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Keto Breath: The Unfortunate Side Effect of a Low-Carb Diet

Contributors:  

You're totally rocking your new diet, but there's just one problem… your breath smells weird!

Keto breath or “ketotic” breath happens when you are on the ketogenic diet and your body has entered a process of energy generation called ketosis.

sweet taste in mouth from keto diet
The keto diet can cause foul smelling breath.

What does keto breath smell like? Typically, your bad breath will smell a bit like nail polish and you may also have a sweet taste in the mouth.

While this odd side effect is generally a sign of keto success, acetone breath is hardly a crowd-pleaser. So let's get into it:

  • What is that ketosis smell?
  • How can you make sure it doesn't offend you, your colleagues, or your lovers?
  • How is it different than halitosis?

What is keto?

The ketogenic (keto) diet is a high-fat, low-carb, moderate-protein diet created to help the body achieve a state of ketosis. Ketosis is when the body begins to use the fatty acids and ketone bodies stored in your fat reserves for energy instead of the converted glucose from ingested carbohydrates.

This method has been championed by a lot of celebrities as the diet of the new generation. While the idea of dropping carb intake almost completely may seem in line with older diet methods, the increase of fats intake (60-80% of total calories) may seem less intuitive.

But many claim dramatic results. It certainly does sound a bit extreme, but you can have a brief look at some of the pros and cons of this diet below.

Pros Cons
Weight loss Low-carb diet may not be good for athletes
Good for low activity lifestyle May not be enough sugar to function properly
May help prevent cancer High fat diet may be bad for heart
Increased energy Keto breath

That brings us to our next question: How do you know if you're in ketosis?

Signs you're in ketosis

Ketosis breath
Keto diet helps the body to burn fat reserves.
  • Weight loss: The process of ketosis will have your body burning fats instead of carb-based glucose supply. This can cause the body to noticeably drop weight.
  • Ketone increase in blood: Yes, you can test for ketones in your blood. A hallmark of the keto diet is the increase in blood ketones and the decrease in blood sugar.
  • Increased ketones in breath and urine: Bad breath ( or keto breath) is an unfortunate result of ketosis. When the body burns fat, a substance called a ketone is produced as a byproduct. Ketones are elevated as the body breaks down fatty stores to use for energy in the absence of glucose from carbohydrates. Ketone breath, or when your breath smells like acetone is one way for ketones to be released from the body, urine is the other way that ketones can be passed.
  • Increased focus: Long term ‘ketoers' often report an increase in focus and energy. This is because ketones are an extremely effective fuel source for the brain. A low-carb diet will also stabilize blood sugar levels and this can result in improved brain function.
  • Dry mouth: Having a dry mouth on the keto diet is normal because your system is losing water and electrolytes quickly. Especially if you get rid of all processed foods that you were eating (all the sodium). Rest assured that keto dry mouth can be solved by drinking a lot of water and electrolytes to rehydrate.

Keto breath

So this brings us to our main focus: Keto breath. Keto bad breath is a sign that the body has entered ketosis. Some people report a signature keto metallic taste or a sweet taste in the mouth that is very different from the bad breath resulting from halitosis.

It is a common misconception that the bad breath associated with keto is purely from the dry mouth keto diets sometimes cause, although this can certainly cause problems too.

Normally, the body will use carbohydrates to generate glucose for energy. The keto diet helps to get rid of excess fats by starving the body of glucose from carbohydrates, therefore pushing your system to burn up fat reserves.

When the reserves are eliminated, there is a byproduct that needs to be eliminated from the body called a ketone. Ketones can only be eliminated from the body by breath and urine. The keto diet bad breath is a result of ketones leaving the body.

This infographic from SmartMouth sums up what's going on in your body when you embark on this diet:

what causes keto breath

Not everyone experiences bad breath while following the keto diet. You may notice the bad breath at the beginning of your diet but the problem will subside as you adjust to the lower carb intake.

However, when it does occur, the smell can be so offensive that some may seek medical advice on how to prevent it. The good news is that keto breath should only last for a few weeks.

Keto breath test

Having bad breath is embarrassing, especially when you don't notice that you have it. Ignoring a dry mouth on keto is doable, but ignoring the foul odor is more of a challenge. Luckily, there are breathalyzers sold that test the levels of ketones in your breath to help determine if one is in a state of using up fatty reserves.

These breath tests can also help to solve the mystery of why your breath may not be smelling so fresh. The higher the ketone count, the more likely it is that your mouth will smell like a nail salon.

Hey there!! Watch the edited (short version) replay of my LIVE video all about breath testing for ketosis. I've reviewed and demonstrated using the KetoScan Mini and stacked it up against three other keto breath testing devices. For those of you who prefer a quicker summary…. see my blog post on keto breath testing. BLOG POST: https://wholebodyliving.com/keto-breath-testing-is-it-accurate/ Here's a link to the product we'll be discussing and comparing some other models (that I've personally tested) ❣https://wholebodyliving.com/ketoscan Next up we have some of the studies I'll be referring to for those of you who like to do your own research. Measuring breath acetone for monitoring fat loss: Review by Joseph C. Anderson https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4737348/ Tara's Super Quick Summary: Acetone in the blood and breath has been known to increase with fasting and calorie restriction for more than 50 years. However, in the last 25 years there have been more studies quantifying the relationship between acetone production and the rate of fat loss. This review looks at the studies regarding this relationship. Acetone (BrAce) can be related to ketosis levels via blood BOHB. If you follow the link and go to Figure 2 on the study you can see the correlation with blood β‐hydroxybutyrate. The study also talked about different ways to increase ketone levels in the body and is well worth a read. The next article was published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition on July 1, 2002 and is titled "Breath acetone is a reliable indicator of ketosis in adults consuming ketogenic meals" https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/76/1/65/4689461 A few things to note– this study was only a 24 hour study so it didn't test any long-term implications. You can see from their conclusions that in the beginning breath acetone were good predictors of ketosis. There are many many more studies available out on PubMed for your researching enjoyment 🙂 ____________________________________________________ Double check that you're subscribed to my channel so you're notified of upcoming livestreams & new videos. I also post important announcements and polls to my subscribers and hope you will join us in growing this keto community. Join our Free FB support group ❣❣❣🆓https://www.wholebodyliving.com/freeketogroup If you use the Amazon link above, please be aware it is an affiliate link…Why affiliate links? They help support my Vlog 🙂 Thank you for considering using my Amazon affiliate links. How do they work? When you click on them and make a purchase, my blog gets a small % as a kickback for referring you based off the total dollar amount in your cart. This costs you nothing extra and is a free (to you) way to help support my blog & help me afford to continue to be able to experiment and develop recipes. Thank you so much for considering using my Amazon (and other) affiliate links. DISCLOSURE: IMPORTANT: This is a paid product promotion. I have received monetary compensation and these products for free in exchange for an UNBIASED honest review. My promise to you is to always be honest in my reviews and recommendations. Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/tarasketokitchen/ Twitter: https://twitter.com/TaraKetoKitchen Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TarasKetoKitchen Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/tarasketokitchen/ Website: https://www.WholeBodyLiving.com Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/tarasketokitchen Tara Wright, Whole Body Living, LLC and Tara's Keto Kitchen provide information on this YouTube Channel and associated website regarding healthy living, recipes, nutrition, and diet which are intended for informational purposes only. The information provided is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment nor is it to be construed as such. Although every effort is made, information and research can change rapidly. We cannot guarantee that the information provided reflects the most up-to-date medical research. Information is provided without any representations or warranties of any kind. Please consult a qualified physician for medical advice, and always seek the advice of a qualified healthcare provider before making any changes to your nutrition or exercise program. DISCLOSURE: IMPORTANT: This is a paid product promotion. I have received monetary compensation and these products for free in exchange for an UNBIASED honest review. My promise to you is to always be honest in my reviews and recommendations. Note: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. Thank you so much for choosing to purchase through me!

Solutions to keto breath

metallic taste in mouth
Breath spray for keto
  • Eat more carbs: Increasing the number of carbohydrates you eat will pull your system out of ketotic state and eliminate the ketones that are causing the foul odor.
  • Keto breath mints and keto gum: The diet doesn't allow for processed sugar, but there are brands of gum and mints that are keto-friendly that can help mask the temporary bad odor. Some good options are Pur gum and Spry peppermints.
  • Practice good oral hygiene: Brushing your teeth thoroughly and often can help reduce the foul odor from ketogenic processes. Read our guide on best practices.
  • Invest in a good mouthwash: A strong mouthwash will help mask any odor, and there are plenty of varieties to choose from – even if you're not a fan of mint. Our best mouthwash guide has some suggestions, or look at some homemade mouth rinses.
  • Try a breath spray: This one from Dr. Brite features natural and organic ingredients and gives breath a cool minty freshness. Get 10% off with code DRBRITE10.
  • Increase water intake: Drinking more water will help to eliminate the odor caused by a dry mouth and help to stave off the foul odor resulting from ketones.

Conclusion

Keto breath is an unfortunate effect of properly maintaining a state of ketosis. This acetone scented breath is a result of the high amount of ketones in your system from the burning of fat reserves instead of processing glucose for energy. The foul smell isn't a sign of bad bacteria, but rather a sign of a system that has successfully achieved ketosis.

Of course, you should always speak to a doctor before starting any diet, and if you suspect your bad breath is more than just keto breath, you can always consult your dentist.

FAQ

How long does keto breath last?

Thankfully, it doesn't last forever. Keto breath is most prominent when you first start achieving ketosis, and usually only lasts a few weeks while your system is going through ketosis.

What is keto breath?

Keto breath is the result of a high fat diet. Specifically, it is the smell of acetone resulting from the production of ketones as a by-product of the conversion of stored fat to energy.

Is keto breath a good sign?

Keto breath is the result of successful ketosis in the body. When fat reserves are used for energy the by-product is ketones, which are eliminated from the system through breath and urine.

Keto Breath: The Unfortunate Side Effect of a Low-Carb Diet
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Contributors:
Alexa Rose is a writer and editor in the oral health and healthcare field with experience researching and creating content for the field of dentistry. Her writing is always well researched and engaging, with actionable and accurate information about oral health.
Sources
Mayo Clinic: Keto Diet. Accessed 15, June 2020. American Dental Association: Bad Breath: 6 Causes (and 6 Solutions). Accessed 15, June 2020.