Fact: Devouring lots of cheese and meat won’t do great things for your breath. But following the ketogenic diet — a high-fat, low-carb eating plan — can cause a whole different level of ick than diving into a bowl of cheesy onion dip.

The weight-loss diet‘s restrictions on many healthy, nutritious foods (no whole grains, fruits, beans, or root veggies!) and the lack of long-term scientific research behind it give many nutritionists, including GH Nutrition Director Jaclyn London, MS, RD, CDN, pause, but if those reasons don’t deter you, another side effect might: keto breath.

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This isn’t your average case of bad breath. Following the keto diet can make your mouth taste metallic and smell less than minty — because you’re literally exhaling the same chemical that’s found in nail polish remover.

What is keto breath?

To recap, the keto diet calls for eating mostly fat, with about 25% of your nutrients coming from protein and less than 10% from carbs. Severely restricting carbohydrates — your body’s preferred source of fuel — forces your body into a metabolic state called ketosis, where it instead burns fat for energy.

That process also produces some chemical by-products called ketones, including acetone — a.k.a. nail polish remover.

“When free fatty acids are broken down in your liver, they’re converted to a compound called acetyl CoA,” London says. “Depending on your blood sugar levels, your body may use this to produce more energy or you’ll break down the acetyl coA into other, smaller ketone molecules, including acetone — which is small enough to circulate into your lungs for exhalation.”

Your body wants balance, so your lungs and kidneys will eliminate ketones to avoid build-up in your bloodstream. It’s that exhalation of ketones that can give you (surprise!) keto breath.

Does keto breath go away?

Not everyone who follows a low-carb diet will experience keto breath, but the side effect can signal that your body has entered ketosis. Those who do notice a difference often find that it will go away in a couple of weeks as the body adjusts to this dramatic change in diet.

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What can I do about keto breath?

First of all, don’t ignore your regular oral hygiene routine. Brushing twice daily and flossing every day will cut down on the amount of bacteria in your mouth, which can contribute to bad breath.

Drinking more water will also help your body rid more ketones through urination — and (bonus) you’ll stay more hydrated. And don’t forget about sugar-free mints and gum, although most keto practitioners steer clear of sweeteners of any kind.

At the end of the day though, you’ll probably want to reconsider following the keto diet in the first place.

“As a weight-loss plan, eating a diet that’s almost entirely fat in nutrient composition isn’t your best bet,” London explains. “It can be pretty tough to truly stay in a state of ketosis by avoiding most carbohydrates and severely restricting others — which, by nature of design, means limiting veggies and fruit if your aim is to stay in that metabolic state forever.

Not only does that mean cutting back on some of the most fiber- and antioxidant-filled foods, but any weight you do lose on keto could come back quickly. “There’s often a substantial amount of water weight lost when a ketogenic state is achieved, since your muscles will eliminate glycogen to use for energy pretty quickly,” she adds.

A better bet: eating more veggies, fruit, legumes, seafood, and lean protein. There’s a lot more scientific data behind Mediterranean-style eating plans that will keep you healthier for the long haul — without messing with your breath either.

Caroline Picard
Associate Editor As Associate Editor, Caroline has covered health, home, celebrity, entertainment, and other lifestyle news since joining the Good Housekeeping staff in 2015.

https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/health/a25310321/keto-breath/

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