Talk to someone who’s into the ketogenic diet, and chances are they’ll rave about it how it helped reduce their anxiety, lift their mood, or fuel their workouts. (Or, if you’re Alicia Vikander, get ripped for a badass action movie.) But there’s another welcome side effect of high-fat, low-carb living that isn’t quite so well-publicized: It can also be helpful for PMS symptoms.
“A lot of women that are struggling with PMS, and even conditions like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), can really benefit from doing a ketogenic diet if done the right way,” says Josh Axe, DNM, DC, CNS. That’s because the diet can help balance insulin levels, he says. Insulin is the hormone that regulates your blood sugar, and when it’s out of whack, it can affect hormones like testosterone and estrogen.
Getting your insulin into balance can also help with inflammation, says Dr. Axe: “When insulin isn’t working properly, that is going to cause inflammation throughout your entire body.” That inflammation could impact other organs such as the liver, which is responsible for detoxing excess estrogen from your system, he adds. (Estrogen dominance is a key trigger for PMS symptoms, after all.)
The diet can help balance insulin levels, Dr. Axe says… When your insulin levels are off, it can affect hormones like testosterone and estrogen.
Research backs up this theory. A Duke University study of women with PCOS found that following a keto diet improved their insulin levels by 54%. It also led to statistically significant improvements in weight, infertility, and menstruation, among other factors.
Dr. Axe has seen the diet’s hormone-balancing power closer to home: He tells me that his wife, Chelsea, saw a drastic reduction in her own PMS issues after switching from a broadly healthy, whole-foods diet to keto.
“She has zero symptoms now whatsoever in terms of her monthly cycle,” Dr. Axe says, adding that Chelsea now practices keto cycling—the practice of having a high-carb day every so often, which he says can make the diet more sustainable long-term. “So even for us, who are health fanatics, we were kind of surprised by the results she saw.”
So if you’re struggling with the usual PMS symptoms, you might be surprised by this potential perk of the keto diet, too. Because what are a few days of the keto flu if it means a potential lifetime without cramps and mood swings?
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