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If you’ve heard of the trendy ketogenic diet, you’ve probably heard about some of the low-carb, high-fat nutrition strategy’s reported side effects. From the “keto flu,” to bad breath, to diarrhea or constipation, there’s no shortage of them. But the latest alleged side effect is in a league of its own. Some women claim that going keto has led to a phenomenon dubbed “keto crotch”—a strong, unpleasant vaginal odor as a result of the dietary change.
It’s important to note that there’s no scientific evidence backing the idea that a woman’s diet affects vaginal odor, but it’s been discussed in keto-centric forums on sites like Reddit for years now. And the fact that there’s no evidence doesn’t necessarily mean that it can’t be something female keto dieters are experiencing.
“Nobody knows if this is a real effect of the keto diet,” Lauren Streicher, MD, clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Northwestern University, told Health. “Anecdotally, there have been a lot of reports over the years that diet can influence vaginal odor, but it’s never been studied.”
Although there’s no research supporting the existence of keto crotch, the diet can definitely affect the way your breath, poop, and pee smell as you adjust to it. That’s because the entire diet centers on achieving ketosis, which is when your body starts burning fat instead of carbohydrates for energy.
When you’re in ketosis, your body produces more ketones (chemicals like acetoacetate, beta-hydroxybutyrate, and acetone), so you naturally expel more of them, according to Women’s Health. It’s the acetone, which tends to come out through the mouth, that causes keto dieters’ breath to take on a nail polish remover-esque scent as their bodies adapt to the diet.
Despite its side effects, the keto diet has been lauded for its effectiveness for weight loss by plenty of nutritionists and fitness authorities—including us—and there’s no denying that, when done right and monitored by a doctor, it gets the job done. That said, it’s important to check with your doctor if you do experience any weird side effects. And for an issue like keto crotch, you may want to check with a gynecologist to make sure everything’s healthy down there.
For more on the keto diet, check out our explainer and tips to doing it right.