Dieters are trying to battle ‘keto crotch’ using everything from apple cider vinegar to scented sprays, but the remedies can be harmful

People have shared stories about their vaginal discharge becoming stronger and smellier after switching to the ketogenic diet, and many asked for remedies.

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People have shared stories about their vaginal discharge becoming stronger and smellier after switching to the ketogenic diet, and many asked for remedies.
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Caroline Praderio/INSIDER

  • The ketogenic or “keto” diet, which involves eating lots of fat and few carbohydrates, has been credited with helping dieters lose weight quickly, but some have reported a side effect called “keto crotch.”
  • On multiple Reddit threads, people have shared stories about their vaginal discharge becoming stronger and smellier after switching to the diet, and many asked for keto crotch remedies.
  • A number of fixes were suggested, including bathing in apple cider vinegar, drinking more water, taking probiotics, and swabbing the outer lips of the vagina with alcohol.
  • Gynecologist Lauren Streicher said none of these remedies are scientifically proven to help with keto crotch and if a strange odor persists, it’s best to see a doctor.

The increasingly popular ketogenic diet (or “keto” diet), which involves eating lots of fat and few carbohydrates, is credited by many dieters with helping them lose weight quickly. There are some downsides, though, potentially including a side effect called “keto crotch.”

On multiple Reddit threads, people have shared stories about their vaginal discharge becoming stronger and smellier after switching to the ketogenic diet, and many asked for remedies.

On the subreddit r/xxketo, SxarAnise wrote that “I’ve been on the diet for about a month and a half now and I’ve noticed that my vaginal odors have gotten MUCH stronger…” This post and others garnered replies suggesting a variety of home remedies to fix the problem.

According to gynecologist Lauren Streicher, MD, there is no research to connect the keto diet with vaginal odor, so it is impossible to say whether the diet is the true culprit or if these remedies can actually help.

“One of the problems is that when you look at bacterial vaginosis, that can also create a funky odor,” Streicher told INSIDER of the common vaginal infection that is caused by an overgrowth of bacteria in the vagina. “The question is, did they already have bacterial vaginosis or is it related to the diet?”

The remedies suggested could be ineffective at best, and at worst cause even more irritation to the vagina or vulva. Here are the keto crotch cures recommended by the internet and what you should know about their risks.

Bathing in or douching with apple cider vinegar

Redditor KetoMe4ever said they swear by bathing in and drinking apple cider vinegar as a keto crotch remedy. “It takes away all odor, breathe, armpit, foot and crotch,” they wrote. Another user added that douching – flushing inside the vagina with liquid – with an apple cider vinegar and water mixture helped them.

Streicher warned against using apple cider vinegar around the genitals since it can dry out the delicate skin of the labia. Douching with vinegar, let alone any liquid, can also cause more harm than good.

“[Douching] is associated with an increased risk of pelvic inflammatory disease and bacterial infections. Any academic gynecologist will say do not douche,” Streicher said. That’s because when water is expelled into the vagina, it can push bacteria further up into the cervix and make existing infections worse or create an imbalance of bacteria that creates an infection, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Swabbing the labia with alcohol or other disinfectants

Another Reddit user, 7shrowaway, said they swab their labia with rubbing alcohol to get rid of the keto crotch odor. They said they also do this in their armpits to remove what they believe to be keto crotch odor. “I do that about once a week now, and it works,” they said. Another user said a tea tree oil and witch hazel mixture had a similar effect for them, and yet another recommend using aloe vera gel with alcohol on the labia.

Streicher said moisture-stripping alcohol-based products could irritate the skin around the genitals and that they aren’t worth using. “We [gynecologists] say don’t apply products to the vulva,” she told INSIDER. Instead, washing with water and mild, unscented soap in the shower is the best way to clean the vulva properly and safely – keto crotch or not.

Read more: A painful disease once known for afflicting wealthy kings is making a comeback, and fad diets like keto may be partly to blame

Increasing daily water intake

Drinking more water helped to get rid of the keto crotch scent, according to one Reddit user.

Although staying hydrated can’t do any harm, there is also no scientific evidence that upping your water intake will eliminate genital smells. “The whole notion of what you eat or drink causing an alteration in genital odor has never been studied,” Streicher said.

Read more: 6 reasons why you’re still hungry on the keto diet

Covering up smell with a scented feminine spray

Sprays may help to mask the smell of odor, but they also have the potential to cause itchiness and inflammation if your skin reacts poorly to them.

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Sprays may help to mask the smell of odor, but they also have the potential to cause itchiness and inflammation if your skin reacts poorly to them.
source
istock

Like douches, feminine sprays can irritate the genitals, but around the exposed skin rather than inside of the vagina. These sprays are often heavily scented using chemicals, gynecologist Donnica Moore previously told INSIDER.

They may help to mask the smell of odor, but they also have the potential to cause itchiness and inflammation if your skin reacts poorly to them. Plus, the vagina is supposed to have a natural odor. That odor normally differs from person to person. “There is no need for your vagina to smell like a garden,” Moore said.

Using vaginal or oral probiotics

Other Redditors suggested probiotics taken orally or through a vaginal suppository to increase healthy bacteria in the vagina. Probiotics facilitate the growth of lactobacillus, healthy bacteria in the gut and genital systems, and have been shown to help treat bacterial vaginosis, an infection which often causes an unpleasant vaginal odor, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Still, Streicher said probiotics’ effectiveness have only been proven in treating bacterial vaginosis, so there is no proof they can have the same effect on keto crotch odor.

Rather than trying one of these remedies, people should consult with their doctor if an abnormal odor persists. “You don’t want to chalk it up to the diet and say it’s normal to have it. That’s the real fear to me, if someone is having these symptoms and says ‘That’s OK, I’m on the keto diet.’ I don’t think anyone should say that,” Streicher told INSIDER.