What the keto diet can do to women’s vaginal health
Everyone’s talking about the keto diet, but no one’s talking about one very off-putting potential side effect of the meal plan: a funky vaginal odour.
The low-carb, high-fat diet places your body into a state of ketosis, wherein you burn fat instead of carbohydrates for energy.
There is no research confirming the existence of “keto crotch,” but according to Calgary-based dietitian Andrea Hardy, it makes sense that the diet would alter the pH of the vagina through the vaginal microbiota.
“Most of us eat about 30 per cent of our calories for the day as fat,” said Hardy. “The keto diet recommends 70 to 80 per cent of our calories are fat. Excess intake of fats and saturated fats can alter the pH of the vagina.”STORY CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT
(Excessive fat intake is associated with an increase in bacterial vaginosis, a condition caused by a change in pH in the vagina.)
Ultimately, an increase in the pH of the vagina can increase the risk of bad bacterial growth. Bad bacteria can cause yeast infections, bacterial vaginosis — and, yes, a bad smell.
The keto diet displaces plant-based foods with foods high in fat. Plant-based foods are high-fibre foods, and “those high-fibre foods are what feeds good bacteria in our gut,” explained Hardy.
Continue to see more:
For Hardy, a foul odour, yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis can be a sign that the keto diet isn’t for your body.“There are some studies to suggest that the keto diet is actually harmful to our microbiomes, simply because it reduces the variety [of foods] and the types of carbohydrates that are so important for feeding those good bacteria,” said Hardy.STORY CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT
That being said, there are some ways to promote good gut and vaginal health while on the keto diet.
“Most people that I see doing the keto diet end up doing more of a moderate approach, [which means] consuming a bit more than the recommended five to 10 per cent of their calories as carbohydrates,” Hardy said.
It may also help to speak with your pharmacist or family doctor about using probiotics, which can help reduce your risk of bacterial vaginosis and yeast infections.
However, Hardy doesn’t think the keto diet is a sustainable way to lose weight — especially if you’re experiencing these additional side effects.
“Proponents of the keto diet suggest that by eating this low carb, it puts your body into ketosis, which is helpful for weight loss,” explained Hardy. But entering into ketosis requires a very restrictive meal plan that can be hard to maintain.STORY CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT
In addition, the drastic changes that happen to your body during ketosis can have several other negative side effects.“Ketosis occurs when your body runs out of its primary fuel source: glucose. Our carbohydrate-containing foods get converted to glucose in our body and provide [us] with energy. When we restrict that, our body has to find energy from other sources so it takes other nutrients, fats and proteins and converts them into ketones, which can be used like glucose,” said Hardy.
“The reason why people lose weight so rapidly is your body actually stores glucose as glycogen, and for every one gram of glycogen it stores, it stores three grams of water. So when people go on the keto diet, they deplete their glycogen stores and very quickly lose quite a lot of pounds.”
Continue to see more:
Researchers want the world to eat differently. Here’s what that diet might look like:
The way most of humanity eats is bad for us and bad for the environment, a new report contends. And the authors are proposing a new diet that addresses both.
A three-year research project published in the Lancet Wednesday outlines what a panel of nutrition, agriculture and environmental experts believe is the best way to eat for our own health and the planet’s — and it looks very different from what most people eat. Big changes are necessary, the report contends.STORY CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT
It recommends a plant-based diet, based on previously published studies that have linked red meat to increased risk of health problems. It also comes amid recent studies of how eating habits affect the environment. Producing red meat takes up land and feed to raise cattle, which also emit the greenhouse gas methane.
“The food we eat and how we produce it determines the health of people and the planet, and we are currently getting this seriously wrong,” said one of the report authors professor Tim Lang of the City University of London, U.K.
“We need a significant overhaul, changing the global food system on a scale not seen before in ways appropriate to each country’s circumstances.”
The diet that they propose focuses on eating lots of vegetables, getting most protein from plant-based sources like lentils and other pulses, eating more soy and nuts, and for Canadians anyway, much, much less red meat. Eggs should be limited to fewer than about four a week, the report says. Dairy foods should be about a serving a day, or less.