Bad breath is one of the first (and most unwelcome) signs that you’re reaching ketosis. The ketogenic diet involves a dramatic change in your diet and metabolism in order to burn body fat instead of sugar from carbohydrates, and while the weight loss is great, the bad breath? Not so much. It’s a common side effect of the ketogenic diet and other similar low-carb diets like the Atkins diet: people report their breath taking on a strange, fruity smell, and want to know how to get rid of it. This article details the causes behind keto breath and what you can do to neutralize it.
Keto Breath: The Symptoms
Ketosis breath often comes with a distinct odor or taste in the mouth that’s unlike forms of ordinary halitosis or bad breath. If you’re just beginning the keto diet, you may be on the lookout for keto breath and wondering, “What does keto breath smell like?” Some people describe keto breath as:
- Fruity-smelling breath
- A metallic taste
- A smell like nail polish remover
Keto breath is an undesired side effect of utilizing the high-fat, low-carb ketosis diet to reach your weight-loss goals. Though it’s a natural metabolic state, it’s a symptom most people want to get rid of as quickly as possible.
Keto Breath: The Cause
Keto breath is caused by elevated ketone levels in your body. Specifically the culprit is acetone, a ketone that exists in your breath and your urine. Though it’s less than ideal, keto breath is nevertheless a positive sign that your diet efforts are working and that effective weight loss is soon to follow.
Under the normal circumstances of eating a standard diet, your body breaks down carbohydrates or glucose first, before moving on to fat. The keto diet and other low-carb diets purposely rearrange your metabolism so that your body is forced to burn through its fat stores much sooner, breaking down your existing body fat for energy. In this process, fatty acids are converted into ketones, the natural chemicals produced when your body burns fat, which include beta hydroxybutyrate, acetoacetate, and acetone.
These harmless chemicals exit your body as you exhale or when you urinate, but since acetone is also a chemical ingredient in nail polishes, people notice that their breath starts smelling a lot like nail polish remover, and often find it unsettling. On one hand it’s nice to know that you’re entering a state of ketosis, but on the other hand you may suddenly have the urge to brush your teeth multiple times per day, which is less than ideal.
How Long Does Keto Breath Last?
The good news is: keto breath is a temporary side effect. In the first few days or weeks of starting the keto diet it may seem like an overwhelming new development, but once your body adjusts to its lower carb intake, the keto breath will eventually subside. However, it may take a couple of weeks for your body to recalibrate completely, and in that time you don’t want to be breathing fumes at home or at work, so what are some of the solutions to dealing with keto breath?
Keto Breath: The Cure
Here are some simple home remedies to reduce and neutralize the symptom of bad breath when you’re on the keto diet.
1. Increase Water Intake
Your body is trying to excrete these new ketones any way it can, and while one way is through your breath, the other way the body flushes out ketones like acetone is through your urine. Staying hydrated enough to increase your urination output during the day will help flush out the ketones, improving your breath and aiding your weight-loss goals at the same time. Studies have shown that drinking more water with your meals can help increase feelings of satiety and even help you burn more calories.
2. Eat Less Protein
The keto diet is a high-fat, low-carb, and moderate-protein diet. If you’re experiencing keto breath, you may want to notch down the amount of protein you’re eating, as consuming too much protein can actually worsen your breath. The breakdown of protein in the human body produces ammonia, another byproduct of natural metabolism that needs to be eliminated via urination or exhalation just like the ketones. Ammonia could be contributing to the bad breath you’re experiencing. Reducing your protein intake and increasing healthy fats like nuts, avocados, and olive oil may help improve your breath without knocking you out of ketosis.
3. Practice Good Oral Hygiene
This is not to say that you’ve had bad oral hygiene up until now, but making sure you brush your teeth at least twice a day, plus flossing, may help decrease the noticeability of keto breath until your body has a chance to adjust to your new diet. The bacteria that accumulates in your mouth, on your tongue, and between your teeth can trigger bad breath, so staying on top of your dental hygiene regimen can make a considerable difference in managing the keto breath side effect.
4. Mask the Odor with Mints or Gum
Minty fresh allies are less of a keto breath remedy than a crutch, but if it helps you walk, a crutch can be a very good thing. Chewing on some sugar-free mints or gum can mask the odor of keto breath and help remove food particles from between your teeth after you eat. Just be sure to check the labels of these products for carbs before you start using them regularly, as some mints and chewing gums contain small amounts of carbohydrates. If you’re using these products regularly throughout the day, the carbs could add up, increasing your blood sugar levels, reducing your ketones, and ultimately contributing to kicking you out of the ketosis you’re just about to achieve.
5. Increase Your Carb Intake
You may not want to try this one in fear of overestimating your carbs and falling out of ketosis, but it is possible to raise your carb intake just enough to eliminate keto breath while remaining in a state of ketosis. If your current carb limit is 15 grams per day, for example, you could increase it to 20 grams per day for a week or two to find out whether your bad breath improves. Utilize a ketone breath analyzer as a keto breath test for this, to better monitor the fluctuations in your ketones, and make sure you’re still in the golden zone of fat burning as you try to modulate the bad breath side effect.
6. Be Patient
Keto breath, along with the other keto flu symptoms, will eventually pass. Adjusting to a keto diet after a lifetime of quick carbs is a big change for your body, and there may be no other way to get rid of keto breath except to wait it out and try to mask it. If you’re committed to keeping a low-carb diet for weight loss and better health, be patient with your body and allow it to adjust to its new energy source. The bad breath will disperse after a couple of weeks, and in the meantime maybe avoid whispering close secrets until your body adapts. They say time heals all wounds, but what they don’t mention is that it’s also a keto breath cure!
Is It Possible to Prevent Keto Breath?
Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be any way to prevent keto breath if you’re going to be on a keto diet. You can use a ketone breath analyzer to try and modulate your ketones as you begin this dietary transition, and try eating slightly more carbs and a little less protein at first, just to make the change-over as smooth as possible.
A Breath of Fresh Air
A well-executed low-carb diet can help you lose weight fast, but one unwelcome side effect may be temporary keto breath. If you’ve determined that the keto diet is right for you, use these tips to adjust your diet to the ideal ratio, reduce or disguise the smell of acetone on your breath, and know that soon enough the odor of keto breath will subside, and leave you and your body in a peaceful state of ketosis.