“Keto breath” is the smelly breath that you may expect to get when on the keto diet. But should you also lower your expectations? Like down to your crotch?
Apparently, there are complaints on message boards and social media about what is being dubbed “keto crotch,” an unusual odor emanating from between the legs while on the keto diet. For example, here’s an entry from Reddit:
I’ve been on the diet for about a month and a half now and I’ve noticed that my vaginal odors have gotten MUCH stronger… (It smells like a mix between urine and discharge… I’m not exactly sure how vaginas are ‘supposed’ to smell like. Many say ‘musky’ but I feel like that’s too mild of a word… It’s much stronger than ‘musk’ for me :/ ). My discharge is white in color and it doesn’t smell fishy. Sometimes when it dries on my underwear it’s a light yellow? Has this happened to anyone before? Is it because of my change in diet (if so, can anybody explain why?), or could it be something else?
Any input or advice would be helpful, thank you!
Others on this board responded with messages such as:
- “Oh boy, yes. During the first few months there was some extra smell stuff happening all over – crotch and otherwise. But, the good news is that it settles down and goes away after you’ve been keto for awhile.”
- “I’m glad this was posted because I just changed my underwear AGAIN today because I smelled gross. At least I know I’m in ketosis, I guess.”
- “It is horrible. I have to keep panty liners (hate that name!) in my bag and keep changing them every couple of hours. It’s a pain but saves on keep changing knickers all day!”
- “Keto crotch. It’s very much a thing. Just wait until you workout and smell that funk. Thankfully, my shoot from the hip husband, tells me it isn’t really that noticeable. Again, only when I’m drenched in sweat.”
As you may know, “keto diet” is short for ketogenic diet, because who has the time to say “genic.” It is a high-fat, moderate-protein, and low-carb diet with approximately 80% of your calories from fat, 15% from protein, and only 5% from carbohydrates. The goal of the diet is to induce ketosis in your body. The theory is that typically your body may rely on burning the carbs that you eat rather than the fat stores in your body for energy. The thinking is that by severely restricting the amount of carbs in your diet your body may then be forced to burn your body fat instead. Breaking down this fat then results in ketones, which is not some acapella group, but instead organic compounds made up of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms. One type of ketone produced is acetone, which is in certain types of nail polish removers. This accumulation of ketones may result in “keto breath”, which is a rotten fruit or metallic smelling bad breath that can smell a bit like, surprise, surprise, nail polish remover.
The question then is whether your crotch is like your mouth. Not in general, but in the specific case of ketones. That is, when you are on the keto diet, can ketones also accumulate in your crotch area and then subsequently lead to a new smell? Moreover, if you are woman, could ketones be changing the acidity of your vagina, which then may produce an environment more favorable to certain types of microorganisms? Indeed, the smell of your vagina can depend on the composition of microorganisms there. Some odors, like a strong fishy one, can be the result of an overgrowth of certain microorganisms like bacteria, which is the case in bacterial vaginosis.
In theory, all of this is possible. A study published in the Journal of Nutrition did find an association between having more severe bacterial vaginosis and consuming diets higher in total fat and saturated fat. But the keto diet is still a relatively new rage, and not enough scientific studies have been done to determine whether “keto crotch” is really a risk of the keto diet.
Not everyone is buying “keto crotch” as a real phenomenon. Some are claiming that it is a crotch or rather a crutch to criticize the diet. Here is an example of a Tweet that raises a conspiracy theory:
If you want to make some enemies very quickly, just jump on to social media and say “the keto diet stinks.” Because there are certainly a number of people who swear by the keto diet. Some of them will even swear at you if you say anything bad about the diet. Supporters of the diet claim that the keto diet will help lose weight relatively quickly, clear your mind, make you feel better, and even clear up your acne, because you no longer are taking in carbohydrates that “cause inflammation.” People who question the diet have raised concerns about whether maintaining such a high fat diet is effective and healthy in long run. After all, high fat diets could raise the risk of various chronic medical conditions such as heart disease and cancer.
The bottom line is that there have not been enough scientific studies, especially longer term ones, to really determine all the potential risks and benefits of the keto diet. Many of the claims out there on the Internet, social media, or television in either direction are anecdotal, meaning that they are individuals telling stories about what has supposedly been their experiences. Take everything you hear that is not supported by scientific evidence with a grain of salt (but not too much salt because too much can be bad for you.)
Therefore, more people experiencing “keto crotch” need to visit doctors to determine what’s really happening. It could be that some of the people claiming “keto crotch” are instead detecting smells that are not related to their diets. Many different smells could emanate from your crotch, some are normal, some are not. Conversely, who knows for sure what a drastic change in your diet may do to different parts of your body? There is still a lot unknown about the links between nutrition and your various bodily functions. You are a complex system with many unknowns. The keto crotch could be a real phenomenon, but more scientific evidence and studies are needed.
Of note, it isn’t yet clear whether “keto crotch” is strictly a female phenomenon or whether men are experiencing unusual smells in their crotches as well. Either way, more sniffing around is needed, in a scientific manner that is.
Keep in mind that if your crotch begins to have a very unusual smell, whether or not you are on the keto diet, you may want to see your doctor. Don’t just tell everyone on Reddit about how much your crotch smells. Regardless of your gender, an unusual smell could be a sign of an infection or some other condition that needs proper medical attention. Even if you don’t have a medical problem, your doctor can tell you what kinds of smells are normal and not normal. In other words, he or she could lower your concerns about what’s going on in the lower part of your body.