If you recently had a weight loss procedure like a gastric sleeve or gastric bypass surgery, you may be experiencing an unpleasant metallic taste in your mouth, a stronger body odor, or a chlorine-like smell in your urine. These are common symptoms of ketosis after bariatric surgery.
What Causes Ketosis and Body Odor After Bariatric Surgery?
After bariatric surgery, the protein-rich postoperative diet causes a hormonal shift in the body. Without carbohydrates (glucose) to use as fuel, your body struggles to rebalance itself and begins burning fat as energy. At this time you have entered ketosis. Don’t worry! This process is a normal metabolic response to your body’s rapid weight loss and reduced carb intake.
How Do I Know if I’m in Ketosis?
The best way to find out if you are in ketosis is to use “ketosis strips”. There are two ways to detect ketone levels using strips: through urine or blood. You can find the urine test at your local Walmart or Walgreens. The tests are similar to pregnancy tests except they measure acetoacetate to determine if you are in ketosis.
Stinky Side Effects of Ketosis
Typically, patients will start to notice an unusual body odor and may develop bad breath after a couple of days of surgery. It’s normal for your body to respond like this since it’s still trying to adjust to the new diet.
- Rapid weight loss: The most obvious way to tell if you’re in ketosis is by rapid weight loss. This can happen during the first week of a low-carbohydrate diet when the body runs out of stored glycogen. Fat is burned as energy and weight loss is accelerated.
- Bad breath (halitosis): Ketosis increases the number of three common ketones; beta-hydroxybutyrate, acetoacetate, and acetone. Excess ketones are released through urine and breath, causing either a fruity or nail-polish smell known as “ketosis breath”.
- Body odor: It is to have increased body odor during the ketosis phase. Your body will need to adapt and in time, the odor will decrease and stabilize after 1 to 4 months.
- Dry mouth: Dry mouth is caused by consuming minimal carbohydrates in combination with low sodium. It is necessary to avoid dehydration since your glycogen stores are depleted.
- Metallic taste: Your taste buds can change every bite of food you eat. It is common to have an unpleasant metallic taste in your mouth after surgery but it typically stops after 2 to 8 weeks.
- Ketones in blood & urine: Since blood sugar levels are reduced, this will start to increase ketones found in blood and urine. To test this, you can use indicator strips, which are sold over the counter, as a quick and cheap way to check for ketones.
- Insomnia: Glucose is usually used to keep our bodies consistently energized. More importantly, it elevates the level of serotonin in the brain which will help relax the body and make it easier to sleep. In ketosis, however, this amino acid is nonexistent.
- Digestive issues: People in ketosis commonly experience gas, constipation, or diarrhea. This is mainly due to the lack of fiber needed for a healthy digestive system. Foods high in fiber and carbohydrates are essential in preventing constipation. Eating low-carb but high-fiber foods such as broccoli, avocados, and cauliflower could help.
How Long Will Ketosis Last?
When your body finally adapts to the new diet, it efficiently processes fats from its byproducts. This can last between a few weeks up to a few months. It may seem difficult to control the odor during this period, but things can get much easier by simply practicing good hygiene.
With ketosis comes a few noticeable side effects like halitosis (bad breath) and a disruptive odor from your armpits and/or private parts.
DIY Methods to Eliminate Body Odor
Many past patients have had a few DIY tricks up their sleeves when countering the ketosis-related body odor after bariatric surgery.
- Vinegar: Although not doctor-recommended, patients have used vinegar to counteract the funk coming from underarms and privates. A little dab here and there can typically reduce the stench of B.O. and can easily be reapplied throughout the day. This DIY method is not a guarantee and eventually works less and less after each use.
- Lemon: A more surefire approach to relieving body odor caused by ketosis is lemons. Cut a tiny piece straight off of one side until you can see the fruit inside the peel. Then roll it on your armpits like its deodorant as needed. After each day, slice a little more off to keep it fresh. One lemon can generally last for 3 to 5 days. Once you’re halfway or just under half, toss it and get a new lemon.
Other tips to reduce bad breath, metallic taste, and body odor
- Increase your water intake and stay hydrated
- Applying deodorant more often can help reduce the odor expelled
- Practice good oral hygiene and brush your teeth throughout the day
- Talk to your nutritionist about increasing carb intake
- Eat less protein (not recommended for bariatric patients)
- Be patient, it will disappear eventually
It’s important to remember that your body is always going to adjust to whatever diet you decide to follow. In this case, you’ll be in ketosis as a result of bariatric surgery. Sticking to a heavy protein diet with no carbs or sugars will keep you in ketosis until you decide to change your diet.
Unless you get accustomed to your weight loss diet, slowly introducing new foods is a safe way to give your body time to react. This can help prevent complications such as dumping syndrome. It is also important to make note of how your body reacts to these new foods since you may not enjoy the same foods as before.