Carbohydrates and Female Hormones – Do we need carbs?

POSTED BY Kimberley | Mar, 20, 2018 |
Carbohydrates and Female Hormones - Do we need carbs

 A few weeks ago, I went to a nutrition seminar in Melbourne that was all about women, hormones, exercise and health. It was run by two specialist in their field, Lara Briden, author of the period repair manual, and Kira Sutherland, Nutritionist and Naturopath from Uber Health. This seminar brought to light a lot of the concerns I have had over the last few years around low carb, which left me feeling relieved and enlightened. I wasn’t alone in my concerns.

You see, one thing that i’ve have noticed in the low carb community, particularly in the sporting community, is that there isn’t really much talk about the effectiveness (or safety) of low carb for men verses womens.  They are often seen as one and the same.

However, due to my own experience of losing my menstrual cycle to a very low carb diet, I have always been cautious with lower carb when working with females.

I want to share with you some of the information that was discussed in the seminar, so as promised, here is the low down on low carb and female hormones:

Before we get started….

Lets just clarify the different levels of carbohydrate restriction:

Moderate carbohydrate diet <100-150g/day

Low carb diet <80-100g/day

Very Low Carb Diet <50g/day (Ketosis range)

The question: Who does well on low or very low carb?

Answer: WOMEN (and men) with INSULIN RESISTANCE

There is no argument here. The literature is already abundant that low carb diets are an effective treat for type 2 diabetes (a condition which is brought on by IR).

(Note: If client has insulin resistance, it means they find it difficult to metabolise carbohydrates – you could say they are  “carbohydrate intolerant”)

Common causes of insulin resistance include, but are not limited to

  • High carb/high sugar diet

  •  Genetic predisposition to IR

  • Poor gut composition

  • Low estrogen

Estrogen improves insulin sensitivity

Low estrogen occurs post menopause and in some PCOS cases (NOTE: If you have PCOS it doesn’t necessarily mean insulin resistance)

This is why post menopausal women often do quite well on a very low carb diet. The drop in oestrogen means a drop in insulin sensitivity (carbohydrate tolerance), and this is often what contributes to unwanted post menopausal weight gain.

A low carb diet can be a good solution, combined with short and regular bouts of exercise (to improve insulin sensivity).  Post menopausal women also no longer need carbs for ovulation. (However there is still the issue of hypothyroidism, and low fibre in VLCD).

I was happy to hear that Lara and Kira recognised that some females do very well on very low carb diets and based on my clinical experience, I agree.

BUT now lets look at those of us who DON”T have insulin resistance.

Those of us who are of reproductive age, doing various levels of activity.

As quoted by Lara and Kira…



Whether you are wanting to have a baby or not, if you are of reproductive age (haven’t gone through menopause) your brain is continuously assessing your current situation in terms of whether or not you are in a “safe” environment to bring a baby into the world. If there is not enough “perceived” food available, or you are under stress, your brain thinks you are in a “famine”, which is not an ideal situation to have a baby, and shuts off ovulation until it  thinks you are “safe” again. This is called “Hypothalamic Amenorrhoea”.


Ways very low carb and cause amenorrhea

  • Impaired luteinising hormone signalling

    • Lack of carbs = signals famine – stops the signalling from the hypothalamus to the ovaries (shuts off ovulation)

  • Poor T4-T3 conversion

    • ​We need insulin and therefore carbohydrates for the conversion of T4-T3. Low carb diets can lead to hypothyroidism which often coincides with amenorrhea.

  • Suppressed appetite from higher fat diet or ketosis that leads to under eating

    • Low calories = sign of famine

    • VERY COMMON in clinic.

    • Food for thought: Since when did having no appetite become a good thing?

  • Impaired microbiome – if not done properly e.g. avoidance of high fibre foods on VLCD


Whats wrong with not getting my period?

 I could write a whole post on this but just to give you a few things to think about:

No period, no hormones.

Why you want oestrogen:

Estrogen increases your insulin sensitivity, bone mineral density, mood, and protein synthesis (muscle building – yes, oestrogen is anabolic).

Why you want progesterone:

Progesterone is mood boosting, calming for our HPA axis, and needed for healthy thyroid function.

They also both counter balance each other. For example, oestrogen increases menstrual flow (heavier periods), whereas progesterone lightens them.

NOTE – The progestin you get in your pill is NOT the same as progesterone that your body makes (it doesn’t have the same benefits)


Unfortunately, science hasn’t really seen this as being high on the importance list SO there is very limited research around the optimal amount of carbohydrates needed for optimal  sex hormone production.

However…One paper concluded that women need 90-130g of glucose per day to maintain pituitary Luteinising hormone pulsatility, and anything under that can mean menstrual regulation gets disrupted.

That carbohydrate range may be a good place to start, and from clinical experience, I would say that range is where a lot of my female clients feel good. Some need a lot more than that (especially those doing a lot of training) , some can get away with less.

(NOTE: 90-130g is still considered LOW CARB compared to mainstream).

Where to go from here?

Having healthy hormone production is important, so if things are abnormal, it needs to be addressed. The best way forward is to get professional advice that is based on YOUR body. Don’t copy what some one else is doing, and if its not working for you, re-asses.

If you are concerned, or not sure where to start, seek a qualified health professional that will take into account your insulin sensitivity, current diet and symptoms, exercise regime, and track changes to symptoms as you go along.

I hope this has been helpful

For any questions or queries on this topics please don’t hesitate to leave me a message via the contact page. 

And stay tuned for the next topic on female hormones and fasting

Kim xx

  • 除皺特點 純度高,效果好 見效迅速,無創無痛 安全精準,表情自然 唯一在臨床有20多年的注射材料,全球超過11000000人使用 適用範圍 魚尾紋、額頭紋、眉間紋、鼻紋和頸部皺紋都可以祛除; 最適合於早期的、不太明顯的皺紋 不須使用任何的鎮靜劑或局部麻醉劑,且Botox除皺治療後可立即繼續進行正常的活動。 Botox除皺可以利用午休時間約診即可,完全不影響工作的安排。BOTOX肉毒桿菌素是一種高度純化的蛋白質,經過注射之後,能夠使導致動態皺紋的肌肉得到放鬆,它能夠阻斷導致肌肉收縮的神經細胞,使面部線條變得平滑並防止新皺紋形成。全球銷量第一品牌 在中國唯一獲得SFDA、FDA批准用於醫療美容的肉毒桿菌素 唯一一個擁有40年安全記錄的肉毒桿菌素 在70個國家獲得批准使用 BOTOX肉毒杆菌素

  • 「 生蛇 」( 醫學名稱是 『帶狀疱疹』Shingles ) 是由水痘病毒引起的疾病。水痘癒合後,病毒在神經細胞潛伏多年,日後隨時重新激活後導致的帶狀皮疹,就是「 生蛇 」。因此,凡感染過水痘的人,都有機會「 生蛇 」。病發時,身體某一部位會感到內疼或劇痛,通常是臉或背部及腰部的一側;這時由於病毒從脊髓處沿其中華一條神經擴散到身體以及去到連接的皮膚表面,形成紅疹及小水疱。帶狀疱疹疫苗Zostavax康栢苗 (蛇針)能助減低「 生蛇 」的機會,有效預防: 「 生蛇 」( 帶狀疱疹 ) 成效高達 70% 「 生蛇 」的後遺神經痛:即使紅疹痊癒,神經痛還可以持續數月或數年。年紀越大,持續有後遺 神經痛風險越高 「 生蛇 」引起的急性及長期痛症 不適用人士: 曾對疫苗成分包括明膠( Gelatin ) 及紐奧黴 ( Neomycin ) 有過敏性休克反應的人士 有原發及繼發性免疫系統問題的病患者,或正服用抑鬱免疫系統藥物(如高劑量膽固醇)的病人 患有肺結核,正發病及未經治療人士 孕婦

  • 充滿豐盈精華液的面膜為肌膚注入滿滿的水分和高濃度營養成分,使用一次即可令肌膚恢復彈力,深層豐盈的保濕造就耀目年輕、滋潤、緊緻和有彈性的肌膚。

  • #每日3件事 全智賢再當媽! Marie Claire (HK) Edition 女神明年再當媽 全智賢表示想美沒捷徑 好掛住前度點算好?搵定唔搵對方好?塔羅牌咁樣講…… via GIPHY 權力遊戲Game o

  • Arsene Wenger has confessed he fears Arsenal will miss out on Champions League qualification for the first time in 15 years. Sunday’s defeat at Chelsea leaves the Gunners seven points adrift of Spurs. Mind the gap! Wenger worried Arsenal will miss out on the Champions League as rivals Spurs move SEVEN points clear

  • 400069 401373Private Krankenversicherung – Nur dann, wenn Sie sich fr die Absicherung ber die Rentenversicherung entschieden haben, dann knnen Sie sich sicher sein, dass Sie im Alter so viel Geld haben, damit Sie Ihren Lebensstandard halten knnen. 843964

  • I was wondering іf you eveг cⲟnsidered changing the structure of your
    website? Its very well written; I lovе wһаt youve got to ѕay.

    But maybe ʏou could a little more in the way of ϲontent so people could connect
    with it better. Youve got an aѡful lot of text for
    only having one оr two pictures. Maybe you
    could spacе it out better?

  • 456206 623916There some fascinating points over time here but I dont know if I see them all center to heart. There exists some validity but Let me take hold opinion until I appear into it further. Quite excellent post , thanks and now we want much more! Included with FeedBurner at exactly the same time 939743

  • 790722 664222 Youre so cool! I dont suppose Ive read anything like this before. So nice to find somebody with some original thoughts on this subject. realy thank you for starting this up. this site is something that is required on the web, someone with a bit originality. beneficial job for bringing something new to the internet! 210794

  • 161171 569733The the next occasion I read a weblog, I truly hope so it doesnt disappoint me about brussels. Come on, man, Yes, it was my option to read, but I just thought youd have some thing interesting to state. All I hear can be a great deal of whining about something which you could fix if you werent too busy looking for attention. 876201

  • 502112 991214Wonderful beat ! I would like to apprentice whilst you amend your internet web site, how can i subscribe for a blog website? The account helped me a applicable deal. I had been tiny bit acquainted of this your broadcast provided shiny transparent thought. 653119

  • 566 446972Spot lets start work on this write-up, I truly feel this fabulous site needs a fantastic deal far more consideration. Ill apt to be again to learn far more, appreciate your that information. 85690

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.