People following the famous Atkins diet often encounter an unexpected and unpleasant side effect - Atkins diet bad breath. It's not their imagination that the diet causes an unpleasant odor on the breath, and it's very difficult to get rid of the problem while remaining on the diet. That's because this particular type of bad breath is not caused by the usual things.
Most cases of bad breath are caused by the production of volatile sulfur compounds (VSC) in the mouth. Anaerobic oral bacteria live in our mouths by the billions. They derive nutrition from food particles, sloughed off skin cells and other body proteins. When certain species predominate - species that produce VSC as a byproduct of metabolism - an unpleasant odor on the breath results. In the case of Atkins diet bad breath, the odor is not coming from the mouth and it isn't produced by the metabolism of bacteria. It's produced by the person's own metabolism.
The Atkins diet is based on severely restricting carbohydrates in the diet - especially in the early stages, dieters are allowed virtually no carbohydrates at all. Since carbohydrates are the usual source of energy in the body, their restriction forces the body to look for other sources of energy. It turns to stored fat - fat cells that most dieters have in plenty. When the human metabolism starts to break down fat cells for energy, a process called ketosis, ketones are produced as a byproduct and this is the agent of Atkins diet bad breath. Ketones are expelled in the urine and in the breath. In the breath, they are detected as a distinctly unpleasant odor - bad breath.
It's difficult to resolve the problem of Atkins diet bad breath as long as you stay on the diet: as long as your metabolism has no carbohydrates to break down, ketones will be produced by the breakdown of fat. Indeed, ketosis is the aim of the Atkins diet in the first place. In later stages of the diet, enough carbohydrates may be added to alleviate the problem; however, some dieters will have to settle for more carbohydrates and slower weight loss if they cannot tolerate the halitosis.
Breath freshening products may provide some relief and won't compromise the diet as long as they do not contain carbohydrates. For this particular problem, the products such as lozenges and breath strips that have a strong odor, usually mint, to mask bad breath are the best choices. Many people, however, will find it difficult to continue their use over the long term. For persistent Atkins diet bad breath, the best solution may be to find a different diet.
R. Drysdale is a freelance writer with more than 25 years experience as a health care professional. She is a contributing editor to Atkins Diet Bad Breath, a blog dedicated to the treatment of bad breath.
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