Debunking The Keto Crotch Myth
The Internet Rumor Machine Strikes Again!
But you don't actually have to worry because keto crotch isn't real.
“There’s a rumor going around that the ketogenic diet is making women smell funny down there,” is how an uncomfortable parent would tell you about the keto crotch myth. They’d struggle to even say the word vagina! At best, they’d whisper it, like it was a dirty word. But it’s 2019! And we should all strive to be as comfortable as possible talking about women’s health and treat it with the respect that it deserves. That’s why it’s important to address all this talk about vagina’s developing a foul odor because of the ketogenic diet.
Like many internet rumors, keto crotch began on Reddit. These stories, however, are not corroborated by any clinical or scientific research. Unfortunately, there’s no research on how keto affects vaginal odor (although maybe these rumors will inspire some). There is, however, research on the various factors that may actually affect vaginal odor, although it's not an open and shut case.
It’s important to keep in mind when debunking the keto crotch myth, or any misinformation, that you follow the debunking best practices as outlined in The Debunking Handbook (written by John Cook [Global Change Institute, University of Queensland] and Stephan Lewandowsky [School of Psychology, University of Western Australia]). Make sure the myth is consistently framed as a myth and that you offer an alternative explanation for the phenomena in question. Onward!
The origins of the keto crotch myth.
Aside from Reddit, there are several sources that need to be addressed for the purpose of debunking the keto crotch myth. The Journal of Nutrition published a paper on the dietary intake of selected nutrients affects bacterial vaginosis in women. The women in this study, however, were eating too many carbs and too little fat to actually trigger ketosis, so the paper can be tossed.
The existence of keto breath and the effects of ketosis on urine have also been cited as evidence of keto crotch. To be in ketosis is to consume so few carbs that your body burns up all the glucose and starts creating ketone bodies from fat. A byproduct of this process is acetone, which can make your breath and urine smell. Does acetone also show up in vaginal fluid? So far, not a single piece of research suggests that it does.
There are actual causes of vaginal odor.
Vaginal odor is normal and healthy, and it can change significantly throughout the menstrual cycle. However, if there's an acute change in vaginal odor, then that may be an indicator of something that merits medicinal investigation (dramatic change in vaginal odor is what often inspires visits to the OB/GYN).
After debunking the keto crotch myth you may want to know some actual vaginal ailments. Four common reasons for change in vaginal odor are bacterial vaginosis (too much bad bacteria), aerobic vaginitis (bacterial vaginosis but with more inflammation), vaginal candidiasis (a fungal infection caused by a type of yeast called candida), and sexually transmitted infections.
Bacterial vaginosis is frequently the culprit behind vaginal infection, which would be accompanied by an unpleasant smell. What happens is that bad bacteria replace the bacteria in the vagina that produces lactic acid, then they overwhelm the vagina, a byproduct of which is a compound that releases a foul odor.
A vagina in tip-top medical shape will contain lactobacilli, which is a lactic acid producing bacteria. It keeps the vagina's ph acidic. In premenopausal women, a ph of 4.5 is considered ideal. A ph of 5 or 6.5 is most commonly a symptom of menopause or bacterial overgrowth. When there's less good bacteria, the bad bacteria takes over and raises the vagina's pH, leading to even more bad bacteria.
There’s no scientific connection between low carb high fat diets and vaginal odor, but studies have shown that micronutrient deficiencies may cause bacterial vaginosis. A study by The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition on the nutritional biomarkers associated with gynecological conditions among US women with or at risk of HIV infection showed that low levels of vitamins A, E, C, and beta carotene, have been linked to an increased risk of bacterial vaginosis.
There are many things women can do to promote vaginal health.
After debunking the keto crotch myth, it’s useful to learn some of the actual things women can do to promote vaginal health. Women's Health Mag provides 10 ways to stay in your vagina's good graces. Don't skip going to you OB/GYN, use condoms with new partners, use personal lubricant if you're not personally lubricated already, wearing underwear made of cotton (it's the material that does the best job of letting air in and trapping moisture), don't douche (the vagina is self cleaning), take it easy in spin class, be mindful of antibiotics, don't switch from anal to vaginal sex (although feel free to go from vaginal to anal), no scented soaps, and do kegels.
Meanwhile, Healthline has an article called, "8 Bites For Your Bits: Your Vagina's Favorite Foods", for you to check out after you’re done debunking the keto crotch myth (only two of them aren’t keto friendly). The list includes cranberries, probiotics, plant fats, soy (to help raise estrogen levels), avocados, and leafy greens (like spinach). Avocado, soy, and spinach are also keto friendly foods that can help reduce anxiety.
Lastly, if you know anything about low carb diets and pregnancy, than you know that the ketogenic diet is actually used to treat some conditions that adversely affect women and vaginal health. Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is one such condition. It occurs in women who have elevated male hormones. Symptoms include irregular or non-existent menstrual cycles, ovarian cysts, and decreased fertility.
So not only does the keto diet not produce adverse vaginal effects, it can even help maintain vaginal health. Especially when one considers that cutting out processed foods and added sugar has only ever had a positive impact on people’s health. A nutritionally rich diet of whole foods is one that will never steer you in the wrong direction.