The ketogenic diet, or keto diet, has been a popular option for losing weight and improving certain medical conditions for years now. Whether you’re a longtime adherent or you just started as part of your New Year’s resolution, you probably know that it’s essentially a high-fat, low-carb diet. While there are benefits like shedding pounds and lowering blood sugar, there is one key drawback to the keto diet, and that’s something called keto breath. As a Naperville cosmetic dentist, general dentist and specialist practice, we thought we’d shed some light on this phenomenon by covering everything from what causes the less-than-stellar odor to how to get rid of keto breath.
What is Keto Breath?
For the first order of business, what is keto breath? It’s a form of bad breath caused by being on a ketogenic diet. The keto diet involves eating a very minimal amount of carbohydrates, a moderate amount of protein and lots of fat. In fact, when a person is on the keto diet, a minimum of 70 percent of their daily calories will come from fat, while only 5 to 10 percent will come from carbohydrates. This causes the body to enter a metabolic state called ketosis where it’s burning fat for energy instead of carbohydrates.
When the body is in a ketogenic state and in fat-burning mode, it can lead to weight loss and help regulate blood sugar, as well as help manage other health concerns. Yet, this is also where the keto bad breath comes in. As the body burns fat, the fatty acids are converted to ketones, including acetone, hydroxybutyrate and acetoacetate, in the liver.
These naturally occurring chemicals aren’t harmful but they are excreted during urination and exhalation. So, every time you exhale, you’re releasing ketones into the air, which is what keto breath is. Acetone probably sounds familiar because it is found in nail polish remover and has a strong odor.
What Does Keto Breath Smell Like?
What does keto breath smell like? The good news is, keto breath has a distinctive smell, making it fairly easy to determine if it’s keto bad breath or bad breath from another cause like pungent foods, cavities, illness, or tooth or gum infections. Keto breath often has a fruity smell or a scent that’s reminiscent of nail polish remover. What does keto breath taste like? A lot of people describe the taste of keto breath as metallic.
Having keto breath is actually a sign that the keto diet is working and your body is burning fat instead of glucose (sugar) from carbohydrates to fuel itself. In fact, some people use a keto breath tester, known as a ketone breath meter, to measure their ketone levels and be extra certain their bad breath is from their diet. Yet, while keto breath might be a good sign for you, you probably don’t want the rest of the world to smell it.
How Long Does Keto Breath Last?
As for how long keto breath lasts, it’s temporary. It usually first appears within a few days to a week after starting the keto diet and lasts from several weeks to a few months, though if you go on and off the diet, your keto breath will come back.
How to Get Rid of Keto Breath
Now that we’ve talked about what keto breath is, what it smells like and how long it lasts, let’s discuss how to get rid of keto breath. While, often, it can’t be eliminated completely since it’s the natural byproduct of the body converting stored fat to energy, it can be reduced or masked. Here are five tips for combatting keto breath:
1. Drink Plenty of Water
Staying hydrated with water is one of the first things any list of how to get rid of keto breath should mention. This is because drinking lots of water will dilute the concentration of smelly ketones you’re breathing out, helping to combat keto breath.
Beyond that, water is an oral health star, in general. It doesn’t have sugar or carbohydrates for the bacteria in the mouth to feed on, it washes away odor- and cavity-causing food debris and plaque, it encourages saliva flow, which remineralizes the teeth, and it prevents dry mouth (another common cause of bad breath).
2. Maintain Excellent Oral Hygiene
While brushing and flossing won’t eliminate keto breath, they will control the other causes of bad breath and prevent your breath from getting worse. Brush your teeth twice a day and rinse your mouth out with water after eating. Floss your teeth once daily. You may also want to add a fluoride mouthwash to the mix. Since decay, plaque build-up, food particles, and tooth and gum infections can result in a bad odor, keeping teeth and gums healthy will go a long way in promoting fresh breath.
3. Chew Sugarless Gum or Suck on Sugar-Free Mints
Sugarless gum and sugar-free mints won’t eliminate keto breath, but they can mask it. Chewing on gum or sucking on mints after meals also has oral health benefits, including encouraging the production of saliva to rinse food, bacteria and plaque off teeth. This also helps restore the pH balance of the mouth to reduce the risk of tooth decay. If you want to add even more benefits, opt for sugarless keto breath mints or chewing gums that contain xylitol, which can kill smell-producing and cavity-causing bacteria in the mouth.
4. Adjust Your Diet
If you eat too much protein, your body will release ammonia, another byproduct of metabolism, through your breath and urine as it breaks the protein down. The odor of ammonia is very strong, and when combined with the acetone your body is also extreting, it will lead to intense, really bad keto breath. So, if you’re eating more protein than you need, reducing your intake a bit can be helpful for improving your breath.
If your keto bad breath is still really strong after moderating your protein intake and you can’t tolerate it, you can try increasing your carbohydrate intake a little too. This is where a keto breath tester is clutch. You can measure your ketone levels to make sure your body is still in ketosis after the carbohydrate increase, allowing you to find a sweet spot where you’re still losing weight but your keto breath is tamed.
5. Visit Your General Dentist if All Else Fails
As we said, keto breath is temporary and it should go away in a few weeks to a few months, at the most. If you wait patiently and try these other tips for how to get rid of keto breath and nothing is working, maybe it’s not keto breath at all. You could be suffering from actual halitosis, or bad breath, from one of those aforementioned causes, including tooth and gum infections, dry mouth or poor oral hygiene. Or, it could be a sign of a health condition, such as diabetes. Make an appointment at Naperville Dental Specialists and a general dentist will help you get to the root of the problem and offer customized bad breath treatment to eliminate it once and for all.
Now that you know how to get rid of keto breath, as well as what causes it, you can continue to go strong on the keto diet. If you need more help with bad breath, or improving your smile was also one of your New Year’s resolutions, schedule a visit with a Naperville general dentist, cosmetic dentist or specialist today!