Table of Contents
- Keto Breath: Overview
- Keto Breath: What is it
- Keto Breath: Symptoms
- Keto Breath: Causes
- Keto Breath: How Long Does It Last
- Keto Breath: How to fix it
- Keto breath is an unwarranted and super common side-effect of ketosis.
- Excessive ketone production during ketosis state is the main culprit behind this keto side effect.
- Fortunately, this keto side effect is temporary and last only for a week or two at most.
- We can smother keto breath until it recedes by using mints, gum and drinking water aplenty.
Keto Breath: Overview
We all know the fable of a lion’s bad breath. How his wife’s complain on his bad breath costs the life of his two councilors – sheep and wolf. And how witty fox saves his life by playing trickery. In real life, bad breath may not take one’s life but it definitely costs many relationships. Or, it prevents one to build a new one.
Keto breath is an unwarranted and super common side-effect of ketosis. Sometimes it can be embarrassing. In this article, we will learn about keto breath, what causes it, its symptoms and how to get rid of it.
Keto Breath: What is it
Studies reveal that almost half of the world’s population experience bad breath at some stage of their lives. This metallic taste and stench that emits from our mouth is often linked with low carb and high protein diet design. However, the bad breath caused by keto diet is not same as regular bad breath or halitosis produced by bacteria.
The ketogenic diet is devised in a way that it forces our body to change its energy source. In this diet, our body gets energy from fat instead of glucose and in the process gives a rise to our blood ketone levels.
In fact, our liver starts producing bulk amount of ketones to satiate our brain’s energy need. During this transition period, our body faces many changes and adaptations like amplified fat metabolism, diminished insulin levels etc.
Keto breath is the most recognizable sign that indicate our body starts to reach ketosis state.
Keto Breath: Symptoms
Is keto breath same as the old ticket master’s bad breathe?
Keto breath is very precise and unlike usual scents that produced from unused food elements and bacteria in our mouth. Keto breath has a unique flavor and odor which makes it distinctive from normal bad breath. Flavors of keto breath differ depending on its creation from which byproducts of fat and protein.
Some people finds similarity between nail polish remover and keto breath and presence of acetone on the breath creates that resiny smell.
“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
Moreover, it has also been labeled as something different, like fruity-smelling and acetoacetate and beta-hydroxybutyrate play the role behind that smell.
Some describes it as ammonia like or metallic taste. Others report it as pungent and acidic. Some finds keto breath odor like strong vodka. Some feels the odor of varnish in keto breath.
Keto Breath: Causes
Experts put emphasis on two reasons behind keto breath, however, growing ketone levels is considered as main perpetrator. People experience this keto side effect in the first week of a keto diet. The two main reasons of keto breath are:
- Releasing Ketones through breathing
- Excessive protein intake
Ketosis: How Responsible It Is?
First, we have to know how ketosis mechanism in order to understand what is its role behind keto breath.
Ketosis happens when our body lacks carbohydrates and runs out of glucose. With No carbohydrates our body is forced to run on these molecules called ketones and these ketones provide energy from fat. At one stage, our body reaches a point when it burns carbs and fats simultaneously, which is perfectly okay, when we make a dietary change like keto diet.
As keto diet turns our fat burning mode on, our body will produce more and more ketones. Ketone bodies are the after-effect of fat processing in our cells. To put it simply, our body keeps producing ketones as long as it gets fat to burn irrespective of its sources – fat that we consume or fat that stores in our body.
Now let’s get down to how this actually relates when it comes to keto breath. We have three main ketone bodies that our body is utilizing – beta hydroxybutyrate, acetoacetate and acetone, like nail polish remover. I don’t think it’s necessary to focus on then in this article. However, we would shed a bit of focus on acetone as it is the main culprit behind giving our breath a bad odor.
Science’s Take on This
Our body use those ketone bodies as energy produced from burning fat. In fact, research shows that our brain functions better when runs on ketones over glucose.
However, when our body goes through the transition period – to get energy from glucose to ketone – before getting keto adapted. In this state, our body not fully competent enough to utilize all fats for fuels which leaves us with surplus ketones in our body.
These undue ketones either need to expel from our body or should be exploited for energy. Otherwise, it may trigger some side-effects. Urine and breath are the two medium our body uses to excrete those excessive ketone bodies.
“Acetone, because of its small size, can also get into the air spaces of the lungs and is released by breathing,”
says Scott Keatley, R.D., of Keatley Medical Nutrition Therapy.
The blood vessels and Lungs play an important role in this whole process and the science of this development lies with these two organs. When ketones flow in the blood, they make contact with the air pouches in the lungs. Through respiration lungs expose these ketones to the air in our body. And then they are ejected as a gas with an odor of acetone known as bad breath.
Additional Protein Consumption: Causes Stomach Bacteria
The other likely reason for a stinky odor is consuming excess protein. Remember the macronutrients of a standard ketogenic diet and how our calories be devised:
- Fat should generate 70-80% of total calories
- Protein must produce 20-25% of total calories
- Only 5-10% calories emanates from carbohydrate
Many new keto dieter compensate low carbs eating by consuming more protein instead of extra fat intake. Another scenario can be they make a mistake when calculating macros and this miscalculation leads to additional protein intake than they should. Women should keep a vigil eye on their protein calculation as they need less amount than men.
Our body finds it difficult to acclimatize with sudden surge in protein intake resulting in improper digestion. As a consequence, inadequate fermentation of protein in the gut causes stomach bacteria, which harvest more ammonia while crushing down the food. Just like acetone, this additional ammonia can emits through our breath, triggering a solid stench.
Moreover, when we indulge ourselves on protein-rich foods, small bits of those foods come into contact with our mouth crevices and teeth and stay there. Later, bacteria ferments on those food particles. The end result of this bacterial actions is fiery sulfur compounds. And this sulfur mixtures are responsible for producing famous ‘dragon breath’.
“Sometimes the breath can be caused by an increase in protein intake as protein bits left in your mouth are likely to be transformed into volatile organic compounds, which do not have a great smell,”
says Scott Keatley, R.D., of Keatley Medical Nutrition Therapy.
Lack of Foods Intake: Limits Saliva Production
Bad breath is a common phenomenon in people with dry mouth. Especially, when people put themselves on some sort of diet or skip meals regularly. Therefore, insufficient eating can also contribute to keto breath because it limits in saliva creation. Saliva plays an important role in washing out bacteria that inhibits in our mouth and food elements that get struck in between teeth. It also provides steadiness to our mouth’s pH which keeps bacterial growth in check.
The rule of thumb is that we should certainly not allow our mouth going dry. The reason why we feel a bad breath after getting up from bed in the morning is that our saliva production level reach lowest during our sleeping time.
Keto Breath: How Long Does It Last
Keto breath doesn’t pay a visit to all keto dieters. Some lucky people never experience this embarrassing keto side-effect. It visits others in form of taste rather than as an odor.
People notice a change in their breath within a few days or a week of adopting keto diet as body starts to use fats as fuel source. However, the stench will go away as soon as our body get efficient at burning ketones and adjusts to it. The reason is when our body gets fat adapted, these is less possibility of extra ketones flowing in our blood.
“It’s more noticeable at first because of the big shift the body is going through, within a few weeks, as your system adjusts to eating way fewer carbs, your breath should return to normal.”
Cynthia Sass says.
Keto Breath: How to fix it
One study revealed that our breath contains highest level of acetone in fasting mood and after consuming protein-rich meal. Excessive acetone will release through our mouth in the form of bad breath. That’s inevitable. However, following steps will definitely help us battle it:
Adjustment in Macros: Carb Up, Protein Down
As we have come to know, presence of excessive protein can initiate keto breath as a cause of extra ammonia. On the other hand, a surge in carbs intake may reduce the ketone production, hence, less acetone would release through our breath. So, it is imperative that whenever we feel any bodily symptoms we should recalculate our macros.
Carbs: Giving It a Raise
It is fact that, ketone production and acetone emission are proportionate. More ketone production means our body emits more acetone through breath.
Minor rise in carb intake may help deal with keto breath. Though excess carbs intake may put our ketosis state in peril.
However, experiments show that low-glycemic index carbs have a tiny impact on blood sugar levels. Therefore, we can still stay on ketosis without drastic cut on carbs.
Besides, vitamin C-rich fruits contains acidic elements which help eradicate bacteria that play a role behind bad breath.
Also, vegetable dominated diets such as carrots, cucumber can provide us with pleasant-smelling breath.
Protein: Cut Back On It
It is a basic that protein is important on keto diet. However, excess intake may lead to bad breath. Trying to get rid of it with brushing time and again would be a waste of time.
It’s not going to help the cause because this unpleasant stench releases from our gut which unexpectedly fails to process a ton of protein. Even as humble change to protein source like meat to fish can affect ketone production and also its types.
One of the prime source of proteins are dairy products and they provide us with a worthy influence on many facets of our health. However, they tend to leave some leftover between our teeth and mouth crevices which later generate foul breath.
Besides, if we have a fascination for dairy products, we should try to clean our teeth immediately after taking them.
There is a theory floating around that altering to high fat diet from high protein diet can keep excess ammonia production in check, which can help breath fresher. However, not sufficient evidence being found to support these statements.
Water: Drink More to Stay Hydrated
No matter whether we are fasting or feasting three meals a day, our mouth is the abode of bacteria and they can grow leaps & bounds causing bad breath. This become more acute when we adopt keto diet as this diet put a rein on our appetite.
Water not only excrete bad things from our system but also helps prevent our mouth go dry. And dry mouth can make keto breath stinkier. As we already mentioned, saliva is the main enemy of bacteria as it keeps bacteria at bay.
Besides, we have discussed as to how acetone emits from our body – either through breath or urine. Drinking water aplenty makes sure that bulk of the acetone discharge through the urine and remains less to expel through our breath. Stinky pee is definitely better than stinky mouth.
Moreover, drinking water with lemon or lime can help the cause to a great degree. Studies revealed that lemon is extremely antibacterial and also strong stimulator of saliva in our mouth. That means it can help prevent our mouth go dry and we know, how dry mouth leads to bad breath.
Oral Hygiene: Maintaining it properly
Earlier we mentioned that bushing doesn’t have much of an impact on keto breath. However, this is only true to that nail polish remover or fruity like smell of acetone and other ketones respectively.
In case of dry mouth situation, brushing teeth after every meal can work like a magic. Besides, flossing is like brushing teeth, so no need to put extra emphasis on that.
“First, good oral hygiene is important on any diet, so brushing and flossing after meals is important,”
Alcohol free mouthwash also helps this cause. Experts recommend alcohol-free as alcohol leave a drying feeling on the mouth.
Moreover, we do all the practices to keep our mouth hygiene. But one thing we forgot to do is cleaning our tongue. Scrubbing tongue is as important as brushing teeth. Tongue cleaning gets prominence very recently and rightly so. In fact, cleaning tongue is a part of brushing teeth.
Therefore, we should cleanse the surface of the tongue whenever we do brushing. Tongue cleansing can help fight bacteria which is the culprit behind bad breath.
Mints and Gum: Smother Bad Odor
We can indulge ourselves on mints and gum up until our body cope up with keto diet. However, we have to keep in mind that those mints and gum are sugar-free.
One big task mints and gum can do is that it can spur saliva stream and hence help clean our mouth. Though they play a very minimal role in our whole oral health, but they are pretty effective in taking away leftover stuck between our teeth after a meal. Sugar-filled gum can perform the part of food source for bacteria.
There are hardly any products in the market now a days which don’t contain sugar, in some cases, lies in hidden form. Fortunately, there are some keto friendly gums and mints exist which can fresh our breath without disturbing our ketosis state.
Mints and gum prepared with xylitol are devoid of calorie and carbs. Xylitol is a sugar alcohol that provides with some antibacterial elements. Xylitol is keto friendly because it has low glycemic index and doesn’t give a rise in blood glucose levels.
Stevia is another keto-generic sugar alcohol and gum and mints produced with it can be a right pick. One unique feature of stevia is that it doesn’t contain any calories or carbs, hence doesn’t bother our blood glucose level.
Reduce Stress: Surge Saliva Production
Ketones emission brings fortune for us in disguise. If our body doesn’t wash out those ketones repeatedly, it may lead to keto accumulation in the bloodstream. And excess amass of ketones can trigger a risky kind of coma termed ketoacidosis.
Studies disclose that chronic stress is the main perpetrator behind 70-90% of all sickness. Stress can make our digestive system sluggish, can affect the immune structure and also can cut saliva production.
Who has the experience of dry mouth during stress time? It happens because stress triggers acid reflux which in reaction causes dry mouth.
Getting rid of stress is next to impossible, but if we can keeping it to minimal level, it will not only help us thwart bad breath but also help release us from other keto side-effects in the long run.
Do nothing: Just be Patient
Almost all keto dieters report that keto breath like a passing shower. It is temporary and last for a week or two at best. When we make a drastic change in our dietary habit, our body needs some time to fine-tune to those new macros. As soon as our body get adapted to new lifestyle, bad breath vanishes into the thin air.
Bad breath at the start of the keto diet indicate that our body slowly getting into the grove of ketosis and it is a sign that let us know our body is functioning fine on the keto diet.
Among many keto flu symptoms keto breath is a common and most awkward part of keto journey. Though it gives us sign that we are achieving ketosis state. Fortunately, this keto side effect is temporary and last only for a week or two at most.
There are techniques to deal with keto breath while our body gets keto-adapted. We can smother keto breath until it recedes by using mints, gum and drinking water aplenty.
If keto breath persists for longer period of time, probably it’s time to meet a doctor or dentist. Though keto breath is nothing of grave concern, but it is better to be on always on the safer side.