Whether you follow it or not, the ketogenic diet never fails to be newsworthy. From Jillian Michaels hating on it to it being hailed as a cancer-fighting protocol, keto is definitely everywhere. The latest claim of the controversial meal plan? It produces a funky vaginal smell.
The recent sensation can be traced back to Reddit in which a few women claimed their vaginal odors became much "stronger" after starting the high-fat, low-carb diet that places your body in a state of ketosis (hence the nickname "keto").
So what's the deal? Is there such a thing as "keto crotch"?
"Though there’s limited evidence proving this unwanted side effect, recurring anecdotal reports and some preliminary data show the potential for changes in vaginal pH as of a high-fat diet such as with keto, where fat makes up more than 70% of your day's calories," Rachel Fine, RD, tells Organic Authority. "The change in vaginal pH can promote an environment more susceptible to bacteria, which in turn leads to the foul odor."
However, Fine adds that because the research showing a direct change in vaginal pH and/or odor related to a high-fat diet is so limited, it's "hard to assume any specific mechanism behind it."
"The evidence is more from anecdotal reports of people who have experienced this, which can happen with any type of change in diet," she says.
On the other hand, science does show that going keto can affect your breath.
"Keto breath is real. It is a side-effect of the keto diet that’s described as having a metallic taste in the mouth and a breath that’s reminiscent of rotten fruit or acetone nail polish remover," Dr. Nikola Djordjevic, MD, tells Organic Authority.
However, according to Dr. Djordjevic, having keto breath makes sense. "Ketones, the byproducts of metabolized fat, smell like acetone because acetone is a ketone," he says. "On the other hand, the reported vaginal odors are not similar to them, and cannot be explained in the same way as keto breath."
In Dr. Djordjevic's opinion, the descriptions of "keto crotch" match those of a vaginal or urinary infection, which, he says, is "odd."
"Most women who are on low-carb diets have fewer bacterial and yeast infections, which can be explained by the fact that these microorganisms primarily live off carbs," he says. Due to the lack of scientific evidence, "we should hold off on drawing any conclusions whether keto crotch exists or not," he says.
If you are doing keto and experiencing similar symptoms and smells to "keto crotch", it's best to check with your doctor first to ensure you don't have a yeast infection or bacterial vaginosis.
Fine believes the risk of keto crotch is a good enough reason to skip the keto diet altogether. Instead Fine, who doesn't think keto is a sustainable way to lose weight, says "focus on a balanced diet that incorporates all macronutrients, including complex carbs, unsaturated fats, and lean proteins."
Somewhere Jillian Michaels is smiling.
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