The Nutrition Network regularly responds to LCHF/Keto related questions asked by members from our discussion forums. Below is a question regarding the impact of a low carb/ keto diet on female hormones.
“I work with ketosis and mood disorders and I have been seeing a hormone problem in women when cutting off too many carbs (less than 40g total a day on average). High cortisol seems to be disrupting female cycles. Women get even more accelerated, anxious and the “shark week PMS” shows its darkest face. Sure, energy and focus rise, as flight or flight comes into play, but the hair falling out and other symptoms are disturbing. From everything I’ve been researching, this makes total sense: more good carbs (with enough calories) = lower cortisol. But the carnivore fans are not happy with this.I’m not defending anything, I just wanted your position on this possible hypoglycaemia, cortisol (and its role in gluconeogenesis), and female hormones issue.”
Response by Tamzyn Murphy RD MSc.
Have your clients been sent for pre and post keto hormone tests to confirm that this is what’s going on?
Fasting and lower blood glucose concentrations reduce cortisol rather than increase it. See these two studies in this regard: https://academic.oup.com/jcem/article/82/4/1101/2866203 and https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3167666/.
As such I don’t think that this is the reason behind your observations. I think it may more likely be due to nutrient or mineral insufficiencies. the first ones I’d check and ensure adequacy of would be magnesium and sodium. Increased losses and insufficiencies in these could possibly account for your observations. Also, perhaps cover your bases with a multivitamin and mineral supplement. Sending your clients to an LCHF medical doctor for further investigations may shed further light on what’s behind these symptoms.
Regarding the hair loss – Hair loss associated with a stressful event usually occurs around 3 months after the stressful event occurred (this could be a psychological stress or a physiological one – including a dramatic change in metabolism). If the hair loss starts around 3 months after adopting a new and very different diet it is possible that it is due to the physiological stress associated with ones body adapting to a completely new metabolism/fuel. If this is the case then the hair loss should slow and you should see evidence of new hair regrowth in about 6 months from the start of the hair loss. If anecdotal reports from people on carnivore are anything to go by, one may experience even more hair regrowth than before.
Here are 2 videos by doctors and researchers I greatly respect, explaining this type of hair loss and regrowth:
Dr Sarah Hallberg: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PxkfM84lxMU
The first 2 minutes of this video by Dr Eric Westman: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cgv92mfTj4k.