According to the National Marketing Institute, more than 20 million people have tried low-carb diets like the Atkins method at some point. These diets are popular because they offer reasonable weight-loss results. When fans of these diets talk about their experience, though, you usually only hear thoughts related to weight loss and diet control. You rarely hear about a very unhappy side-effect – halitosis or bad breath.
Why does reducing carbohydrates cause bad breath?
When you are on a regular diet, it is the carbohydrates in your food that your body uses for energy. On many low-carb diets like the Atkins method, your body is so deeply deprived of carbohydrates that it has no choice but to burn fat to survive. Ketosis, the state in which the body burns fat rather than carbohydrates, is what makes these low-carb diets work.
Unfortunately, ketosis produces unpleasant by-products – chemicals called ketones. These substances smell terrible and give you bad breath. The only good part to experiencing such bad breath in the middle of a low-carb diet is that you at least know that you’re burning fat.
What should you do if you want to go on a low-carb diet, then?
When people on low-carb diets experience bad breath, they often have no idea that their diets are to blame. They work hard brushing, flossing, cleaning their tongues and gargling, under the impression that they must have an oral hygiene problem. Once they realize that their diet may be to blame, they need to decide whether to continue.
If you wish to choose an extreme low-carb diet like the Atkins method to lose weight, you may have to put up with the bad breath problem. You can’t even pop a breath mint – those products often have carbs in them. You might consider switching to a more liberal low-carb diet – one like the Zone diet that allows you some carbs. If you allow some carbs in your diet, your body won’t go into ketosis and you won’t get bad breath.
Many studies find that while the Zone and other low-carb diets don’t recommend enough carbohydrate deprivation to allow ketosis to take place, they still do tend to produce lasting weight loss in many people. You need to find out if such a diet works for you.
You can try to dilute the ketones
When you get bad breath from a low-carb diet, the smell doesn’t rise up from your gut or come from your lungs as you breathe. Instead, the ketones come out through your saliva.
If you only rarely rinse your mouth, you will have to deal with a high concentration of ketones in your mouth and an unbearable stench. Frequently rinsing your mouth out or drinking water can be a good way to prevent ketone buildup. Chewing parsley can also be of some use. If you can find a sugarless gum brand that is truly sugarless, that could help, as well.
Obesity can cause bad breath, too
Bad breath is no reason to quit your weight-loss goals. The alternative, staying overweight, can cause bad breath just the same.
According to studies done by researchers at Cedars-Sinai Hospital and elsewhere in 2007 and 2013, microorganisms called archaea that live in the gut of some 70% of overweight people, tend to secrete methane that causes bad breath (these studies were published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism). Archaea are neither bacteria nor viruses – they are ancient organisms that pre-date them.
The answer could be to put up with the bad breath for some time, take whatever steps you can to dilute the ketone buildup in your mouth, lose weight and then to get back to a normal diet. Alternatively, you could try increasing the amount of exercise you get or try a different low-carb diet that works for you.