In the world of nutrition advice and trendy dietary plans, the Keto diet is really enjoying its moment in the sun right now. Originally used in medicine to treat patients suffering with epilepsy, this low-carb, high-fat diet is now a favourite of celebrities, influencers and athletes alike.
Sharing many similarities with the Atkins diet, the Ketogenic diet - or ‘Keto’ for short - involves significantly reducing your carbohydrate intake and making up for this with an increased intake of fats. The idea is that by cutting back the amount of carbs you eat, your body shifts into a metabolic state known as ‘ketosis’, which depletes your store of glucose and makes your body incredibly efficient at burning fat as its primary source of energy. This not only leads to steady weight loss, but also increases the production of ketones in the liver, improving brain function.
However, what you might not know is that the Keto diet certainly isn’t without its side effects. Cases of so-called ‘keto flu’, ‘keto diarrhoea’ and even ‘keto breath’ are all common among newbies to this regime, while many women also experience one particularly unpleasant by-product of this popular diet - the dreaded ‘keto crotch’.
It’s vital to understand exactly what to expect when considering giving Keto a go. So, here’s all you need to know about keto crotch and what you can do to look after your intimate health when you're on the Keto diet.
What is Keto crotch?
Keto crotch refers specifically to a temporary change in vaginal odour in women who have recently embarked on the Keto diet. While it’s worth mentioning that there is no published medical research on this phenomenon to even confirm whether or not there is a specific link here - and the fact that the ‘side effect’ is not experienced by all women - it is thought that this medical mystery may occur as a result of larger amounts of macronutrients such as protein and fat in your body during the first few weeks of a new diet. This change can alter the pH level in your body, and one area that feels the effects of a pH change more than most is your intimate area.
When your body enters a state of ketosis - meaning you are primarily breaking down fat instead of carbs to produce energy - a higher level of ketones are naturally produced. Chemicals such as beta-hydroxybutyrate, acetoacetate and acetone increase, and it is an excess of these chemicals that leads to pH fluctuation and a change in bodily odour.
Reports of Keto making your breath, wee and sweat a little more smelly are incredibly common and are generally nothing to worry about, with odours usually subsiding as your body adjusts to a lower carb intake. However, it is true that when it comes to a prolonged period of pH imbalance in the vagina, you are at a higher risk of continued odour, irritation and even infections such as Bacterial Vaginosis (BV). So, although keto crotch is usually nothing to worry about, if the smell persists or you start to notice any other symptoms such as rashes, burning, or abnormal discharge, it’s time to see your doctor or gynaecologist.
The dos and don’ts if you think you’re suffering from Keto crotch
While there is a good chance your intimate area will not feel any adverse side effects of adopting a Keto diet, it can be useful to know what you should and should not do if Keto crotch does strike. To guide you through the early stages of the Keto diet and help fight the potential symptoms of Keto crotch, why not try some or all of these helpful suggestions?
Test your urinary pH levels
Using pH strips - available from your local pharmacy - to test your resting acid-alkaline level is a great way to manage your diet when on Keto. Through the use of a rapid colour change reaction, the results could explain why Keto crotch is affecting your intimate area. The greener the strip, the more alkaline-heavy your levels are. If your pH level is less than 7, this may indicate that you need to add more alkaline foods to your diet and reduce your intake of acid-forming foods such as diary, red meats and animal fats.
Eat more alkaline-rich foods
Even without the evidence of a pH test, eating more alkaline-rich foods is a good way of avoiding Keto crotch. Non-starchy vegetables like sprouts, broccoli and cabbage can all help to reduce the acidity levels in your body. Getting more of your fats from natural sources, such as avocados, olive oil and coconut oil, rather than animal-based fats, can lower your susceptibility to Bacterial Vaginosis - and therefore unpleasant odours and vaginal discharge. By keeping acidity levels in check, you can maintain a healthy pH balance throughout your body, helping to prevent infection-causing, odour-generating microorganisms from building in your vagina, even when you’re on the Keto diet.
Your intimate area is self-cleansing and, despite popular belief, over-cleansing can actually do more harm than good. While dermatologically tested feminine washes and foams can be used to help maintain your natural vaginal pH levels, these products should never be used to cleanse the inside of your vagina.
Douching is a method of spraying water or specific douche formulas upward inside the vagina to wash and flush out secretions. There is much discussion around vaginal douching amongst health experts and we recommend that you discuss your specific health needs with your doctor.
This form of washing can flush out good bacteria from the walls of the vagina, as well as the bad bacteria, potentially making Keto crotch worse in the long run. More bad bacteria is able to grow in the absence of good bacteria, meaning nasty odours and discharge is a common by-product of regular douching.
Consult your doctor
If you have experienced Keto crotch, or any other form of abnormal vaginal odour, for a prolonged period of time, it is important to book an appointment with your doctor or gynaecologist. After all, it is possible that you have just been unlucky enough to develop an infection or other gynaecological issue at the same time as your Keto journey began.
When it comes to your intimate health, you can’t be too careful. Vaginal odour is one of the most common complaints gynaecologists are asked to treat, so don’t be shy. Unpleasant smells and discharge might indicate a vaginal infection such as BV, a yeast infection, Thrush or a Sexually Transmitted Disease. While usually there is absolutely nothing to worry about, if you have been experiencing any of these symptoms for a long period of time, consulting a doctor is a must.
"Please consult a Healthcare professional before starting any diet or exercise"