getting worse before they get better, these symptoms should resolve within a few weeks to months of following the tips and program mentioned above. This is especially true if you try to remain active (walk, ideally outside, for at least 2030 minutes daily), sleep well and decrease stress.Drink plenty of water, herbal tea or bone broth to prevent dehydration, and go easy on exercise if youre feeling under-fueled.
Its also worth mentioning that if you have a history of irregular periods, any type of eating disorder, or a thyroid disorder than it may be best to begin this type of dietary program only while being guided by your doctor or a nutritionist. Pregnant women or those who are breastfeeding should not start the keto diet to be safe. A professional can help you ease into an alkaline keto diet in a moderate, safe way if youre unsure of how to do this on your way, giving you feedback so the diet wont negatively interfere with normal hormone production, appetite, sleep or mental focus.
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