How The Keto Diet Affects Your Fertility

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Keto isn't just a weight loss plan. Originally introduced as a treatment for epilepsy, a ketogenic diet is associated with everything from a healthier heart to protection against certain cancers (via Medical News Today). But that doesn't mean keto is a cure-all when it comes to every health concern. In an interview with The List, women's hormonal health expert Alisa Vitti, founder of FLOLiving, and the author of In the FLO, explained that improved fertility may be one health benefit that can't be attributed to eating keto.

The main concern with following keto when trying to get pregnant is that this way of eating can interfere with ovulation. "Ovulation is the main event that creates the hormones estrogen and progesterone to build the lining and hold it in place" Vitti explains, which will allow the embryo to implant. She adds that 45 percent of females doing keto experience menstrual disruption like missed cycles or amenorrhea. Vitti noted, "Any stress like massive weight loss or increased exercise can negatively affect the hormonal cycle." She adds, "Excessive weight loss and calorie restriction decrease estrogen, GnRH, FSH, and LH levels essential for your fertility and ovulation and progesterone production."

If you're experiencing challenges conceiving, keto may add to your stress

Another reason why keto is a no-go for women who are trying to get pregnant is that an extreme way of eating may add to their stress levels, Vitti said. "For women going through fertility treatments, adding on a restrictive diet can add to stress, which will disrupt cortisol levels, and negatively impact fertility," she explained. 

Does that mean keto is never a good idea if you're trying to conceive? According to Vitti, there are a few specific situations in which this diet can help, rather than hurt, conception odds. "For women with obesity and especially insulin resistant PCOS, who are not ovulating, a short-term keto diet can help reduce insulin levels and thereby possibly regulate other reproductive hormones so they can restart ovulation," she noted. But once a woman does conceive, it's time to back away from the bacon and reclaim fruits and whole-grains. "You can't be in ketosis when you are pregnant," Vitti emphasized.