Ketosis & Late Menstrual Cycle

Ketosis occurs when a person is deprived of dietary carbohydrates, causing the body to burn glycogen and fat stores for energy. This can lead to rapid weight loss, which may cause late or missed periods in some women. If you are experiencing ketosis and your period is much later than usual, consult your doctor.

A woman eating oatmeal from a jar. (Image: AlexeyBorodin/iStock/Getty Images)


Your body burns dietary carbohydrates for energy. If you do not provide it with carbohydrates, it burns its fat stores instead. This process releases small carbon fragments called ketones into the blood, which causes the state known as ketosis. A common sign of ketosis is unpleasant fruity-smelling breath that results when your body tries to expel excess ketones by breathing them out. Although it is often marketed and promoted as a safe weight-loss and detox solution, ketosis can cause long-term liver and kidney damage.

Ketogenic Diets

Ketogenic diets are extremely strict, high-fat, low-protein and low-carbohydrate diets that intentionally cause a state of ketosis, usually for quick weight loss. These diets may produce the desired results, but the weight loss is rarely sustainable since it returns quickly once you return to a normal diet. More importantly, they are not safe. Ketogenic diets can cause a host of problems, including kidney stones, constipation, cognitive problems, osteoporosis, high cholesterol and disruptions in the menstrual cycle.

Reasons for a Late Menstrual Period

There are many reasons your period may be late. Some fluctuations in your menstrual cycle are normal, or may occur due to stress, your contraceptive method or even pregnancy. More serious causes include hormonal imbalances, thyroid problems or menopause. Extreme weight loss such as that caused by ketosis can cause your menstrual periods to diminish or stop altogether. If you are following a ketogenic diet and your period is more than a few days late, the diet may be the cause.

Anorexia Nervosa

The eating disorder anorexia nervosa is characterized by obsessive concern about diet and weight loss. Ketosis and very late or missed periods are both symptoms of anorexia. Other signs include dry and brittle skin, hair and nails; abnormally low blood pressure, dehydration and new growth of soft hair on the body. Over time, anorexia can cause osteoporosis, malnutrition, heart failure, anemia and death. If your focus on weight loss and diet interferes with your menstrual cycle or other parts of your life, you may be at risk of this dangerous condition. Speak with your doctor.

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