Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Affects of a High Protein/Low carb diet on the Menstrual cycle.

This past month has made me stop and think alot about the affects of high protein / low carb diets. I have found the below information very useful and it moved me to seriously consider the nutritional content of what I eat.

After some research it seems that alot of women DO experience some interesting hormonal side affects when starting / during high protein / low carb diets. This seems to be a temporary situation in most cases and is actually indicative of the body going through some changes which will ulitmately heal it.

It's thought this affect is caused by an estrogen dominant situation - fat on the body stores and makes estrogen, so most women who have excess fat to lose have an excess of estrogen stored in their adipose tissue. This in itself can cause a lot of mentrual problems - PMS, heavy bleeding, bloating, etc. Heavy bleeding is one of the most common and it usually stabalizes after some time on the diet. When you start to lose fat, then alot MORE estrogen gets dumped into the system and can cause havoc for a while. Eventually it all evens out as the diet helps normalize all the homonal systems, mostly by a better balance of eicosonoids. (Omega 3 / Omega 6 - take your fish oil ladies!)

Energy intakes are generally higher in the premenstrual phase; some women have food cravings as their period approaches. Eating high protein foods every few hours can often temper or stop the cravings. Fluid retention is common in the days leading up to a woman’s period because certain hormones encourage the body to hold salt (sodium). The more sodium the body holds, the more fluid is retained in the tissues.

Other common symptoms of PMS include moodiness, tiredness and constipation. It is thought that taking B-group vitamins, particularly vitamin B6, may help. Light to moderate exercise, such as a 30-minute brisk walk each day, has also been shown to noticeably reduce symptoms of PMS.
Food / Vitamins and PMS

Nutrition tips to ease the symptoms of PMS

Bloating, cramping, and fatigue experienced the week or so before your period are often due to fluctuating hormones. Diet can play an important role in alleviating these and other symptoms of PMS.
  • Avoid trans fats, refined sugar, and salt. Sugar worsens mood swings and salt worsens water retention and bloating.
  • Cut out caffeine and alcohol.
  • Limit red meat and egg yolks as they can cause inflammation. You may want to try sticking to vegetable proteins like soy and nuts, to see if it helps with your symptoms.
  • Try cutting out dairy. Many women find relief from symptoms when dairy foods are eliminated from their diet. For some, improvements occur when they switch to hormone-free, organic dairy products.
  • Add essential fatty acids to you diet. Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to help with cramps. See if eating more fish or taking fish oil or flaxseed oil supplements eases your PMS symptoms.
  • Consider vitamin supplements. For some women, taking a daily multivitamin or supplementing with magnesium, vitamin B6, and vitamin E may help relieve cramps

Iron and anaemia

Iron is a mineral that works with other substances to create haemoglobin, the compound that carries oxygen in the blood. Women need up to 18mg per day. This is to make up for the amount of iron they lose in their menstrual period, which averages around 1mg or so lost for every day of bleeding. Iron deficiency is the most common nutrient deficiency in women. Insufficient iron can lead to anaemia. Common symptoms include tiredness and breathlessness.

Good sources of iron include:
  • Red meat, chicken and fish
  • Egg yolks
  • Leafy green vegetables.
Iron absorption can be impaired by very high fibre diets, alcohol, the tannic acid in tea and concentrated sources of calcium (for example, calcium supplements).

Calcium and osteoporosis
Osteoporosis is a disorder characterised by a thinning of the bones until they are weak and easily fracture or break. Women are at greater risk of developing osteoporosis, particularly after menopause, because oestrogen levels are reduced. There are many factors involved, for example:

  • Low calcium intake during the growing years
  • Diet – salt, caffeine and alcohol may interfere with the balance of calcium in the body by affecting the absorption of calcium and increasing the amount lost in the urine. Moderate alcohol intake (1–2 standard drinks per day) and moderate tea, coffee and caffeine-containing drinks are recommended. Avoid adding salt at the table and in cooking.
  • Exercise – or the lack of it, can also affect the development of osteoporosis.
  • Low body weight – maintaining a low body weight (body mass index less than 18) has been associated with the development of osteoporosis.

Vitamin D and calcium

Vitamin D increases calcium absorption and is required for normal bone metabolism. The main source of vitamin D for most people is sunshine. Women who have very low levels of sunlight exposure or have naturally very dark skin are at risk of vitamin D deficiency. It is important to balance the need to maintain adequate vitamin D levels with the risk of skin cancer from too much sun exposure. A sensible balance of sun protection and exposure can ensure that women are not at risk of vitamin D deficiency.

Good dietary sources of vitamin D are margarine, eggs and oily fish (such as mackerel and sardines).

Good sources of calcium include dairy foods, calcium-fortified soymilk and sesame seeds. For women who can’t eat these foods, calcium supplements may be desirable.
Animal protein, eaten in large amounts, also increases urinary calcium loss - a major contributor to calcium balance. So also consider plant-based sources of calcium like beans, broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts, and collard greens.
  • Calcium: The recommended daily allowance varies from 400 to 1,200 mg/day. Good sources of calcium include dairy products, leafy green vegetables, oatmeal and other grains, tofu, cabbage, summer squash, green beans, garlic, and sea vegetables. Calcium is absorbed slowly and your body cannot take in more than 500 mg at any one time.
  • Magnesium: The recommended daily allowance for magnesium is 500 to 800 mg/day. Calcium can only work when taken in conjunction with magnesium. Good sources of magnesium include leafy green vegetables, summer squash, broccoli, halibut, cucumber, green beans, celery, and a variety of seeds, including pumpkin, sunflower, sesame, and flax seeds.
  • Vitamin D: Aim for between 400 and 1,000 IU (international units) daily. You can get Vitamin D from about half an hour of direct exposure to sunlight, and also from foods and supplements. Salmon is an excellent source of vitamin D. Other good sources include shrimp, vitamin-D fortified milk, cod, and eggs.

It's amazing how you can have menstrual cycles for decades and yet still not know or forget important information that can really benefit you.

Hope you find this interesting x


  1. That is very interesting, Sonia. Last month, I had a more than heavy flow, but I didn't mind that so much as the lethargy, bloating and stomach issues. No joke, I was slammed.

    Today, TOM arrived, and I have to say the daily dose of Vit B with the CoQ-10 last week has really helped.

    One thing I did note, when I was taking the CoQ-10 at night, I lay awake late, so I now take it in the morning right after I take the Vit B.

    I saw Vit B above somewhere in your post, definitely start that, you will see the biggest difference with it.

    Add CoQ-10 only if you have extreme fatigue / lethargy issues around PMS time.

    On a lighter note, since my family is complete, I wouldn't mind this going the other way and having TOM not show up at all, LOL. But then I'd be worried something is wrong with me.

    Gosh, can't win, can we?

  2. Oh, and forgot to say, Iron pills give me major constipation. The only time I can safely take them is if I up my intake of Oats, which then helps move things along. Obviously, right now, we can't have unlimited Oats, so for me, that's out of question.

    All other things, I think we can get thru the diet anyway, with it's emphasis on eggs, fish (salmon, sardines etc) and greens.

    Hope you get this under control before next month's time.

  3. Sorry Sonia, one last comment, promise.

    I've stayed the same this week. Last week, I had a bigger loss than my usual weekly rate, so don't despair, a whoosh is likely around the corner.

    Keep sticking to the diet, we all will get to our goals ~

  4. Thanks Archana, full of useful advice as always. No I don't think we can win! LOL. I'm definitely starting with the Vit B complex. I may try a calcium / magnesium suppliment aswell. Iron wise I will just increase my green leafy veg intake I think. I'm feeling much more human today, so I'm not obsessing too much about my loss this week, I feel lighter so I'm sure it'll show on the scales at some point. I will hold off on the CoQ-10 and see how it goes. Thanks again, glad you are doing well. xoxo

    1. May also try Berocca effervescent tablets - will have to check if these are allowed??????