Why Do You Have Bad Breath With Low Carb Diets?

Bad breath is one of the possible side effects of a low-carb diet, such as the Atkins diet, the Keto diet or the Dukan diet. Known as ketosis bad breath, or simply keto breath, the condition is often accompanied by a bad taste in the mouth. Here's what you need to know about low carb bad breath, including the symptoms and what you can do about it.

Causes of Low Carb Bad Breath

Low carb bad breath in ketosis

There are many causes of bad breath. In low-carb diets, these are usually limited to these two: ketosis (the metabolic state that is achieved with a low-carb or keto diet) and protein metabolism.


One of the most important sources of energy for the body is glucose. Glucose is created when the digestive tract breaks down carbohydrates from complex sugars into simple glucose molecules. If you reduce the number of carbohydrates you eat, your body will have to find alternative sources of fuel (namely fat) for energy. This metabolic state is called ketosis.

When the body breaks down fatty acids, it forms a by-product called ketones. Ketone bodies come in three forms: acetoacetate, beta-hydroxybutyrate and acetone. These ketones are regularly eliminated from your body through urination and exhalation.

Keto food meat eggs nuts

When you eat low carb, your body needs more fat than energy because you eat fewer carbohydrates. As a result, more ketones are released. The excessive accumulation of ketones in your body can contribute to bad breath. However, the ketones that you exhale have very distinctive smells – most of them are different from the usual halitosis.

Keto salad with avocado kitsch tomatoes and shrimps

Protein metabolism

A change in your diet can also trigger changes in your breath. On a low-carb diet, the sudden change from carbohydrates to proteins changes the way your body metabolizes food. When proteins are metabolized in the body, ammonia is produced. A significant increase in protein intake increases this effect and increases the amount of ammonia in both the stomach and urine. Because a lot of water is needed to remove ammonia, inadequate hydration can worsen your bad breath because ammonia accumulates quickly in the body.

Symptoms of low carb bad breath

Bad breath in low carb diet body conversion

Keto breath varies from person to person, but is generally not the same as bad breath. The bad breath that most of us experience from time to time is caused by bacteria in the mouth. When these bacteria begin to break down the food we eat, they form volatile sulfur compounds (VSC). Usually these compounds have a sulphurous smell (similar to rotten eggs).

Low carb bad breath how long does it last

With low carb bad breath, the properties of the smell vary depending on which by-products of protein and fat metabolism are produced. For example:

  • Acetoacetate and beta-hydroxybutyrate can make your breath smell sweet and fruity. Some people describe the smell as similar to bruised or rotting apples.
  • Acetone in the breath creates a resinous smell (like nail polish).
  • Excessive protein metabolism can cause both your breath and urine to smell like ammonia.

Low Carb Bad Breath – How Long?

Salmon fillet nuts avocado on plate

You may notice a change in your breath within a few days or a week of starting a low-carb diet. However, some people never get keto breath. For those who do, however, the smell can be very annoying. But no worry! Keto breath is temporary and will go away as your body adjusts to lower carbohydrate intake. This can take a few weeks, several weeks to a month.

What to do with low carb high fat bad breath?

What to do about bad carb drinking low water

Here are a few ways you can do about keto breath symptoms as your metabolism adapts.

– Drink more water. Drink at least 2 liters of water a day. This not only helps flush excess ketones and sulfur compounds out of your body, but also promotes digestion and prevents constipation.
– Change the protein sources. A change in protein sources – e.g. from chicken to beef or from beef to fish – can sometimes change ketone bodies (mainly due to the types of fatty acids that are starting to break down).

Bad breath with low carb conversion to low carbohydrate intake

Increase the fat intake. Research suggests that increasing fat intake while reducing protein consumption can help minimize both acetone and ammonia emissions.
Don't cut out all of the carbohydrates. The classic distribution of macronutrients in the keto diet recommends 5% carbohydrates, 20% – 35% protein and 75% fat. That means max. 20g carbohydrates per day. So try to increase your intake of healthy carbohydrates.

Low carb bad breath what do mint tablets

Mask your bad breath. Try natural breath fresheners (like mint, parsley, cloves, cinnamon or fennel seeds) or fresh breath capsules with parsley oil or chlorophyll.
Pay attention to good oral hygiene. Brush your teeth, floss and antibacterial mouthwash. Regular tongue cleaning with a tongue scraper can also help.

If, despite good oral hygiene and your efforts, your bad breath persists for more than a few months, talk to your doctor or dentist. In some cases, bad breath may have nothing to do with your low carb diet. It could be related to dry mouth, gum disease, reflux disease, diabetes, sinus problems, liver or kidney disease.

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