Ah, the keto diet. On the plus side, it’s helped tons of people lose weight. On the not-so plus side, it comes with a whole slew of pretty gnarly side effects like the keto flu, keto breath, and keto diarrhoea.
Now, people are talking about another not-so-pleasant side effect of the keto diet: keto crotch. Yep, some people online (shout-out to r/xxketo!) noticed that their vaginas started to emit an intense odour after going on the low-carb diet.
Wait, so what are people saying about the so-called keto crotch?
“I’ve been on the diet for about a month and a half now and I’ve noticed that my vaginal odours have gotten MUCH stronger…(It smells like a mix between urine and discharge…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),” one Reddit user posted.
A different Reddit user agreed, responding: “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.”
On a separate thread, another user and keto dieter wondered: “Does anyone else’s lady bits smell different too? Like not a nasty infectious smell, just like a stronger natural smell? I’m about to ovulate so maybe that with keto makes things a little more potent. I have no idea! Maybe I’m just a freak of nature!”
The group of peeps who have experienced smelling an off scent down below seems to be pretty large, at least on the Internet. “Oh thank God I am not the only one with a stinky vajayjay. I have to think happy thoughts during squats,” another woman posted on Reddit.
Okay, so people are definitely experiencing something funky going on with their vaginal scents. But whether this is actually being caused by following the keto diet remains up for debate.
Sooo… is keto crotch a real thing?
To make one thing super-clear first, there’s no research confirming that keto crotch is, in fact, a thing. But that doesn’t mean people aren’t still experiencing some less-than-pleasant odours down there on the keto diet.
Keto crotch sounds similar to the keto breath phenomenon. When your body is in ketosis (a.k.a., breaking down fat for fuel instead of carbs), it produces ketones (chemicals like acetoacetate, beta-hydroxybutyrate, and acetone—yes, that last one is the same ingredient in nail polish remover). These are chemicals that are naturally produced by your body, but, because your body produces more of them on the keto diet, the excess can make your poop, pee, and breath a little more smelly (again, like nail polish remover).
But, tbh, that’s probably not what’s happening here, says Dr Jessica Shepherd, a minimally invasive gynaecologist. Instead, it’s more likely that going on the keto diet changes your vaginal pH—and that changes your vaginal odour, she says. “Any diet can change your vaginal pH,” she says, which can then change the odour a bit.
A healthy vaginal pH is acidic — between 3.8 and 4.5 — and foods like onions, garlic, red meat, dairy, asparagus, broccoli, alcohol, and fruit can all affect the natural balance you’ve got going on, Dr Mary Rosser, an ob-gyn at Montefiore Medical Center in New York previously told Women’s Health. And even a slight change in pH (even one doesn’t impact the health of your vagina) can alter the smell you’re used to.
Okay, well what about a keto crotch rash?
In addition to having an unfamiliar smell down there, some women are also reporting that they’ve noticed a rash in their crotch area on the keto diet (fun!).
So keto rash is a real thing. It’s actually an inflammatory disease called prurigo pigmentosa that’s often characterized by red, itchy bumps on the neck, back, and stomach — and the keto diet can potentially trigger it. But there’s no particular reason the keto diet would cause you to break out only around your crotch — at least, none that the scientific community has found a direct link to, says Dr Christine Greves, a board-certified ob-gyn. “If you’re on the keto diet and develop a rash, don’t just blame it on the diet,” she says. “Make sure you get some assistance.”
But while there’s no direct link, going keto could potentially have an indirect effect on whether you develop a rash. “Changes in diet can lead to potential changes in vaginal health, which could mean more rashes,” says Dr Shepherd.
Of course, it’s entirely possible that other things you do around the time you start the keto diet could lead to a rash in the groin area, like working out more and hanging out in your sweaty gym clothes for too long. But if you notice a rash down there and it’s not going away, it’s time to call your doctor, as you could be experiencing a yeast infection, STD, or other skin condition.
What should I do about it?
If you notice you have a weird odour going on down there right after you go keto, you may want to give it a few days to see if it goes away, says Dr Shepherd. (Also, definitely, don’t douche. Douching can open you up to a whole host of other issues and increase your risk of infection.)
But if the smell persists or you start to notice other symptoms like itchiness, burning, and abnormal discharge, it’s time to see your doctor, You could have an infection that’s unrelated to your diet.
This article was originally published on www.womenshealthmag.com