Eating a healthy, balanced diet when you are pregnant is essential for your growing baby. Pregnancy is not the time to start any new diet, but what if you are already on the Keto Diet? How does the Keto Diet and Pregnancy work?
The Keto Diet was originally used in the 1920s to help children suffering from epilepsy as the diet was found to minimise the number of seizures they had. In the last ten years, the diet has been found to be a very effective way of losing weight and also controlling heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and a number of other medical conditions ranging from acne to Alzheimer’s Disease.
What is the Keto Diet?
The Keto Diet is high in fat, moderate in proteins, and really low in carbohydrates. The idea is to push your body into the metabolic state of ‘ketosis’. This occurs when the body is forced to burn fat for energy rather than carbohydrates. The body can burn fat really efficiently and when it does this, it also turns fats into ketones in the liver and these are used by the brain for energy. The easiest way to trigger the state of ketosis is to limit the intake of carbs to less than 50 grams a day and to eat only a modest amount of protein. If too much protein is eaten, the body can convert protein into glucose to use for energy. When this happens, it is very difficult to keep the body in the state of ketosis.
Much medical research is still being conducted on the Keto Diet as many specialists believe that the diet could be used successfully in cancer treatments, to treat Parkinson’s Disease and also patients with traumatic brain injuries.
Another line of research is focusing on the use of the Keto Diet to help women conceive. It has been established that the diet can help those with diabetes and Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) to ovulate more regularly. It has also been found that Keto can be beneficial to women who are obese as it helps them to shed weight quickly and also to regularise their menstrual cycle.
Can Keto cause problems in pregnancy?
The key to success with the Keto Diet is to keep your body in the state of ketosis which means that the body is burning fat for energy. This results in good weight loss and many find that whilst following the diet, they have more energy and mental clarity.
To keep the body in the metabolic state of ketosis, it is essential that less than 50g of carbs are eaten each day. The Keto Diet does not include fruit except for a handful of berries and very few vegetables except leafy green vegetables like cabbage, broccoli, and green beans because other fruit and vegetables contain natural sugars.
Eating Keto foods can be a problem for pregnant women as their diet should include plenty of fruit and vegetables as these are rich in vitamins and minerals including iron and folate. Nutritionists believe that if a woman is continuing the Keto Diet, whilst she is pregnant, that she should take supplements as her body could be low in vitamins A, B, C, D and E as well as magnesium and antioxidants.
Another consideration is that eating a variety of fruit and vegetables also provides your body with plenty of fibre and who wants to be constipated – especially when they are pregnant!
As you will be seeing your doctor regularly through your pregnancy, it is important that you discuss the Keto Diet with them early on as most believe it is best not to continue the diet during your pregnancy.
Good reasons for following Keto in pregnancy
If you are epileptic
The Keto Diet was first developed to help people (especially children) suffering from epilepsy. In fact, the diet was first used by the Ancient Greeks to control epilepsy. The Keto Diet was used very successfully since its invention in the 1920s until the late 1940s to help epileptics. After that many anti-epilepsy drugs were invented, but the diet is still used today to treat people with epilepsy. When a woman suffering from epilepsy is planning a pregnancy, her GP will often discuss using Keto rather than medication during her pregnancy.
If you are diabetic or develop gestational diabetes
Following the Keto Diet can also be really beneficial for pregnant women who have diabetes as the diet helps to keep the blood sugars stabilised. About 1% of pregnant women are already diabetic when they become pregnant. As many as one in ten women develop Gestational Diabetes (GD) during their pregnancy. The Keto Diet can effectively regulate the woman’s blood sugars so that there is no need to use insulin. Following the Keto Diet can bring sugar levels back within the normal range quickly. It is essential in both cases that the decision to follow Keto is made with your GP and that it is closely monitored throughout your pregnancy.
Whilst following the Keto Diet can certainly be beneficial when preparing yourself for pregnancy and during the pregnancy to ease epilepsy, diabetes, or Gestational Diabetes, most nutritionists feel that it is not a good idea for a pregnant woman to restrict the amount of carbs she eats to less than 50 grams each day. The reason for this is that a developing baby needs a constant supply of glucose to grow and glucose is needed for the fetal brain to develop and function properly. Glucose is the fuel that the baby uses to develop and glucose comes directly from the carbs in their mother’s diet….