There’s a disturbing wave of smelly, low-carb hysteria fouling up the nation’s athleisure pants this week: keto crotch.
Before we get to the nitty-gritty of this dietary phenomenon, it’s worth noting that the ketogenic diet has long been known for cranking up the body odor in an alarming, unfortunate way. This is not exactly a secret! It’s hard to hide the equivalent of a full-scale body fart.
In other words, keto gives a lot of people a rank-ass scent, men and women alike, so while keto crotch may be a particularly fun sub-genre of it, it’s hardly your biggest problem when a diet can make you smell so bad most people wouldn’t be caught dead going downtown on your crotch in the first place to even find out if that’s where it doth stanketh the most. Dig?
So let’s talk this one out together! A few days ago, Korin Miller at Women’s Health alerted readers to something called keto crotch, an unfortunate, unpleasant vaginal-wafting “intense odor” side effect of the ketogenic diet, which has its adherents ditching carbs in favor of protein to lose weight. As Miller noted, it was something she came across on one of the r/keto subreddits, with one woman coining the phrase herself:
As Miller also noted, it’s not scientifically proven that keto crotch exists at all — it’s just that based on what’s already understood about keto, it makes some kind of sense that if you stink it up everywhere else on keto, why wouldn’t you down below? Per Miller:
Keto crotch sounds similar to the keto breath phenomenon. When your body is in ketosis (a.k.a., it breaks 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).
Miller spoke to a gynecologist who told her that while it’s not that there’s any medical proof that keto specifically causes a crotch malfunction, diets can change the pH of the vagina, which can change the smell of the vagina. As we’ve written about before, what you eat does influence your body odor somewhat, and that includes backwards and forwards, inside and out, up top and down below.
Since her post, Jezebel, the Daily Mail and your mother are all talking about the dark vaginal smolder of the keto crotch’s lingering aroma, with more experts weighing in. An OB/GYN told the Daily Mail that really anything you eat could alter your scent, whether it’s the release of ketones due to extreme carb restriction or eating garlic or pungent spices.
Though to be clear, no one knows exactly what the intoxicating scent of keto crotch is like, or if it’s like the aforementioned nail polish thing. I imagine it’s something like the scent of a carb-free queef. But basically, per the Daily Mail expert, if it makes you fart or your piss smell weird, it’s gonna make the vag a little musty, too. Protein farts do exist, and too much protein is a hazard of the keto diet. Eating too much red meat is also a culprit in the meat sweats.
I think you can see where we’re headed here. How could men not be struck down by keto crotch, too? If keto makes a vag stinky, why would it somehow spare the penis and balls? Is it some kind of Biblical revenge, like cursing Eve and all women with the pain of childbearing, while men just get to hang out eatin’ apples?
Online, some men wondered whether men could get keto crotch, too, but came no closer to the truth:
They’re right to wonder. It’s only logical to assume people with penises will experience keto dick.
As I mentioned in the first place, bad keto B.O. is a complaint among a lot of people who’ve tried this diet, and it’s been documented. Reddit is littered with people newly on the keto diet in need of a place to talk about the fresh hell of their terrible body odor. Some of them are women, like this woman saying she has keto underboob! (Note to media: Where is the keto underboob article we need?)
Some of them are penis owners. How bad is it for dudes? Bad enough that putting on deodorant twice a day didn’t help this guy.
And this guy’s pits are the pits:
It made this guy’s piss rank, but to be clear, some people claim to have better body odor after keto:
Some people claim it clears up in a few weeks if you stay in ketosis correctly:
Some people say they can maintain that bad odor with more showering and more deodorant:
Some people get weird rashes:
Some people are just afraid they’ll be found out as keto by the smell alone:
And yes, it definitely specifically gets around to the dick region. After all, lots of things men eat give them ye olde sweaty balls, including junk food and too many cruciferous vegetables. Bad-tasting semen is attributable to diet, too.
One person on Reddit posted about how to avoid having nasty semen on keto:
Another person posted on Reddit it wasn’t an issue for them:
But Australian physiologist Drew Harrisberg had to ditch keto because his body odor, which he said had barely existed before, had become “significantly worsened” on the diet, particularly his underarms. Everything went back to normal three months after quitting and going plant-based.
I reached out to urologist Jamin Brahmbhatt about the keto crotch question. He said the hype was largely overblown:
You can’t go freaking out about what you read on the news without actually diving deep into the science.
The pH of the vaginal wall is directly linked to its ability to fight infections and certain odors. The whole viral news phenomenon on this topic has very little scientific backing, as of today. There are a lot of unknowns with the keto diet and this may be one of them.
That being said, order in men is not quite correlated with pH changes around the groin or scrotal area. [Cisgender] men do not have a vaginal wall and therefore it’s hard to say going keto is causing men be stinkier down there. If people are not drinking enough water while going keto, they can become dehydrated, which can change your body odor.
So in conclusion, there is no reason to think women would be solely afflicted with keto crotch while men would stay fresh as a rose, particularly when the lion’s share of the posts in the first place about smelling like shit on keto overall come from men.
What’s more likely at work here, in my view, is that women are already on high alert for vag smells in general, and have been stalking their own bodies since puberty, and enduring all manner of smelly phases related to menstruation and other hormonal changes. And enduring all manner of products designed to correct a smell that is by all medical accounts, totally natural unless something is actually off medically that needs attention. Most vaginal smells don’t need to be fixed, but years of jokes about douches and vaginal wipes and tuna sandwiches are all reasons women would be the first to catch a whiff of anything and cry foul whether it’s foul or not.
So what is to be done? Again, keto crotch isn’t clinically proven. Anyone can start stinking up the joint after going on it. The very few number of women discussing it still means it could be as simple as a coincidence that their vaginal pH changed while they also dieted.
But if you think you’re a man who has it, you can do what women have for years to evade capture and shaming for egregious vaginal odor: Maybe try crossing your legs.