Far from being a new “fad diet”, the keto diet — a very low carb, high fat diet — has been used by doctors since the 1920’s 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.
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 it’s necessarily a good idea for women to even try keto given the fact that women’s hormones tend to be more sensitive to most dietary and lifestyle changes.
According to certain experts in women’s health — such as Dr. Anna Cabeca, a double board-certified Ob-Gyn and Regenerative and Anti-Aging Medicine expert — following an alkaline ketogenic diet may be one of the most helpful lifestyle changes that both women and men can make.
From her experience, “A keto-alkaline diet honors our body’s natural design.” Dr. Cabeca has personally taken 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.
Does the Keto Diet Work for Women?
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, she’s 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 to prevent 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.
Common Questions Regarding the Keto Diet for Women:
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 an alkaline 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 improve gut 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 1–14, with seven being neutral and anything higher than seven beings alkaline. The goal is to ideally have a urine alkaline pH level between of 7.0–7.5 (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 someone’s diet, that can influence their pH level?
While it’s 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 you’re 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 it’s anti-aging effects. For example, a 2016 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that when women went 12.5 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 they’re 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 body’s 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 13–15 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 1–2 days per week. For most women, when attempting IMF, it’s 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?
It’s 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 six months to test the effects, keeping in mind that some trial and error is expected along the way. The diet should ideally be approached in step-wise fashion, focusing on alkaline first before adding in fasting and the keto aspect.