Keto and the Menstrual Cycle: Is There Reason To Worry?

It seems every “keto for women” forum abounds with stories about menstrual cycles gone wild in the first few months of keto. Irregular cycles, breakthrough bleeding, and periods lasting much longer than normal are common complaints. Sometimes these stories are cited as evidence that keto isn’t good for women, at least not premenopausal women, and that we need carbs for healthy hormones. Yet, many women don’t notice any changes in their menstrual cycles at all, while others report improvement in PMS symptoms and cycle regularity from the get-go.

What gives? Why do some women’s cycles apparently become wacky when they start keto, while others feel like keto is the key to period bliss? Can keto “mess up” the menstrual cycle?

We know that diet—what and how much we eat—can profoundly affect our hormones. This is true for both women and men. One of the reasons people are so excited about ketogenic diets is specifically because keto shows promise for helping to regulate hormones and improve cellular sensitivity to hormones such as insulin and leptin.

At the same time, women’s hormones are especially sensitive not only to dietary changes but also to downstream effects such as body fat loss. Furthermore, one of the ways women’s bodies respond to stressors is by turning down the dial on our reproductive systems. It’s reasonable to hypothesize, then, that women might have a tougher time adapting to or sustaining a ketogenic diet. Keto can be stressful depending on one’s approach, and that might negatively impact women’s reproductive health. But do the data actually bear that out, or is so-called “keto period” more misplaced hype than genuine fact?

Note that throughout this post, I’m going to use the term “reproductive health” to refer to all aspects of women’s menstrual cycle, reproductive hormones, and fertility. Even if you aren’t interested in reproducing right now, your body’s willingness to reproduce is an important indicator of overall health. When your reproductive health goes awry—irregular or absent periods (amenorrhea) or hormone imbalances—that’s a big red flag. Of course, post-menopausal women can also experience hormone imbalances that affect their health and quality of life (and low-carb and keto diets can be a great option for them).

Menstrual Cycle 101

Let’s briefly review what constitutes a normal, healthy menstrual cycle, understanding that everybody’s “normal” will be a little different. A typical cycle lasts from 21 to 24 days on the short end to 31 to 35 days on the long end, with 28 days being the median. Day 1 is the first day of your period and begins the follicular phase, which lasts until ovulation. Just before ovulation, levels of luteinizing hormone (LH), follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), and estradiol (a form of estrogen) spike. Next comes the luteal phase covering the approximately 14 days from ovulation to menses. LH, FSH, and estradiol drop, while progesterone rises. Estradiol bumps up again in the middle of the luteal phase. If a fertilized egg is not implanted, menstruation commences, and the whole cycles starts over again. All this is regulated by a complex communication network under the hypothalamic–pituitary–gonadal (HPG) axis, which is closely tied to the actions of the adrenal (the A in HPA axis) and thyroid glands.

Across the cycle, fluctuations in body weight are common as fluid is retained and then released along with shifts in estrogen and progesterone. Changes in blood glucose are also normal, and insulin-dependent diabetics often find that they need to adjust their dose at different times of their cycles to keep their blood sugar in check. The most common pattern is higher blood glucose readings in the pre-menstrual period (the second half of the luteal phase), and lower readings after starting your period and before ovulation. This is generally attributed to the fact that progesterone, which is highest during the luteal phase, is known to reduce insulin sensitivity. However, different women experience different patterns, which can also be affected by other factors such as oral contraceptive use.

Normal fluctuations in insulin resistance and blood glucose can mean that women get lower ketone readings at certain times of the month than others. When these occur premenstrually—and so they tend to coincide with a period of (transient) weight gain and food/carbohydrate cravings—women often feel as though they are doing something wrong. Rest assured that these variations reflect normal physiology.

The many factors that affect your cycle and the levels of your sex hormones include: other hormones, gut health and microbiome, metabolic health (e.g., insulin sensitivity), environmental toxins, stress, sleep, immune health, nutrient deficiencies, activity level and energy expenditure, and age. Each affects the others, and all (except age of course) can be affected by diet. It’s no surprise, then, that it can be extremely difficult to pin down a root cause of menstrual changes or reproductive issues.

What the Research Tells Us About Keto and Menstruation

As I said at the outset, there are lots of anecdotes, both positive and negative. In my experience, most women whose cycles seem to go crazy when they start keto find that things get back to normal—and often a better version of normal—after a few months.

First, it’s tricky to determine the effects of keto per se, since many people combine a ketogenic diet with calorie restriction (intentionally to lose weight or unintentionally due to the appetite suppressing effects of keto) and with fasting (intermittent and/or extended). Each of these can independently impact the factors listed above, lead to weight loss, and affect the menstrual cycle and reproductive health.

So, is there any evidence that keto itself causes changes to menstruation?

The scientific evidence is scant….

The one statistic you’ll see floating around the interwebs is “45% of (adolescent) females experience irregular menstrual cycles on keto.” This statistic comes from one small study of adolescent girls using a therapeutic ketogenic diet to treat epilepsy. Six of the twenty girls reported amenorrhea (loss of period) and three were diagnosed with delayed puberty. However, the ketogenic diet used for epilepsy is different and usually much stricter than an “everyday” keto diet needs to be, and epilepsy is frequently associated with menstrual dysfunction regardless of diet.

To extrapolate the findings of this study and argue that nearly half of teenage girls (or women generally) are likely to experience menstrual problems from going keto is a huge leap.

The fact is, I’m unable to find any studies done in healthy human females (or mice for that matter) demonstrating that otherwise normal menstrual cycles are disturbed by going keto.

5 Ways Keto-Related Factors *Might* Affect Your Menstrual Cycle

With the limited amount of research looking directly at keto and menstruation, let’s look first at whether there are direct effects of carbohydrate restriction or elevated ketone production on the menstrual cycle. Those are the defining characteristics of keto and what differentiates keto from other ways of eating. Then we can examine indirect effects that occur due to factors such as weight loss. These are not unique to keto, though they might be more likely on a ketogenic diet compared to other ways of eating.

Carbohydrate Restriction

There is no real body of evidence that looks at ketogenic levels of carb restriction and menstruation, but there are some clues. In this small study, functional hypothalamic amenorrhea (FHA) was associated with dietary fat restriction; women with FHA actually ate non-significantly more carbs than matched controls and nearly identical total calories. Likewise, in this small study, FHA was associated with lower fat intake but no significant difference in carb intake.

This meta-analysis looked at the effect of low-carb (not keto) diets on markers of reproductive health among overweight women. The researchers found four studies that examined effects on menstruation; all showed improved menstrual regularity and/or ovulation rates. Of six studies that looked at levels of reproductive hormones, five reported significant improvements.

Carb restriction also results in decreased insulin production. Hyperinsulinemia and insulin resistance are frequently associated with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), one of the leading causes of female infertility and a frequent cause of menstrual irregularity. There is currently a lot of interest in using keto to treat PCOS, but only one small study has so far directly tested the effectiveness of a ketogenic diet to treat PCOS, with positive results.

Ketones

No studies have looked at the direct effects of ketones on menstruation.

Weight Loss

Of course weight loss is not unique to keto, but keto can be very effective for weight loss. Some women experience rapid weight loss when first starting a keto diet. Weight loss in and of itself can impact menstruation through a variety of pathways (and, of course, keto isn’t the only way people lose weight). A key way is by reducing the hormone leptin. Leptin’s main job is to communicate energy availability to the hypothalamus—high levels of leptin tell the hypothalamus that we have enough energy on board, which also means we can reproduce. Low leptin can disrupt the menstrual cycle and is linked to hypothalamic amenorrhea.

Body fat loss can also affect estrogen levels since estrogen is both stored and produced in adipocytes (fat cells). While fat loss in the long term will decrease estrogen production, it is possible that rapid fat loss might temporarily raise estrogen levels and can also affect estrogen-progesterone balance. These transient changes in estrogen levels might underlie some of the menstrual irregularities women report.

Stress

Stress can impact the menstrual cycle in myriad ways. Cortisol acts on the hypothalamus and pituitary glands, affecting hormone levels, sleep, immune function, and gut health, to name a few. Diets can be a source of stress, both at the physiological and psychological levels. Keto has a reputation for being especially stressful because it is more restrictive than other low-carb diets, but this can be mitigated by following the Keto Reset tips for women.

Thyroid Function

Thyroid dysregulation is another common cause of menstrual irregularities, and there remains a pervasive belief that keto is bad for thyroid health. Indeed, the thyroid is sensitive to nutrient deficiencies and caloric restriction, and thyroid hormones, especially T3, do frequently decline on keto. However, as Mark has discussed in a previous post, changes in T3 levels might not be a problem, especially in the absence of other problematic symptoms. Moreover, many practitioners now use keto as a cornerstone in their treatment of thyroid disorders.

What Should I Take From These Findings?

The first takeaway: there just isn’t much direct evidence about how keto might affect your menstrual cycle, positively or negatively. We have some studies suggesting that low-carb diets improve some aspects of menstruation and reproductive health, but keto is more than just another low-carb diet. Ketones themselves have important physiological properties, such as being directly anti-inflammatory, which might positively impact women’s reproductive health.

Second, the ways that keto is likely to (negatively) affect menstruation aren’t unique to keto, they’re common to any diet: hormone shifts mediated by energy balance, stress, and weight loss.

Furthermore, since keto is so often combined with caloric restriction, time-restricted eating, and fasting, even the anecdotal evidence might not be able to tell us all that much. If a woman is eating ketogenically, in a big caloric deficit, and doing OMAD (one meal a day), and her leptin plummets, how are we to know what really caused it? We don’t have good evidence that otherwise healthy women start a well-executed ketogenic diet and end up messing up their menstrual cycles.

That said, women do need to be cognizant of the sum total of the signals they are sending their bodies when it comes to energy availability and stress. A lot of women come to the keto diet with a history of adrenal, thyroid, metabolic, and reproductive issues. It’s important that they’re extra careful about how they approach keto. Done correctly, it might be just what the doctor ordered. I encourage any woman who’s dealing with other hormonal issues to work with a medical practitioner to tailor a keto diet to her unique needs.

But I’m Telling You, Keto Made My Period Go Haywire!

Ok, I believe you, really! But changes do not necessarily equal dysfunction. It is normal to experience hormone fluctuations when you make a massive—or even a relatively small but important—shift in your nutrition. Sometimes those fluctuations are unpleasant or unwanted, such as a period that lasts 14 days or one that arrives a week before you planned while you’re on vacation. However, that doesn’t make them bad from a health perspective. We need to respect that our bodies are dynamic systems. Changing the input will invariably change the output, and the system might need a few months to adapt to a new normal.

If your cycle goes wonky but you’re otherwise feeling good, give it a few months to sort itself out. If after a few months it’s still all over the place (or definitely if you’re having other disruptive symptoms), enlist help. In the meantime, check to make sure you’re not short-changing yourself nutritionally or calorically. Scale back on fasting efforts, and consider shifting more toward a traditional Primal way of eating.

At the end of the day, if you go keto and experience negative effects, stop. Keto is super hyped right now, but if your body is sending you clear signals that keto is not a good approach for you at this time, don’t do it. You can always try again later. It might be that your first attempt at keto didn’t work, but with a few adjustments and some experimentation over time you can find a version of keto that works for you.

Thanks for reading, everyone. Do you have comments, questions, or feedback? Let me know below.

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References:

Comninos AN, Jayasena CN, Dhillo WS. The relationship between gut and adipose hormones, and reproduction. Human Reproduction Update 2014; 20(2): 153–174.

Fontana R, Della Torre S. The Deep Correlation between Energy Metabolism and Reproduction: A View on the Effects of Nutrition for Women Fertility. Nutrients. 2016;8(2):87.

Klok MD, Jakobsdottir S, Drent ML. The role of leptin and ghrelin in the regulation of food intake and body weight in humans: a review. Obesity Reviews 2007;8(1):21-34.

Meczekalski B, Katulski K, Czyzyk A, Podfigurna-Stopa A, Maciejewska-Jeske M. Functional hypothalamic amenorrhea and its influence on women’s health. J Endocrinol Invest. 2014;37(11):1049–1056.  

Tena-Sempere M. Roles of Ghrelin and Leptin in the Control of Reproductive Function. Neuroendocrinology 2007;86:229-241.

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I Saw the Extra Weight I’d Carried My Whole Life Slip Away

It’s Monday, everyone! And that means another Primal Blueprint Real Life Story from a Mark’s Daily Apple reader. If you have your own success story and would like to share it with me and the Mark’s Daily Apple community please contact me here. I’ll continue to publish these each Monday as long as they keep coming in. Thank you for reading!

My visual transformation isn’t all that impressive. In fact, despite having a completely different body composition, I weigh more or less the same that I did six years ago.

My real transformation has occurred on the inside and in the way that I try to embody the Primal Blueprint principles in the way I live my life.

Before Primal Living:

  • Out of shape
  • Abysmal self-esteem
  • Without a clear life path

6 Years Since Discovering Mark’s Daily Apple:

  • Owns a Health & Fitness blog and coaching business
  • Inspires others to find their self-esteem through leading by example
  • Recreational athlete in Powerlifting, Strongman and Highland Games
  • Loving life every day

I first heard of Mark and his message about primal health back in 2013. At the time, my husband and I were living in a modest cabin in the woods of Northern Maine and the extent of my fitness routine was the obligatory jog now and then or some exercise videos that mostly involved bodyweight training. Our cabin had no electricity or running water which meant that we were gathering, cutting and stacking firewood by hand so that we could stay warm during the long winters. Turning manure, bending over in the garden, hauling hay for our goats and clearing woods for future pasture were serious back killing chores and we knew we needed to find a way to get stronger in order to support our active lifestyle. Coupled with this was my husband’s chronic GI distress and autoimmune condition, Reactive Arthritis, which led us down the road of research into how a grain-free, sugar free diet could improve those ailments.

As is often the case, primal nutrition and heavy lifting principles were deeply entwined from the very beginning of our journey towards optimal health. And as we cut out wheat and sugar, we also began learning the functional movements of the squat, deadlift and pull-up. With a manual treadmill we found in the barn, we regularly blasted ourselves with intervals after reading from you the importance of sprinting. Your fitness principles of walk far, run fast, lift heavy came so naturally to us and in the setting of the lush, Maine woods, it felt that much more primal to get in tune with our ancestral physiques.

You might imagine that the stronger and more fit we became, the more we wanted to eat better to support that. Before long, our backs felt bulletproof chopping and stacking piles of firewood. My husband’s arthritis improved. I was seeing the extra weight I had carried my whole life slip away. We had gone to the woods to seek a lifestyle where we could call the shots and pursue our healthiest existence. But in the process, we had the rude awakening that our bodies were the weakest link in the chain of health. Our minds were strong and our homestead was strong, but our bodies were not. And so when we saw the benefits of the Primal Blueprint massively improve our existence, it was like coming out of a bad dream and I woke up one morning thinking “hey, this is really something to live for.”

While I graduated college with a degree in writing, I never really had found my purpose or a career I was passionate about giving my 9 to 5 energy to. I always believed that I had a lot to share with the world, but couldn’t conceive of what avenue to take, but with this new primal lifestyle, I discovered a completely unexpected passion. Always the chubby book nerd my whole life, taking on sports in school out of social pressure and obligation but never out of true interest, here I was, suddenly wanting to pursue fitness and wellness as a career.

We ended up leaving our little homestead for my husband to travel down the long (and still not complete) road of becoming a Dentist. He studied for biochemistry and tests and I studied strength and conditioning in between my long hours at Starbucks. (Side note: I managed to make it 2 years working there without consuming sugar and my coworkers would always marvel at my dedication of turning down a free Frappuccino. I explained to them that eating primal, my energy was consistent throughout the day and better than ever and seeing the positive effects of my nutrition in my day to day life was all the motivation I needed to persist.) The years we spent studying for our individual pursuits, we also spend wrecking ourselves on the barbell and on the field doing sprints and without following any strict program, we simply tried to remember to walk far, run fast, lift heavy. Slowly and surely, our body composition improved and I took on my first personal training clients.

Now living in Salt Lake City, I think of myself more as a Strength Coach than a personal trainer and before walking that road I didn’t even realize there was a difference. I see my colleagues often get wrapped up in ideal programming principles and I try to remember the basics: pick up heavy stuff and put it overhead using good technique, train for explosive speed and go on long hikes outdoors.

I use my personal experience to help guide my athletes on the emotional journey of becoming strong and realizing their physical potential. I have so many people, primarily women, come to me saying they want to lose weight. But as we begin working together, they quickly see that in fact their goal is much more complex that a number on the scale. They learn that it feels good to get strong and learn how to move in ways they never thought possible. I see the look of fear in their eyes at approaching a back squat for the first time and I recognize that look of fear because it’s the same one I felt when I started my journey. I see timid women who hate their bodies do a pull-up for the first time after working hard for a year and then it’s like poof… now they love their bodies because they unlocked this talent for strength they never knew they had. When that happens, the number on the scale matters so much less to them because now they have a performance goal. Now they are pursuing health rather than weight loss.

Although I am not strictly a Primal Blueprint coach, I still hold onto those principles while I teach other people how to lift and what strategies they can use to build balanced nutrition. I encourage them to seek nutrient-dense foods rather than counting macros or calories and to eat when hunger ensues naturally rather than adhering to six small meals a day. I feel confident coaching strategies like Keto and Intermittent Fasting because I have done the research on the health benefits and have the anecdotal evidence to back it up from my own experience. I am always trying to do what your blog did for me, which is to teach them ways they can figure out what health uniquely means to them. I still try to embody the idea that you instilled in me: study how our ancestors thrived to learn how to seek our healthy existence in a world that can often be toxic.

My transformation doesn’t come through in a before and after photo, but I believe I have gained a million times more than if I had lost 100 lbs and cured 10 autoimmune conditions. I discovered my life’s path and spend every day trying to guide others to do the same.

Thank you,
Hill

primalpillarsstrength.com
Instagram @primalpillars

The readers featured in our success stories share their experiences in their own words. The Primal Blueprint and Keto Reset diets are not intended as medical intervention or diagnosis. Nor are they replacements for working with a qualified healthcare practitioner. It’s important to speak with your doctor before beginning any new dietary or lifestyle program, and please consult your physician before making any changes to medication or treatment protocols. Each individual’s results may vary.

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After Six Months I Was In Remission

It’s Monday, everyone! And that means another Primal Blueprint Real Life Story from a Mark’s Daily Apple reader. If you have your own success story and would like to share it with me and the Mark’s Daily Apple community please contact me here. I’ll continue to publish these each Monday as long as they keep coming in. Thank you for reading!

I wanted to send an update since my last success story that you shared. But for the sake of the success stories (and first-time readers), I’ll give a little background info as well.

I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease back in 2000 at the young age of 13. For many years, I had many health-related ups and downs, and I was constantly in and out of remission. Not only did I suffer from painful gut-related issues, but I suffered from many other side-effects as well such as liver issues, extreme migraines, depression, thyroid nodules, rashes, and fragile hair and nails.

Since the day I was diagnosed, my GI doctor had me on pharmaceuticals which he would increase or change when I got flare-ups. I spent my youth in and out of doctor’s offices, hospitals, and urgent care centers getting poked at, screened and examined. I usually left in tears, hopeless, told that I would always have to be on medications.

Fast forward to the beginning of 2017 when I met my Holistic Nutritionist. She introduced me to Functional Medicine. She immediately recommended a change in diet—something NO doctor had even mentioned to me before! And she added specific supplements to my protocol, supplements in which my body was lacking and completely depleted of because my gut wasn’t absorbing nutrients.

She started me on the path of Holistic Health: eating right and natural methods to take care of my body and ailments. Within the first couple of months I started feeling better, and after 6 months I was in remission.

One of the first things I changed was my diet. I started on a Paleo/Autoimmune Protocol, and things continued getting better from there. I started doing my own research, and that’s when I discovered Mark Sisson, the Primal Blueprint and Mark’s Daily Apple!

Mark’s recipes and informative articles helped me a lot. He’s a huge inspiration to me. Not only is going Primal one of the better health decisions I’ve made, but his recipes are deliciously amazing as well. I truly enjoy being in the kitchen…something I used to dread!

Since following the Primal Lifestyle, I’ve become healthier than ever before. I stay active, eat right and nourish my body with HEALTHY choices, get outdoors, and try to maintain a positive mentality.

I’m no longer depressed, sick, or thin—in fact, I can’t even remember the last time I was “stay-at-home-in-bed” sick! I’ve been off ALL pharmaceuticals for 17 months! I have energy all day long and I’ve been able to travel abroad without any issues; this past summer I spent 1 month volunteering on an organic herbal farm in Portugal, afterwards I went to the Austrian Alps, and then flew across continents to meet my husband in Cartagena, Colombia to visit his family. I traveled all summer without a single Crohn’s flare-up or getting sick. Traveling like that is something I’d never been able to do before switching my lifestyle.

The knowledge I’ve learned—and continue to learn—helps me maintain my current health, and I’m incredibly thankful to all my health “teachers” out there, including you, Mark!

Because I’m a true believer in Holistic/Functional Health, I started a collaborative health blog called Honor Thy Gut to get the word out that holistic healing does work. I like to share uplifting stories, tips and advice that has helped me heal. I encourage my readers to add to the conversation as well! My articles are often inspired by Mark Sisson, Dr. Mark Hyman, Dr Axe, John Douillard, among many others.

Happy Healing to you all!

Larissa Nowak-Lobo

The readers featured in our success stories share their experiences in their own words. The Primal Blueprint and Keto Reset diets are not intended as medical intervention or diagnosis. Nor are they replacements for working with a qualified healthcare practitioner. It’s important to speak with your doctor before beginning any new dietary or lifestyle program, and please consult your physician before making any changes to medication or treatment protocols. Each individual’s results may vary.

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Living a Life Like This Is Amazing

It’s Monday, everyone! And that means another Primal Blueprint Real Life Story from a Mark’s Daily Apple reader. If you have your own success story and would like to share it with me and the Mark’s Daily Apple community please contact me here. I’ll continue to publish these each Monday as long as they keep coming in. Thank you for reading!

My Primal story starts in 2014. I had a one-year-old baby. I was healthy. I was taking vitamins and supplements and I did exercise. I jogged and lifted weights. I only gained 10 pounds during my pregnancy because of my exercise routine.

The problem was my diet. But I didn’t know that. It all started with my skin and my teeth. I had eczema, red inflamed skin on my face, neck, knees, etc. and I always had cavities every time I went to the dentist. And I had THE best, the Absolute BEST Dental hygiene. I flossed after every meal. I water picked at night. I brushed my teeth 3 times a day. And without fail, every time I went to the dentist there would be a new cavity.

So. I am at the dentist. It’s 2014. He tells me that I have a cavity and he was going to fill it. I was very upset. I said “NO.” I told him not to fill the cavity. I told him I was going to heal it. The dentist is taken aback. He laughed at me.

I went home and Googled “How to heal a Cavity”. And it took me to this oil pulling sight. And it was a domino effect from there. I bought a book called Heal Cavities and Cure Tooth Decay, and I read that book cover to cover. And that book mentioned another book called The Paleo Manifesto, and it also talked about diet and how cavities start from the INSIDE out. So I immediately went out and bought The Paleo Manifesto and read that cover to cover. And that book took me to (you guessed it) The Primal Blueprint. I read that book cover to cover.

I already had a good exercise routine. But those books helped me to clean up my diet which led me to clean up my makeup routine, soap, shampoo, dental routine. It was a complete 180. I went totally green. Also the Primal Blueprint helped me to raise my exercise game and take it from good to Great.

And from there, I gained lean muscle mass. I STOPPED having and getting cavities. My skin cleared up and my eczema completely went away.

After I read Cure Tooth Decay and Heal Cavities, The Paleo Manifesto, and The Primal Blueprint, I STOPPED brushing my teeth so often and so hard. Everything in moderation. I started oil pulling in the morning. I started brushing and flossing my teeth ONLY at night before bed. And I started using mineralized tooth powder. From Primal Life Organics or Raw Dakota Tallow. And just by doing these 2 things, my tooth sensitivity went away immediately. And I started to notice that I could eat hot and cold foods again without any pain. I did this same routine for 6 months and now this is my normal routine. Since I started taking care of my teeth like this, I have NO sensitivity. My enamel that I spent my entire life eroding has come back. I have NOT had a cavity since 2014 and my gums are beautiful and healthy. I no longer dread going to the dentist.

My skin care changed a lot. After reading those books and going Primal/Paleo. I stopped immediately using conventional skin care. I started ONLY using castile soap from head to toe. I started using an acidic toner on my face to bring back the acid mantle that I spent my entire life eroding. I mix up equal parts (1 to 1 ratio) of raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar with the mother and water. And I spray that on my face at night after I wash my face with the castile soap. And I use tallow as my face cream. From Raw Dakota Tallow or Vintage Traditions. And I do use conventional makeup. I have tried healthy, green makeup, but that is expensive and doesn’t do the same job as the regular conventional makeup. But since I started taking care of my skin this way ALL of the redness and eczema went away completely.

So in these pictures you can see me without makeup and the top picture is my clear, healthy skin now and the bottom is the red, inflamed skin from before. And you can see the lean muscle mass in the gray dress as opposed to the portly me on the Ducati before I went Paleo/Primal.

I do lift weights every other day and I do cardio every other day. My cardio is walking with alternating sprints. And I never miss a workout. But I never train super hard. I stand at work all day and I do a lot of slow movement throughout the day.

I do eat organic when I can. But that is not always possible. So I do eat conventional produce and meats. But I eat nose to tail. And I eat a lot of colorful veggies. I stopped eating sugar entirely. Cold turkey. I STOPPED eating all carbs and sugar. I did that for 6 months and then started slowly bringing back carbs, but healthy carbs like sprouted and fermented sourdough breads with European butter. I follow and maintain a Paleo/Mediterranean diet. My family is from Spain so I do eat a lot of ancestral food and I do drink wine. I was always a steak girl but now I eat lots of healthy vegetables with the steak. I eat lots of dark chocolate. But my treat is white chocolate.

Since I went Paleo/Primal (and I ONLY did this to heal a cavity) I am the healthiest I have ever been. I am 41 and I look like I am 26, and I feel like I am 26. This lifestyle, this way of life is really a lifesaver. Looking back now, I can see how the Standard American Diet and health care and personal care (dental and skin) are slowly poisoning the American people and were slowly eroding my health. This journey is NOT easy for some people. It was easy for me. In order to do this you have to be comfortable doing your own research and you have to be comfortable questioning what you have been taught, conditioned to think and you have to be comfortable questioning what you have been told.

I always took a multivitamin. But after reading these books and doing my research I started talking Fermented Cod Liver Oil, and High Vitamin Butter Oil. I take collagen. I take Iodine (Triodine) I take a really good multimineral (Concentrace minerals) I take a good multivitamin, I take Fermented Skate Liver Oil. But NOT all at once and NOT everyday. Every other day. I take a combination of these.

Do what works for you. I am NOT orthodox paleo/primal/Mediterranean. Living a life like this is amazing.

I would NOT recommend this but, it in my experience it can be done. After having appendicitis, and routine (best case scenario) appendectomy you can snow blow your driveway. I had appendicitis and the appendectomy on Tuesday. I went home from the hospital on Tuesday night at 9:30 p.m. I slept till noon on Wednesday and then I got up and started walking around. I had a good high fat, high protein lunch. And then I snow blowed my driveway (I live in Layton, Utah and we get a ton of snow where I live and it had snowed for 2 days straight). I did that because I figured that Grok did NOT have the luxury of being injured and then laying on the couch all day long and watching T.V. I figured that Grok would be up and walking around. At least foraging for food, for his tribe.

I am healthier than I have ever been in my life, and I have the energy to play with my 5-year-old and keep up with him.

I will Never, Ever go back to what I did and thought and believed before going Primal/Paleo. And it really is a domino effect. Once you start down this journey it will simply but take over every aspect of your life.

I want to thank MDA, The Primal Blueprint, Raw Dakota Tallow, The Paleo Manifesto and Cure Cavities and Heal Tooth Decay, as well as myself for my Amazing transformation. I was always skinny, but I am in PERFECT health because of this journey.

Elsha

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I Feel Strong and Powerful In My Own Body

It’s Monday, everyone! And that means another Primal Blueprint Real Life Story from a Mark’s Daily Apple reader. If you have your own success story and would like to share it with me and the Mark’s Daily Apple community please contact me here. I’ll continue to publish these each Monday as long as they keep coming in. Thank you for reading!

Growing up, I was very bookish and avoided all forms of exercise despite my parents’ best efforts to get me involved in some sort of sport. I was also a very picky eater, especially when it came to veggies, so my diet wasn’t the greatest.

Throughout high school, I always carried an extra 10-15 lbs and my lunch consisted of stuffed crust pizza, strawberry milk and fries swimming in ranch dressing.

My weight yo-yoed in college depending on how excited I was about the gym and whether I was on a salad bar or buffalo chicken wrap kick. I did gain a lot of weight after I got married and hit my all time high of 170 lbs. I was able to lose most of the weight through a low carb diet, though I still avoided the gym.

My first experience with primal eating came in 2014 when my husband came home talking about this paleo diet he’d heard about from a colleague. I started doing a lot of research and decided to start this new way of eating. We weren’t super strict about, using dressings and condiments that were not ideal and I refused to give up cheese (I now know that including dairy is more aligned with the primal way of eating). My husband lost a bunch of weight, and I felt really good even though the scale didn’t move.

Unfortunately, after only about two months, we went on vacation and fell back into our SAD eating habits even after we returned. Fast forward to 2016 and I had moved to another state, finally gotten a full-time job after a year of under employment/unemployment and was steadily gaining weight again. I didn’t realize how lucky I’d been to have been able to walk or bike to work before moving to a bike and pedestrian unfriendly area! I started calorie restricting, but that just left me feeling hungry all the time and my pants were too tight. I weighed in at 155 lbs.

In January, I finally gave in and let my husband sign me up for a gym membership. As much as I disliked exercise, I knew that I had to get my body moving if I didn’t want to look like a lot of the people in my office when I got to middle age. I started strength training which was way more fun than cardio and lost 5 lbs in the first month. But despite hitting the gym 3 times and week and participating in a Crossfit style workout once a week, my weight loss stalled after that. I knew I was building up muscle mass that I’d never had before, but I was mostly motivated to not have to buy new, bigger pants at this point.

By the end of March, I realized that I had to make some serious diet changes if I wanted to get my health completely under control, so I decided to do my first Whole30. It was hard but amazing! I felt great, finally kicked my diet soda habit, reset my taste buds and learned that dairy gives me migraines and makes my seasonal allergies go crazy. I also rediscovered MDA during this time and read years of primal success stories which gave me the courage to keep up this style of eating long term using the 80/20 principle. I also made it a point to try every (primal) food I thought I hated one more time and now I eat many of them regularly. Hello onions, peppers, brussels sprouts, squash, zucchini, fish, nuts, carrots, pineapples, sweet potatoes, tea, and so many more. I’m still working up the nerve to try sardines but there’s a tin of them in my pantry for the day I’m feeling brave!

For the first time in my life, I felt fit and strong. My body learned to love and crave veggies, even at breakfast. I was empowered to make better food choices. I still get anxious about food in social situations sometimes when my social anxiety combines with my fear of accidentally eating dairy and getting really sick, which has, unfortunately, happened. Now if I don’t feel comfortable with my food options, I eat beforehand or bring my own food. My health is totally worth being that weird person for. I have also learned that most people have no idea what is in their food or what is actually good for their bodies. I am so glad to have come upon this way of eating while I’m still young.

My next big health change occurred in the fall of 2018 when I started getting into long distance running. I came into running knowing that I wanted to do it in a way that aligned with my health and nutritional values that I’d worked so hard to get straight. This led me to using the run walk run method to decrease risk of running injuries and to primal keto to avoid all of the sugary fuel and recovery products aimed at endurance athletes. I do all my training runs fasted and eat a bit more carbs right before and after races. I also make sure to focus on keeping up my strength training by incorporating the Primal Essential Movements, even the two I dread-pushups and planks. There is something awesome about being able to take yourself 13 miles on your own two feet, but nothing makes me feel as badass as using the assisted pullup machine.

Doing keto while staying dairy free, maintaining a high veggie intake and properly fueling my athlete body has taken some extra effort but the benefits are amazing. I no longer get hangry if a meal is delayed. I feel strong and powerful in my own body. I weigh less than I did in high school. I have way fewer migraines. I even have abs. I have learned so much about my body and my personal nutrition needs. I still ended up needing to buy new pants twice but smaller rather than larger. I have so much more energy to do the things I love. Most importantly, I now know how to take care of my body properly for a long and healthy life.

Stephanie

The readers featured in our success stories share their experiences in their own words. The Primal Blueprint and Keto Reset diets are not intended as medical intervention or diagnosis. Nor are they replacements for working with a qualified healthcare practitioner. It’s important to speak with your doctor before beginning any new dietary or lifestyle program, and please consult your physician before making any changes to medication or treatment protocols. Each individual’s results may vary.

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4 Misunderstandings About Carbs and Stress

The relationship between stress and carbohydrates is confusing, with seemingly contradictory arguments bouncing around the online health sphere.

There are those who say high-carb diets cause stress, and that eating more fat and fewer carbs is the solution.

There are those who say high-fat diets increase stress and eating carbs ameliorates it.

Who’s right? They can’t both be right, can they?

Well…

You’d be surprised.

Let’s dig into four common carb questions and assertions.

“Stress Increases Carb Cravings.”

This is well-established. You have a terrible day at the office, your kids have appointments twenty miles apart within fifteen minutes of each other, the traffic is backed up to your driveway, you’re late for work, the dog needs a walk, you haven’t even thought about what to make for dinner, you slept four hours last night—it adds up. People deal with a lot. And in that moment, a carbohydrate-based snack really does seem to take the edge off.

Across millions of years of hominid evolution, the human stress response developed in the context of real-world, short-term, and infrequent but intense stressors: battles, hunts, freak injuries, dangerous animal encounters, interpersonal conflicts. These were situations that demanded heightened senses, available fuel, and a rapid heart rate to deliver everything to the tissues that needed to move and act. It makes perfect sense for your body to pump out adrenaline to increase fat burning and glucose in the blood—you need that fuel to deal with the situation. It also makes sense for your body to follow that up with a blast of cortisol, which makes you crave high-carb junk food to replace the fuel you utilized. The problem is that our modern stressors are too frequent, they aren’t physically demanding, we aren’t utilizing the fuel we mobilize, and we have no real need for the carb cravings that come after.

What happens when we eat too many carbs that we never actually needed?

We get fat. Cellular energy supply becomes overloaded, impairing our mitochondria’s ability to process energy efficiently. This degrades metabolic flexibility—the ability to switch between different fuel sources—preventing us from burning the fat on our bodies in between meals. We become reliant on those carbs, and when we don’t get them fast enough, our bodies perceive that as a major stressor.

So while giving in to carb cravings can reduce stress in the short-term, it sets us up for longer-term, more chronic stress.

“What About Gluconeogenesis? Isn’t That a Stress Response?”

It can be.

A primary goal of cortisol is to increase glucose availability. It does this through multiple avenues. One I just mentioned is to increase carb cravings. Another is to make you insulin resistant, thereby preventing insulin from sucking up blood glucose. Gluconeogenesis—the creation of glucose from amino acids and other substrates—is another.

If you’re a sugar-burner, stressful situations will increase carb cravings, induce gluconeogenesis, and may even make you insulin resistant. If you’re fat-adapted, the story shifts.

A fat-adapted person will have ketones and fatty acids available to provide energy in between meals. A fat-adapted person will have ketones and fatty acids available to provide energy in stressful situations. A fat-adapted person will be able to utilize those ketones and fatty acids during stressful situations—their mitochondria will literally be primed to utilize those fuels, not just glucose. A fat-adapted person is less likely to perceive carbohydrate shortages as stress shortages because they’ve got all this other fuel available to burn.

This adaptation doesn’t happen overnight. If your diet is low-carb or keto, but your body is still reliant on sugar, you will perceive reduced carb availability as a stressor. That’s one of the hallmarks of the keto flu, and it’s one reason why some people have extended keto flu—their bodies are still expecting and demanding glucose.

Some people never get over the carb cravings; they never fully adapt. This is the subset of the population that doesn’t function or perform well on a long-term ketogenic diet. The cause is unknown, at least for now (I suspect it has to do with recent ancestry and genetic proclivities), but what matters is that these people exist. For them, a long-term keto or very low carb diet approach will probably always be stressful. But even in these folks, spending some time in ketosis—through short term low-carb eating, intermittent fasting, or even extended low-level endurance activity that primarily burns fat—is a good idea that will reduce stress and improve overall resilience.

“But Carbs Make Exercise Less Stressful!”

Exercise is stressful to begin with. But then you adapt to the stress and overcome it—and end up stronger, fitter, and faster than before. Without the stress, working out doesn’t work. A legitimate method for increasing your work capacity is to train-low (carb), race-high (carb). Athletes have been doing this for decades—training in a low-carb state to get better at performing without ample muscle glycogen, then going into a race with full glycogen reserves and the ability to perform without glycogen. Exercising in that low-glycogen state is stressful, but that’s the whole point. It makes them better, stronger, faster, and it conserves glycogen for when they really need it.

If you consistently perform glucose-intensive high-intensity anaerobic activity for extended periods of time—CrossFit style WODs done 3-5 times per week, for example—you will run up a glucose debt and should replenish some of the carbohydrates you expend or risk cortisol spikes. Fat-adaptation can improve your tolerance of anaerobic activity in a low-glucose state, but there’s a breaking point, a physiological limit.

Eat the carbs you earn. This is a subtle point I don’t often see made. The reverse is widely understood—don’t eat the carbs you don’t earn—because millions of obese and overweight people do that every day. It’s a big reason why we’re so overweight. But if you fail to eat the carbs you earn through intense, protracted physical activity, you’re creating an undeniable glycogen deficiency that your body may perceive as a stressor. It may turn out that fully fat- and keto-adapted athletes can perform intense medium-to-long-term activities at high levels, and there’s some indication that this is the case, but for the time being it appears that eating the carbs you earn can stave off the stress.

“Low-Carb Diets Are Stressful For Women.”

There’s a glimmer of truth here. Allow me to explain.

Women are inherently more sensitive to caloric fluctuations than men…on average. The reason is sheer biology. Human evolution is concerned with fertility and reproduction. Can you produce, foster, and support viable offspring? Awesome. Natural selection deems you fit.

To fulfill their biological role, men have to produce sperm. They can do so almost indefinitely. They don’t run out; they just make more. If a batch is damaged due to poor lifestyle or dietary choices, there’s more on the way. After a man gets someone pregnant, his biological involvement with the growing baby is done. What or when he eats has no impact on the survival of the growing baby.

To fulfill theirs, women have a finite number of eggs, or “chances.” Once an egg is gone, there’s no replacing it.

And so the body seeks to inculcate the egg from environmental insults.

When you are preparing to get pregnant, your body needs extra nutrients to build up a reserve and “prime the pump.”

When you are pregnant, the growing baby needs a reliable and constant stream of nutrients for almost a year.

After you’ve given birth, the growing newborn needs breastmilk. To make that milk requires additional calories and extra doses of specific nutrients. Modern technology allows us to skip nursing and go straight to the bottle, but your body doesn’t “know” that.

It all points to women being more finely attuned to caloric deficits. For example, women’s levels of ghrelin, the hunger hormone, are quicker to rise after meals. Even if you’re never going to have kids, your body is still wired to protect against these caloric fluctuations.

Where do carbs come in?

One’s carbohydrate consumption is uniquely hewed to our sense of caloric sufficiency. If carbs are plentiful, your body perceives that as a signal of environmental plenty: the weather is good, the plants are producing, the trees are bearing fruit, the men are bringing back lots of honey. Life is good. It’s the perfect time to get pregnant. Above all other macronutrients, carbohydrate consumption increases the short-term expression of leptin, a satiety hormone that signals the presence of incoming calories, caloric sufficiency, and environmental plenty.

There’s also the issue of extreme satiety. Low-carb diets often become low-calorie diets without you even trying. That’s why they work so well for fat loss, by inadvertently reducing the amount of food you eat and increasing satiety. But for some women, especially those at or approaching their ideal weight, going too low in calories can increase stress.

Summing Up…

Are you unable to access your own body fat in between meals for energy? Then you’ll be a ball of stress unless you can get those Jolly Ranchers unwrapped quickly enough. It’ll be a constant battle. And yeah, if you keep pumping yourself full of carbs to keep your blood glucose topped off, you’ll keep stress at bay—but you’ll always be teetering on that precipice.

Are you exercising? Then you should strike a balance between gaining the adaptive benefits of training in a low-carbohydrate state and eating the carbs you earn.

Are you a woman? Then you’re probably more sensitive to diet-induced stress and may benefit from occasional carbohydrate refeeds. You should watch out for excessive satiety on ketogenic diets, which is great for fat loss but can lead to stress issues down the line if calories get too low.

The relationship between carbohydrates and stress isn’t exactly straightforward, but it is navigable. Hopefully after today you have a better idea of where you stand in the relationship.

What’s been your experience with stress and carbohydrates? Has your tolerance for stress gone up or down since going low-carb or keto? Thanks for stopping in today.

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References:

Mcallister MJ, Webb HE, Tidwell DK, et al. Exogenous Carbohydrate Reduces Cortisol Response from Combined Mental and Physical Stress. Int J Sports Med. 2016;37(14):1159-1165.

Dirlewanger M, Di vetta V, Guenat E, et al. Effects of short-term carbohydrate or fat overfeeding on energy expenditure and plasma leptin concentrations in healthy female subjects. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 2000;24(11):1413-8.

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Keto Was a New Way Of Life

It’s Monday, everyone! And that means another Primal Blueprint Real Life Story from a Mark’s Daily Apple reader. If you have your own success story and would like to share it with me and the Mark’s Daily Apple community please contact me here. I’ll continue to publish these each Monday as long as they keep coming in. Thank you for reading!

Three years go I notice in my yearly blood work that my thyroid levels were rising. I called my doctor and her words to me were: “OOO, you are just subclinical hypothyroidism, we’ll just watch your levels to see where they go next year.” NEXT YEAR, I thought. I’m not waiting a whole year.

My journey began. I could see no fundamental reason why when there were rising levels that we wanted to wait another 365 days to take any action. I took action then. Immediately I dove into the Internet and followed whoever I could, watched every doc series, Ted Talk, online summit and followed those who spoke to do more research. That is where I came across Mark’s Daily Apple and I’ve been a fan ever since.

I also did my own research. I tried coconut oils, green powdered drinks, eating nuts for my hair loss, selenium, maca, ashwagandha, all organic, non goo, organic hair care and plant based everything and so much more. I tell people today that you have to know your body and you have to try everything to see what works for you. Holistic medicine treats a cause not a symptom and therefore is not a cookie cutter medicine, and what works for my DNA may not work for yours and visa versa.

I started with a 15 day juice only fast which I documented on YouTube basically to keep me going, but honestly after day 4, it was not an issue.

I started to do research on the thyroid and knew i had some weight to lose. I chose a Keto diet and included intermittent fasting. That was 3 years ago and today I continue the same path and tell anyone that will listen, anyone who is ill and especially anyone with autoimmune issue you can reverse the stats. I did.

The next year my levels went up and I had to see an endocrinologist and in fact, I’ve not seen the same endocrinologist twice in these past three years. They all keep leaving and booting me to a new one, I finally gave up and don’t go to any right now. The system failed me, but that was okay. I was on a better path.

My last labs (last year) were all normal minus my Vitamin D, for which now I supplement as well as enjoy my time in the sun. I remain Keto with intermittent fasting and figure it’s a way of life.

I admit I do stray at times, we all have our weakness and mine is useless white fluffy bread.

I’ve tried a lot of things, but Keto was a new way of life and intermittent fasting just sort of fit. I rotate schedules at work every 3 months and that is not an easy task and so hard on your system, but I also rotate my intermittent fasting to keep my body on a steady rotation of fasting and eating.

My weight loss was around 80 pounds—that I have kept off to this day.

I’m no sure where I’d be today had I listened to my doctor, and trust me I believe in doctors but I believe in myself and my instincts a whole lot more.

I could go on and on. I usually do. But this will give you the idea of my life and what I do to remain in the best shape I can be at 58 years young.

Thank you

Lisa B.

The readers featured in our success stories share their experiences in their own words. The Primal Blueprint and Keto Reset diets are not intended as medical intervention or diagnosis. Nor are they replacements for working with a qualified healthcare practitioner. It’s important to speak with your doctor before beginning any new dietary or lifestyle program, and please consult your physician before making any changes to medication or treatment protocols. Each individual’s results may vary.

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