The Ketogenic Diet: Understanding Ketosis and Hormone Imbalance - Running Is My Passport

The Ketogenic Diet: Understanding Ketosis and Hormone Imbalance

By now pretty much everyone has probably heard about or knows someone who’s tried keto.

It’s become extremely popular in the last several years due to the jaw-dropping weight loss results and numerous health benefits that it boasts.

But understanding ketosis and hormone imbalances is the first step towards reaching optimal health.

ketosis and fixing hormone imbalance

How Ketosis Works

So what is ketosis? This is a metabolic process that happens when your body burns fat as a fuel source.

 Ketones are the byproduct of this, which get released into the bloodstream and subsequently used for energy.

For this to happen though, your carbohydrate intake must be extremely low.

The body has two fuel sources, glucose and fat.

 It will always choose the easier energy, glucose, which is the byproduct of carbohydrate metabolism. 

To implement the ketogenic lifestyle, dieters limit their carbohydrate consumption to under 30-50 grams per day.

This forces the body to use fat instead.

Fat is a much cleaner fuel source for the body and ketosis can actually help regulate hormone imbalance.

Understanding Ketosis And Hormone Imbalances

Keto After 40

According to statistics, 43% of the US population is obese.

This staggering number also has an annual cost of almost 150 billion dollars.

It is more important than ever to find a solution to this crisis.

The ketogenic diet is well on its way to being a key part of changing this epidemic.

Did you know that obesity is actually a hormonal disease?

That’s why it’s so important to pay attention to how hormones work.

What Are Hormones?

Hormones are chemical messengers that send signals throughout the body instructing cells to perform certain tasks.

Probably the most powerful of these is insulin, especially when it comes to losing weight and improving health.

When you eat carbohydrates, they are broken down into glucose (sugar) and go into the bloodstream to be used for energy.

Then the pancreas releases insulin so your cells and organs can receive that energy.

Think of insulin as the key that opens the door so the energy can be utilized. 

Once the cells have all they need, the rest is stored in the liver as glycogen for future use.

Now your cells only need so much and the liver is a small organ that can only store a limited amount.

Statistics Don’t Lie

Unfortunately, the average American consumes 250-300 grams of carbs daily and eats every 2-3 hours.

By doing so, insulin has to work overtime to regulate your blood sugar because high blood sugar levels can kill you.

When the liver and cells have all they can hold, then insulin instructs the rest of the glucose to be stored as fat.

This over-consumption leads to excessive weight gain.

When insulin is being constantly released, eventually it loses its effectiveness.

This means each time it takes more and more insulin to keep your blood sugar normal which leads to insulin resistance.

This is the precursor to Type 2 diabetes.

According to the CDC, 29 million people in the US have diabetes. 90-95% of those cases are Type 2 diabetics and 1 out 3 of those people don’t know they have it.

Type 2 diabetes increases your risk of heart disease, certain cancers, obesity, high blood pressure, and stroke.

How To Control Insulin

Adopting a ketogenic lifestyle is one of the best ways to do this.

As mentioned before, fat is a much cleaner fuel than glucose.

It doesn’t raise insulin levels and gives you steady energy throughout the day.

When you eat a large carbohydrate meal however, blood sugar shoots up and insulin spikes to counteract this. Your blood sugar then decreases. 

This constant roller coaster is why you get afternoon energy crashes.

Carbohydrates also hold water when they’re stored.

For every 1 gram of glycogen (stored glucose), 3-4 grams of water is also stored.

This is why you feel so bloated after a big bowl of pasta.

Regulating Your Hunger Hormones

The body is extremely complex and has many mechanisms to create homeostasis.

Your body actually uses hormones to maintain a healthy weight.

Leptin is the hormone that signals the brain to stop eating and allows you to feel satiated or full.

Ghrelin is the hormone that signals you to eat when the body needs nutrients. 

Your body naturally knows how much you need to eat to maintain a healthy weight when things are working properly. 

Unfortunately, a high carbohydrate diet disrupts the normal function of these hormones.

Insulinemia (abnormally high levels of insulin), turns off leptin and increases ghrelin.

That’s why you can eat a whole bag of chips or cookies and not be full and actually be hungry a couple of hours later. 

How Keto Helps Female Hormones

Estrogen is a powerful hormone that is responsible for female characteristics and reproductive function.

It also helps with brain, bone, and heart health as well as other essential processes. 

This hormone is produced by your ovaries, adrenal glands, and fat cells.

If you’re a lean female, then most of your estrogen will come from your ovaries.

This allows estrogen to function as it’s supposed to.

A ketogenic diet supports this by providing health fats since estrogen is a steroidal hormone that is synthesized by cholesterol. 

However, if you’re carrying a lot of extra weight from fat, then most of your estrogen will be produced by your fat cells.

When this occurs, it’s known as PCOS.

Insulin resistance is also associated with this condition. 

In addition, a ketogenic diet improves insulin resistance and can lead to significant fat loss. 

A lot more research is needed, but initial studies have shown promise for women with PCOS benefiting from keto.

Thyroid Function And Keto

There has been a lot of talks saying the ketogenic diet will ruin your thyroid.

That is simply not true.

The thyroid gland is extremely important because it helps regulate your metabolism, your body temperature, how fast your heart beats as well as how deep you breathe.

This small gland in your neck produces two hormones called T4 and T3.

Studies showed a ketogenic diet maintained T4 (inactive form) and decreased T3 (active form).

Usually, a decrease in T3 causes hypothyroidism, but participants did not experience any of the symptoms of the disorder and their metabolism didn’t slow down.

It was theorized that a ketogenic diet improved thyroid function, thus making T3 more efficient so less was needed.

It also showed muscle-sparing benefits.

Keto And Cortisol

Cortisol or better known as your “stress hormone” gets a bad rap.

This is a hormone that we absolutely need and has many benefits. 

It’s what wakes you up in the morning, attends to acute infections like if cut yourself, and provides you with instant energy in case you were being chased by a bear so you could run to safety. 

However, if you’re getting stressed out all the time from traffic, your boss, or maybe your kids then cortisol can work against you.

It signals the brain to produce glucose for quick action. But if you’re not acting and burning it off, then insulin will spike.

Might Be A Little Bumpy

Now when first starting a ketogenic diet, cortisol levels do increase because you’re putting stress on your body.

You’re asking it to do something completely different and that is to change its preferred fuel source.

Almost everyone has been “carb-burners” for the majority of their lives, so this process can be a little bumpy at first.

The good news is that your stress hormones actually help fat to be metabolized in a low carb state. After your body gets used to this or becomes fat-adaptive, then cortisol levels go back to normal.


You might think that keto is something new or just a passing fad, but that’s far from the truth.

The ketogenic diet was developed in the 1920s to treat children with epilepsy.

This approach was very successful and yielded significant positive results in patients with this condition.

However, in 1938 an anticonvulsant drug called Dilantin was discovered and the use of a ketogenic diet for treatment declined.

The discovery of insulin in the treatment of diabetes also overshadowed the use of dietary interventions as the main treatment for certain diseases.

Fast forward to today and there are multiple drugs for every condition or disease out there.

Now pharmaceuticals definitely have their place and are therapeutic, but diet shouldn’t be ignored as an important part of the equation.

Adopting a ketogenic lifestyle has major benefits that can not only help treat but also reverse certain conditions.

Consuming healthy fats and proteins while limiting carbohydrates nourishes the body so it can function properly.

Using ketosis to fix hormone imbalance also allows the body to heal and perform at its optimal level.

Be sure to consult your physician if you have any underlying conditions and do your research to see if this approach is right for you.