Keto Breath Is a Common Problem for Low-Carb Dieters—Here’s What You Can Do About It
How to get rid of the stink without going off keto.
If you've ever been on the keto diet, you might have noticed your breath smelling pretty nasty for the first couple of weeks. Don't worry, you're not the only one. "Keto breath" is a super common side effect of eating high-fat, low-carb meals. And while it might be very unpleasant, it's actually a sign that your body is in ketosis, the fat-burning state that is the goal of the keto plan.
When done right, keto has a lot of benefits, including weight loss and improved cognitive function. Unfortunately, keto breath is also part of the deal. It's not the only body stench keto might cause; some keto followers have reported a foul vaginal odor after starting the plan (though science has yet to explain that claim).
Here's everything you need to know about keto breath, including the most important thing: how to get rid of it.
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What are the symptoms of keto breath?
Ah, the smell of nail polish remover. Seriously, that familiar post-manicure odor is pretty close to keto breath, says Cynthia Sass, RD, Health contributing nutrition editor. Along with that smell might come a lingering metallic taste in your mouth. This is the most commonly reported keto breath, but some followers say they get a whiff of something different, like more of a fruity odor.
What causes keto breath?
When your body breaks down fat for energy instead of carbs, it converts the fatty acids into chemicals called ketones. It then disposes of the ketones through both exhalation and urination. "One type of ketone, acetone, is an ingredient in some nail polish removers, which is why your breath may smell like this familiar scent," Sass says. As icky as the smell may be, it's an indication that your body is in ketosis. Hey, at least you'll know the keto diet is working.
How long does keto breath last?
The good news: Keto breath is only temporary. "It’s more noticeable at first because of the big shift the body is going through," Sass says. Within a few weeks, as your system adjusts to eating way fewer carbs, your breath should return to normal.
How can I get rid of keto breath?
Thankfully, there are a few things you can do to get rid of keto breath. Sass first advises drinking more water. Remember, one way your body gets rid of ketones is through your urine. So the more you hydrate, the more you'll pee, and the faster those ketones will leave your system. You can also try eating less protein, Sass says. When the body metabolizes protein, it produces the chemical ammonia—another reason your breath may become more pungent on keto.
If your mouth tastes like metal, Sass suggests chewing on fresh mint and eating foods that increase saliva production, like celery and lemon; extra saliva helps clean out lingering bacteria that can worsen the stench. You can also try upping your carb intake just a tiny bit, by about five grams or so, which will lower the level of stinky ketones your body produces. (A breath analyzer can help you find the highest number of carbs you can eat while staying in ketosis.) Oh, and don't forget to brush your teeth more frequently while you're at it.
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