Why does your breath Smell like Acetone?

Why does your breath Smell like Acetone?

It is a common practice to relate a strong smelling breath with the food that someone has eaten. This is true in most of the cases, for example, eating garlic or onion may cause the development of a pungent smell in your mouth. However, in some cases, the foul-smelling breath may reveal much more than this.

If a person’s breath reminds you of acetone, more commonly known as the typical nail polish remover, it could be an indicator of several health conditions, the most prominent of them being diabetes.

The way your breath smells can, in fact, tell about your overall health. This article will explore the reasons why your breath may smell just like acetone and what it indicates about the status of your health.

How does Diabetes Affect your Breath?

Diabetes can alter the way your breath smells, leading to bad breath, also known as halitosis. In a study performed in 2009, researchers concluded that the analysis of a persons’ breath can help in the identification of pre-diabetics when their disease is in extremely early phases.

Two different circumstances, both associated with diabetes, can lead to bad breath. These include a high level of ketones and gum disease.

The gum diseases, also known as periodontal disease, include the following forms:

  • Mild periodontitis
  • Gingivitis
  • Advanced periodontitis

Diabetes can directly be linked with a high risk of gum disease which eventually causes a person’s breath to smell. However, it cannot cause your breath to smell like acetone in particular.

If you are a diabetic and your breath often smells like acetone, this is always because of higher levels of ketones in your blood.

Diabetes and Acetone Breath

If you are not managing diabetes in a proper way, your body does not tend to generate sufficient amount of insulin required to break down glucose in the blood. This indicates that your body cells are not getting an adequate amount of glucose to derive energy.

In such circumstances when the body is unable to derive energy from sugar, it switches its main energy source to fat. The body starts breaking down fat so as to obtain energy and while doing so, certain by-products called as ketones are produced simultaneously.

Acetone is a type of ketone body. It is the same substance that is commonly used in nail polish remover and can be distinguished because of its fruity smell.

When a person suffering from diabetes has an acetone smell in his breath, it is essentially because his body is producing ketones to generate energy from fats.

Understanding Ketones and Acetone

Acetone is considered as one of the ketones bodies produced in the body. It is normally produced when your liver starts breaking fatty acids to release energy, a process which is commonly known as ketosis.

These ketones that are released into the bloodstream are used by your body as fuel. Ketones which are not used as fuel are thrown out of the body through urine. Acetone is expelled out when a person exhales which is why it changes the smell of the breath to a strong fruity odor.

In addition to occurring naturally within the human body, acetone is also found in the following:

  • Nail polish
  • Paint thinners
  • Plastic manufacturing processes

Ketosis versus Diabetic Ketoacidosis

In general, ketosis is not disadvantageous to your body as long as the amount of ketones in your blood does not become extremely high. However, in a person who is not managing diabetes well, the process can be dangerous as the ketone levels are likely to rise too much in such individuals.

Diabetic ketoacidosis occurs when the amount of ketones in the bloodstream reaches an extremely high and unhealthy level. This condition is extremely dangerous and the acidity of blood rises and starts affecting other organs of the body in an adverse way.

Diabetic ketoacidosis can develop in 24 hours and is most commonly seen in people suffering from diabetes type 1. It has a probability of hitting the patients with diabetes type 2, especially if they have been unwell or are not taking the insulin doses as required.

RELATED: What Is The Difference Between Type 1 And Type 2 Diabetes?

Both ketosis and diabetic ketoacidosis can produce acetone breath. However, the smell is more noticeable in the case of diabetic ketoacidosis. If the breath of a person is extremely fruity or has a strong acetone smell, this is likely to indicate diabetic ketoacidosis. Other symptoms that may be present in diabetic ketoacidosis include:

  • Nausea
  • Urinating more than usual
  • High sugar levels in blood
  • Pain in abdomen
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Vomiting
  • Feeling confused

A person who is positive for all these symptoms is a victim of diabetic ketoacidosis and must get medical help at once.

RELATED: Hyperglycemia- What Should You Know About It?

What are other Causes of Acetone Breath?

Diabetes is strongly connected to acetone breath but is not always the reason for it. Two other reasons why your breath may smell like acetone include:

  1. Consuming a Ketogenic Diet

Ketosis is referred to as a metabolic state which is sometimes deliberately induced by the person to lose weight. This can occur by consuming a ketogenic diet. A ketogenic diet can ultimately lead to acetone breath in people.

A normal ketogenic diet includes eating foods high in fat, moderate in protein, and containing a minimal quantity of carbohydrates. Consuming such a diet urges the body to break down fat for releasing energy instead of relying on carbohydrates.

A study that took place in the year 2002 researched that the breath which smells like acetone clearly indicates that the body of an individual who has been following a ketogenic diet plan is in a phase of ketosis.

A ketogenic diet is extremely famous for its miraculous weight loss properties. However, it is also important to keep in mind different side effects associated with this disease. These may include:

  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Bad breath
  • Excessive loss of salts
  • Fatigue
  • Cramping in legs
  • Changes in the bowel movements
  1. Consuming too much Alcohol

Consuming too much alcohol can come with its own set of complications. One of these complications may include not eating enough. Observing alcoholism for a long duration of time together with starvation can eventually lead to alcoholic ketoacidosis.

Just like in diabetic ketoacidosis, the alcoholic ketoacidosis can also cause the breath of a person to smell like acetone. Other symptoms that are seen in alcoholic ketoacidosis include:

  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Abdominal pain

When should you Consult a Doctor?

If you are a patient with diabetes and are continuously detecting a faint smell resembling that of acetone in your breath, make sure that you are following your recommended care plan. In most of the cases, this involves regularly taking insulin for the regulation of blood sugar and to prevent the initiation of ketosis in the body.

If a person suffering diabetes observes their breath to smell strongly like acetone together with the manifestations of all other symptoms of diabetic ketoacidosis, it is recommended to consult a doctor.

Lastly, if a person who has not been diagnosed with diabetes detects his breath to be acetone-like, he should also consult a doctor. The doctor can help him to find out the reason for this smell and how to manage it.

Nancy Walker

Nancy holds a Medicine degree and a Masters of Science MS in Infectious Disease and Global Health (MS-IDGH) from Tufts University. She worked as a lecturer for three years before she turned towards medical writing. Her area of interest are infectious diseases; causes, mechanism, diagnosis, treatments and prevention strategies. Most of her writings ensure an easy understanding of uncommon diseases.

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