Keto breath is a particularly unpleasant side effect of the keto diet. Unlike the far more horrifying-sounding “keto crotch” (which so far only has anecdotal evidence to support it) keto breath is a documented phenomenon—many people who have switched to keto report having particularly bad breath in the beginning, and science backs that up. More specifically, as women’s health expert Dr. Jennifer Wider explained to HG, the keto diet may make your breath smell like acetone—as in, the main ingredient in nail polish remover and paint thinner. Yum!
“The keto diet results in the body going into ketosis, which is a metabolic state where energy comes from the breakdown of fat instead of carbohydrates (which are withheld in the diet),” Dr. Wider said. “People may have keto diet breath, which some people describe as smelling like nail polish remover (one of the breakdown products).”
If you want to try the keto diet but don’t want to deal with the funky side effects, we talked with some women about how they have fought back against keto breath. Most women we spoke to reported that keto breath went away after the first few weeks and was a sign that their body had entered ketosis, which is the whole point of the diet and may give you a sense of accomplishment. Yet, if you don’t want to have people talking about your breath behind your back (’cause, you know, they absolutely will), here are some tips from women who battled the keto breath beast and lived to tell the tale with fresh breath—all while staying within their carb limit.
Brush your tongue and be prepared
“My suggestion is to brush your tongue, carry your toothbrush and mouthwash with you, use mouthwash more frequently, drink more water, and chew on some mint leaves. I’ve lost 86 pounds and have conquered keto breath.”
—Valerie, Illinois, doing keto for nine months
“You can tell when you have keto breath because people wrinkle their noses and back away. I always keep PUR gum on hand for when I’m around other people. It doesn’t have aspartame and doesn’t knock me out of ketosis. ”
—Lori, Indiana, doing keto for a couple of years
Try chocolate-covered mint leaves
“Keto breath is real! But it’s usually only temporary. However, while it lasts, you certainly want to mask it. It’s very unpleasant. My favorite way to deal with keto breath is to chew fresh mint leaves. They are tasty, healthy, sugar-free, and very refreshing. In fact, that’s how I came up with my recipe for dark chocolate mint leaves. That took my keto breath remedy to a whole new level.
If making these, Lindt 70% cocoa is a bit too sugary for someone who does strict keto. Better options would be either Lindt 90% (perhaps with a teaspoon of a low carb sweetener added to the melted chocolate or the equivalent in stevia), or Lily’s sugar-free chocolate chips.”
—Vered, California, doing keto on and off for two years along with keeping a low-carb diet for six years
Add chlorophyll to your water
“While following a strict keto diet, I’ve found that drinking a tablespoon of chlorophyll every morning in eight ounces of water has been most effective at keeping bad breath at bay. Chlorophyll is also known as ‘the blood of plants.’ It is an all-natural internal deodorizer and has tons of other amazing detoxifying effects and overall health benefits. Chlorophyll is readily available on Amazon, but I use this Nature’s Way brand.”
—Gina, New York, doing keto for nine months
Suck on a sugar-free peppermint
“[Try] sugar-free peppermints if your gut can handle it. Some sugar substitutes will mess with your gut and only you will know which by trial and error. I like Brach’s Star Brites.”
—Kate, Alabama, doing keto for more than a year
Drink infused water
“I’ve done Whole30 four times. Same thing—you kind of get a funky breath thing going for a few days. I tend to brush more, floss more, and chew on organic, fresh mint leaves. And drink lots of water with lemon, mint, and cucumber. I just use a giant pitcher and refrigerate it and fill up my flask or cup as needed. I used to use an infuser my husband gave me as a gift, but I drink so much water that it was cumbersome to reload all the time. My favorite flavor is to do all three at once, but quite honestly you can mix anything you have—sometimes I use orange instead of lemon and sometimes I don’t have any fresh mint and I won’t put any herbs in it. And the funky breath ends up going away.”
—Jackie, California, last did Whole30 in January
Chew non-mint, sugar-free gum
“I’ve really only dealt with keto breath at the beginning of my keto journey. Either it has gone away, or I don’t notice it anymore. I have a feeling that my body has simply adjusted to keto. When it was first happening to me, I found that I had to brush my teeth a few times a day. Ultimately, I took up chewing gum. I was not a gum chewer before keto and now I have several pieces a day. I hate mint, so finding a non-mint, non-sugar gum was difficult. Now I track my gum carbs and try to limit myself to just a few a day. Keto breath was a good indication of being in ketosis, so I welcomed it when I began eating this way. The first few times I got knocked out of ketosis, keto breath a day or two later was a good indicator that I was back on track.”
—Laura, Canada, doing keto for more than a year
Chew on spices
“It’s not a problem anymore, but was for the first six weeks or so. The keto breath was a challenge initially mainly because I’m not much of a meat eater, so the meat breath aspect was a bigger bother. I chewed on fennel seeds, cardamom, or cloves. Cardamon, cloves, and fennel seeds are easily available in a lot of big supermarkets in sections with other spices. Or you could try ethnic stores as well, since these are spices that are used as breath fresheners in some Asian cultures. You can chew and swallow the fennel, but I always discard the clove and cardamom [pods] when I’m done with them like you would with chewing gum. I don’t bother counting their carbs. I believe whole spices just pass right through you and either way, it’s not much of a factor since you don’t digest them. Bonus: Chewing on cloves is great for when your teeth hurt. Lots of brushing, flossing, and trying out little hacks like this one really helped!”
—Mary, doing keto for two-and-a-half months
These interviews have been edited and condensed. Some names have been changed to protect confidentiality.