Plenty of studies show that paleo and other low-carb diets can improve metabolic health and weight loss in the short term, but how does it affect a woman’s hormonal health? Let’s take a look at what the science says about how low-carb and paleo diets impact the menstrual cycle.
What do Studies Say About the Paleo Diet and Menstrual Cycles?
Unfortunately, there’s little information on how the paleo diet affects the menstrual cycle. In studies that are available, researchers will use low-carb and paleo interchangeably.
Due to the limited amount of studies available, it’s a good idea to monitor your menstrual cycle using a tracker and try to calculate when your next period is due to see if there are any changes. Certain diets can affect people differently. For example, blood sugar levels in response to foods are highly individual. Not only that, but how long you stay on a low-carb diet can determine if you benefit or whether you could be harmed by it.
Since there’s so much variability, tracking your menstrual cycle can give you a better picture of any changes. It’s a good idea to track your cycle over several months for accuracy.
What do Studies Say About Low-Carb Diets and Menstrual Cycles?
As stated, there are few studies that examine the effects of low-carb diets on a menstrual cycle. However, there’s enough information to determine that a low-carb diet can severely and negatively disrupt the average woman’s menstrual cycle if they continue eating this way.
Here’s what the science says:
- Low-Carb Diets Improve Fertility Outcomes in Overweight or Obese Women: A study found that reducing carb load can reduce circulating insulin levels, resume ovulation, and improve pregnancy rates and hormonal imbalances in overweight and obese women with PCOS. The researchers accounted for weight loss in the study.
- Low-Carb Diets May Induce Amenorrhea Regardless of Calorie Intake: Amenorrhea describes the absence of menstruation during a woman’s reproductive years. It happens when a drop of many hormones occurs, such as gonadotropin-releasing hormone, which starts the menstrual cycle. This creates a domino effect and causes a drop in other important hormones, such as progesterone, estrogen, and testosterone.
- Low-Carb Leads to Low Leptin, Which May Negatively Impact Menstrual Cycles: Lean women on a low-carb diet may not be able to produce enough leptin to have a regular menstrual cycle. If a non-paleo diet is consumed, these patients will likely reverse their low leptin, but information regarding leptin recovery isn’t well researched at this point.
- Low-Carb Could Lead to Menstrual Problems and Delayed Puberty: A small study that followed 45 patients aged 12 to 19 found that 9 (45%) of girls in this study had menstrual problems after 8 years on keto. 6 out of the 9 reported amenorrhea, and the other 3 reported delayed puberty. None of these girls were reported to be underweight.
After a bit, it seems beneficial for women to introduce carbs back into their diet if they want to maintain a regular menstrual cycle. The risk of disrupting or possibly losing your menstrual cycle is too great. However, in the short term, paleo doesn’t seem to affect your period.
Based on what we could find, it’s possible that the paleo diet could disrupt a woman’s menstrual cycle. With that said, most of the studies we could find focused on general low-carb diets and long term results. While these results may sound troubling for some women, it may be safe to stay low-carb for a limited time. Otherwise, there’s a chance amenorrhea will occur.