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If you’re thinking about trying out the Ketogenic diet, it’s reported to have incredible benefits, including rapid weight loss. That is, at least, for men. For women, the benefits are a little fuzzier. And it can actually cause an array of health issues, including hormonal disruptions, bad breath, and a particularly unwelcome side effect known as “keto crotch.”
The ketogenic diet typically involves significantly reducing carbohydrates and increasing fats (i.e. eggs, bacon, butter, avocado, and cheese). When you severely restrict carbs, which the body burns to create energy, you switch over to burning fats instead in a metabolic process known as ketosis. This is the main reason the diet is so wildly popular. Burned fats = rapid weight loss—for some people, at least.
Not everyone sees the same benefits from the diet. For one, women are reported to lose less weight than men on keto. Researchers at the University of Iowa in Iowa City conducted a study examining the impact the diet had on male mice versus female mice. They found that, while the male mice maintained blood glucose control and lost weight, the female mice actually weighed more at the end of the 15-week study.
On top of the apparent lack of weight loss benefits, the keto diet can disrupt hormonal balance in women, which impacts every other aspect of health. Although carbs have been vilified in recent years, they contain essential vitamins and nutrients that help maintain healthy hormone levels in women. Cutting them drastically can cause a spike in the stress hormone cortisol, which can throw off the rest of your hormones and cause serious health consequences over time.
Beyond the more serious health consequences, keto is rumored to cause unpleasant vaginal odor in some women. This is known as “keto crotch.” Although studies have not been conducted yet to prove or disprove the phenomenon, doctors agree that the increase in acidic foods and beverages like dairy, meat, poultry, and coffee could create a disruption in vaginal pH, in turn causing vaginal odor.
The vagina is naturally acidic, which helps it kill off unwanted bacteria and maintain a natural balance of flora. But when your diet is also highly acidic, it makes your vagina more alkaline, which allows infection-causing bacteria to multiply. This can lead to lots of unwanted issues beyond bad odor, including bacterial vaginosis, yeast infections, and UTIs.
If you’re committed to trying out keto, there are several ways you can counteract the negative effects.
Here are a some suggested tweaks for women:
Aside from that, supplementing with good bacteria can help balance out the vaginal microbiome and prevent keto crotch and related issues. Taking a daily probiotic is a must. While digestive probiotics are highly recommended for pretty much everyone, if you struggle with vaginal infections or odor, adding a probiotic specifically formulated for vaginal health will help too.
Kate is the Content Manager at Uqora. She is responsible for Uqora's social media, newsletters and educational content in the UTI Learning Center. She graduated with a B.A. in Journalism from San Diego State University.