The ketogenic diet is known for producing amazing health benefits. In addition to losing weight (particularly from fat), you’ll also experience increased energy levels, reduced hunger, and improved concentration and focus.
Unfortunately, you may go through a few negatives along the way. One of them is bad breath.
Often referred to as “keto breath,” the bad breath that often occurs in the early stages of ketosis has a fruity smell to it but can still be unpleasant. Keep reading to learn what causes keto breath and what you can do to get rid of it.
Why Does the Keto Diet Cause Bad Breath?
Bad breath is a common symptom of keto flu but, for some people, it lasts for the first few weeks of the ketogenic diet. If you notice that your breath changes as you get started with keto, don’t panic! In fact, bad breath is a sign that your body is on the way to ketosis.
But why does the ketogenic diet cause bad breath? There are two reasons:
- Ketones are being released into your breath through respiration
- You may be eating too much protein which increase ammonia levels
The whole foundation of the keto diet is a metabolic process called ketosis in which the body becomes optimized for burning fat instead of glucose for fuel. As your body burns fat, acids called ketones are produced in the liver. Your liver makes three different types of ketones: acetone, beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB), and acetoacetate.
Acetone is a byproduct of the metabolic process through which acetoacetate and BHB are broken down and your body tries to eliminate it through your urine and your breath. This is why you can measure your ketone levels by testing your urine or your breath as you transition into the ketogenic diet.
The second reason your breath starts to smell bad when you follow the keto diet is that you may be eating too much protein. In reducing your carbohydrate intake, you’ll be increasing your fat consumption, but many people make the mistake of overdoing it on protein. As your body breaks protein down, ammonia is produced and released through the urine.
When you eat too much protein, however, your body can’t digest it all and bacteria may start to ferment the excess protein in your digestive tract, causing ammonia to be released in your breath.
How Long Does Keto Breath Usually Last?
The duration of any keto flu-related symptoms depends on how long it takes you to enter ketosis. Some people are able to achieve full ketosis in as little as 5 to 7 days while others may take several weeks to make the transition.
Though everyone is different, you shouldn’t have to deal with keto breath for too long. Once your body becomes fat-adapted your bad breath will go away. The more efficiently your body is using up the ketones it produces for energy, the less they will be excreted through your breath. Fewer ketones in the blood means fewer ketones on your breath.
Try These X Simple Steps to Beat Keto Breath
If you’re committed to following the ketogenic diet, you may not be able to escape keto breath. Just because you can’t escape it, however, doesn’t mean you can’t fix it. While you wait for your body to become fully fat-adapted here are some tips for beating keto breath:
- Chew sugar-free gum. You want to avoid sugary foods as much as possible but chewing sugar-free gum may help to mask the smell of your keto breath. Chewing gum also stimulates the salivary glands which is good for your dental health and it reduces your appetite.
- Drink more water. Staying hydrated is the key to beating the keto flu, including symptoms like keto breath. Throughout the day, bacteria accumulate in your mouth which can cause bad breath and the dryer your mouth, the worse it will be.
- Eat less protein. When following the keto diet, you should aim for 20% to 25% of your diet to come from protein with an absolute maximum of 30%. If you’re at the higher end of that spectrum, the excess protein could be increasing your ammonia levels and causing bad breath.
- Brush your teeth. You should be brushing your teeth twice a day anyway for good oral hygiene, but doing it more often may help with keto breath. Be sure to brush in the morning, before bed at night, and after each meal.
- Try oil pulling. Another technique you can try in addition to brushing your teeth is called oil pulling – you simply swish coconut oil in your mouth for 10 minutes a day to kill bacteria and to give your teeth and your gums a deep clean.
- Take a load off. If you’re chronically stressed, it could cause your mouth to become dry which might contribute to bad breath. Take 20 to 30 minutes a day to do a relaxing activity and see what benefits you notice!
- Reduce your carbs slowly. To avoid developing keto breath at all, you may want to consider slowly transitioning into the keto diet. Try gradually reducing your carb intake while slowly increasing your fat intake instead of doing it all at once.
- Make an essential oil mouth spray. If you want an instant solution to keto breath, make a mouth spray using 1 cup water, a teaspoon of cinnamon, and 4 drops of peppermint essential oil. Boil the water then add the other two ingredients and steep for 10 minutes before straining.
- Chew on parsley or mint. Both of these herbs may help freshen your breath by killing bad bacteria and producing a pleasant odor in place of your keto breath.
- Quit smoking or using tobacco. Using tobacco products is bad for your health and for your breath, so quitting this habit might help you reduce your keto breath.
Keto breath is a small and temporary price to pay in exchange for the many benefits you’ll see when following the keto diet. Even so, if you’d rather not deal with it, follow the tips provided above to beat keto breath and to breathe easy once more.