It’s no secret the keto diet comes with some icky side effects. Keto flu, keto breath, keto diarrhea—yep, this weight-loss plan has a dark side. But some women say that they’re experiencing one especially nasty keto diet byproduct: keto crotch, or a stinky vagina.
“I’ve been on the diet for about a month and a half now and I’ve noticed that my vaginal odors have gotten MUCH stronger,” user SxarAnise wrote on Reddit. “I’m not exactly sure how vaginas are ‘supposed’ to smell like. Many say ‘musky’ but I feel like that’s too mild of a word… It’s much stronger than ‘musk’ for me.”
Other users chimed in to say they’ve experienced the same thing. “Oh boy, yes. During the first few months there was some extra smell stuff happening all over—crotch and otherwise. But the good news is that it settles down and goes away after you’ve been keto for awhile,” one wrote.
“It is horrible,” another wrote. “I have to keep panty liners (hate that name!) in my bag and keep changing them every couple of hours. It’s a pain.”
“I’m glad this was posted because I just changed my underwear AGAIN today because I smelled gross,” complained yet another commenter. “At least I know I’m in ketosis, I guess…”
We’re not doubting these keto followers; if they say their lady parts are stinkier since they’ve gone keto, we’ll take them at their word. But it does beg the question: Scientifically speaking, why would a diet that’s high in fat and very low in carbs change the scent of your vagina?
We posed that question to an ob-gyn, who told us that no one knows because it’s never been scientifically investigated.
“Nobody knows if this is a real effect of the keto diet,” Lauren Streicher, MD, clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Northwestern University, tells Health. “Anecdotally, there have been a lot of reports over the years that diet can influence vaginal odor, but it’s never been studied.”
Of course, this isn’t the first time we’ve heard claims that what you eat affects your down-below scent. Remember when Kim Kardashian shared an image of herself cracking open a can of pineapple juice with one leg up, implying in her caption that this tropical beverage could make your vagina smell and taste better? Sorry Kim, but no research backs this claim.
On the other hand, science does show that going keto can change the odor of your breath and urine, making them smell like nail polish remover.
That’s because when your body breaks down fat for energy instead of carbs (which is the goal of keto), it converts the fatty acids into chemicals called ketones. It then disposes of the ketones through both exhalation and urination. “One type of ketone, acetone, is an ingredient in some nail polish removers, which is why your breath may smell like this familiar scent,” Cynthia Sass, RD, Health contributing nutrition editor, said previously.
The release of ketones might also result in keto crotch, but it’s never been researched. And it’s not like smelly pee is going to stink up your vagina. “Your urine isn’t going to make your vagina smell,” Dr. Streicher confirms.
Some experts have theorized that the keto diet changes vaginal pH (the balance of bacteria in your vagina), which in turn can alter your vaginal scent. It’s true that if your vaginal pH is thrown off, you’re at a higher risk for developing bacterial vaginosis (an overgrowth of bacteria in the vagina), which can have a funky odor, Dr. Streicher says. But unfortunately, no research exists showing that diet alone can alter vaginal pH.
So while plenty of women are sure the keto diet is the cause of their odorous vagina, no science yet supports this. If you follow keto and start noticing that your lady parts are smelling rank, consider checking in with your ob-gyn. “It’s never normal for your vagina to have an odor,” Dr. Streicher says.
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