Some women on the carnivore diet report that after starting a low-carb diet, they lose their period, or their menstrual cycle gets disrupted.
The carnivore diet is supposed to be a reinvention diet that helps you lose wright, cure health conditions, and feel your best. So many women worry that they have done something wrong because they’re not reaping the benefits.
In short, the carnivore diet still has these wondrous effects — but calorie restriction and not eating enough fat could be affecting your hormones.
Here we explain how animal-based eating affects the menstrual cycle, and what do to if you started the carnivore diet and it affected your menstrual cycle.
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Does the Carnivore Diet Affect Your Monthly Cycle?
Yes, the carnivore diet can impose some changes in your regular cycle, but this is not true for every woman.
Shifting to a carnivore diet is an excellent option to reduce weight and limit pro-inflammatory food. But losing weight can have its effects on bodily functions. One of them is a change in the menstrual cycle.
Women who shift to a carnivore diet with the prime reason to lose weight usually report alterations in their menstrual cycle, irregular menstruation, and some also report amenorrhea (loss of menstrual cycle for 3 or more months).
Science of the Menstrual Cycle & Carnivore Diet Explained
The menstrual cycle spans 21 to 35 days in which an egg is released by an ovary to be fertilized by the sperm and, in case of non-fertilization, removed by the body with the lining of the uterus in the form of blood.
Usually, a cycle can be as short as 20 days and as long as 40 days. Hormones play a vital role in the regulation of the menstrual cycle. Progesterone, estrogen, luteinizing hormone (LH), follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH), and leptin are the significant regulators of the cycle.
Our hormone levels are widely affected by our external environment. Stress, weight gain and loss, the type of foods we eat, and sleep are the major factors that highly influence our hormone levels.
Therefore, the carnivore diet itself does not alter our hormone levels enough to affect our cycles, but the weight loss due to this diet does.
Our HPA axis formed by the hypothalamus, pituitary, and adrenal glands is highly sensitive to stress and calorie intake. This HPA axis controls our bodily functions and mood. High levels of stress can result in fatigue and underactivity of our glands, resulting in a lot of problems. Research has shown that low-calorie intake also acts as a stressor for glands. In the long term, it can widely affect our hormonal balance.
The hypothalamus releases GnRH, which causes the pituitary gland to release a few hormones, including luteinizing and follicle-stimulating hormones. These aid in producing estrogen from the ovaries, which chiefly regulate the menstrual cycle.
A low-calorie intake from diets such as the carnivore diet highly influences GnRH levels. A long-term reduction in calories and rapid weight loss decreases the level of GnRH. In turn, production of other sex hormones including LH, FSH, estrogen, testosterone, and progesterone are also decreased, resulting in decreased libido, problems with the menstrual cycle, and even loss of the cycle.
What to do if Your Cycle Stops on the Carnivore Diet
A drastic drop in calories and not eating enough fat on a carnivore diet is the leading cause of menstrual disturbance.
Your body needs fuel to work. Either it needs glucose or fats to function, so it’s a problem if you’re not eating enough fats. People think they will lose more weight if they eat less fat, but on the carnivore diet, fat is your fuel. The carnivore diet is not supposed to be a low-calorie diet — we’re supposed to eat ample calories from fat, and change our metabolism.
Make sure you don’t fast. Intermittent fasting and the carnivore diet can have some positive effects for overweight people, but most people starting the diet will need more food (especially fats) for their hormones to function well. Aim for 200g of fat each day. Fat increases estrogen production, so you will see a boost in your sexual drive and monthly cycles.
It must be noted that sometimes it is not the type of diet or weight loss that alters the menstrual cycle. Some underlying diseases, such as hormonal imbalance unrelated to calorie intake, genetic problems, or polycystic ovary disease cause problems with the cycle.
If you want to lose weight rapidly at the expense of your periods, then it might not be a problem for you. But in the long run, you need to bring your hormones back to their average level as they affect your health. Estrogen regulates the menstrual cycle, is beneficial for the heart, and prevents heart disease. It also strengthens your bones.
If you’re having problems with your periods on a carnivore diet, increasing calories and fat intake can mitigate your problems. You should take a break from losing weight excessively and see if it helps. In addition, increasing omega-3 fatty acid intake in fish may also be beneficial.