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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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October 23 2017

Dear Mark: Gum on Keto, Acacia Fiber, Cramping, and Keto Body Odor

By Mark Sisson
35 Comments

Chewing gum and wrapping foil;selective focus.For today’s edition of Dear Mark, I’m answering four questions. First, is sugar-free gum okay to chew without worrying about insulin spikes? Next, is acacia fiber a good choice for a keto person trying to get more fiber and reduce constipation? Third, what can a person who has tried seemingly everything do for nighttime muscle cramps? And finally, why might a person’s body odor get worse on keto?

Let’s go:

Hi I hope this is not a dumb question but Will chewing sugar free gum cause an insulin spike? I’m currently going keto (loving the new book by the way!!) I work in close contact with the public and am always aware of breath freshness so I chew a lot of gum and just worried that it may be defeating my good intentions

You should be fine depending on the type of sweetener.

Most sugar-free gums use xylitol and/or erythritol, neither of which have any significant effect on insulin release. There’s certainly no spike.

Sometimes you’ll find other, artificial sweeteners on the label. Although the effects of these on insulin responses are mixed or inconclusive, there are other reasons to steer clear of them.

I’d suggest checking your labels and opting for varieties that are sweetened solely with sugar alcohols. And there are no dumb questions!

Carla wondered:

What are your thoughts about acacia fiber? I have chronic constipation and that has helped me in the past

Acacia fiber is great. Tremendous source of fiber, and not many people know this, but it’s a prebiotic fiber. So you get the bowel movements that are just out of this world and your gut bacteria will be very, very, very happy. The gut motility it promotes, let’s just say your gut has never been more motile.

I know a guy—great guy, did a little business with him back in the 90s—who beat a week-long case of keto constipation using acacia fiber.

Add it to yogurt and that yogurt is better at treating IBS than regular yogurt.

In diabetic mice, acacia fiber improves kidney function.

Donna asked:

I have been experiencing pretty severe leg cramps while sleeping. I take a magnesium supplement. I’ve been drinking Natural Calm at night. I eat avacodos almost daily. I drink plenty of water. The cramps are all through the night very disturbing. I’ve been on the keto diet for 6 weeks. Any suggestions what else I could do?

First, you’ve got most of the relevant electrolytes handled. I’d make sure you’re eating enough salt, too—add salt to taste whenever you cook or eat, drink salty broth or bullion.

You’re doing the water.

You’re doing the magnesium.

And nothing’s working. The cramps keep coming. Is that right?

I’m actually not very surprised that you’re still having cramps. Contrary to popular belief, studies find that neither electrolyte status nor hydration status predict your propensity to cramps. And the evidence for magnesium’s effect on cramping is mixed. Can’t hurt to take it. Just don’t count on it for the cramps.

What does work?

Sour, pungent, spicy flavors.

For example, pickle juice works against cramps, and not by restoring hydration or electrolytes. It actually reduces active cramps faster than you absorb the water and electrolytes by triggering a set of activators in the brain known as TRP ion channel activators, which influence skeletal muscle contractions.

Other TRP ion channel activators are found in cayenne pepper, ginger, and cinnamon, and researchers have created a blend of extracts from all three plants called Hot Shot that shows efficacy against muscle cramps

Finally, Charlotte Root asked:

Hey Mark, I’m wondering if you can speak to the body odor side effect that many of us have been talking about: experiencing increased body odor in ketosis, especially underarm (people talk about breath but that’s not my primary concern atm). Is there an imbalance that you know of that causes this? On fbook groups people point to detoxing from previously poisonous foods, but I’ve been strict paleo/primal for 6 years, so not sure that’s what it is for me.

The literature on diet and body odor is pretty thin.

In 2006, Czech researchers placed men on either a diet containing red meat or one without red meat, then had them sweat. Women smelled and rated the sweat. Across the board, the red meat dieters produced less attractive body odor. When they had everyone switch to the other diet, the results persisted: Those who had switched to a no-red meat diet produced better-smelling sweat.

It sounds damning, but before you stop eating beef and lamb, check out the details. The non-red meat diet differed from the red meat diet in many ways. The non-red meat dieters weren’t just avoiding red meat; they also ate way more fruits, vegetables, eggs, cheese, and soy than the meat eaters. The researchers failed to control all other aspects of the diet, instead focusing only on the meat.

I’ve said many times before that keto dieters tend to eat less produce, either because they don’t like it and see keto as a free pass for near-carnivory, they worry about the carbs in produce throwing them out of ketosis, or they somehow think plants are restricted on keto. These are mistakes. Common ones. You can eat plenty of produce on keto. You should eat plenty of produce on keto. Mushrooms of all kinds. Leafy greens. Cruciferous veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, bok choy. Low-carb fruits like berries. Anything fibrous.

A more recent study seems to confirm my suspicions. Both produce and meat, cheese, and egg consumption predicted better-smelling body odor. You know what predicted worse body odor? High carbohydrate intakes.

I haven’t seen any legit reasons why a keto diet in particular would increase body odor. Try eating more plants and reassess in a week.

That’s it for this week, folks. Thanks for reading, and be sure to add your own comments down below!

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35 thoughts on “Dear Mark: Gum on Keto, Acacia Fiber, Cramping, and Keto Body Odor”

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  1. Re leg cramps, my husband has those chronically due to cerebral palsy. We stumbled on a solution similar to the hotshot by accident.

    Usually it just takes 15 minutes massaging his legs to settle down the muscles for the night but that doesn’t always work. A couple years ago he was up in the middle of the night with cramping that woke him and that massage wouldn’t alleviate.

    We got out of bed and I fixed him some hot tea. The cramping stopped before he finished it. It was Good Earth brand Sweet & Spicy tea. You can get it as herbal or a black tea base. The ingredients include cinnamon and ginger. I’ll be adding a little lemon juice next time.

    Long story short (I know, too late) try a spicy herbal tea before you shell out $35 for something with 6g carbs. I bet if you are keeping the vinegar and cayenne tonic around that would work too.

    1. Be aware that any of the Good Earth teas stamped “Original” have artificial flavoring. They messed around with their formulations a few years ago.

        1. Check your ingredients list. I use the sweet and spicy caffeine free, natural flavors on the list, not artificial.

          1. They were sneaky about the change. They removed the artificial flavor, customers complained, and they put it back in under the “Original” label. The non-Original is all natural.

      1. They also specifically list cinnamon and ginger in the ingredients. I assume everything has added flavor concentrates, whether natural or artificial.

  2. I’ve found that BO decreases as one gets older. Possibly it’s supposed to be sexually enticing to smell “bad” during one’s primary reproductive years. Body odor can also be made worse when perspiration interacts with various chemicals in deodorant and other skin care products. I don’t know about keto causing BO, but I’m sure what one eats has a lot to do with the odor one emits.

    Thing is, whether body odor is a bad thing is often a matter of opinion. Outright stinking due to a lack of personal hygiene is offensive to everybody, of course, but people can get overly paranoid about it and think they smell bad if they produce any odor at all. Actually, I’ve always liked my mate’s clean, natural body smell even when he’s been sweating a little.

  3. My DH gets leg cramps frequently and swears by pickle juice. I tried making the dill pickle brine, but for some reason it wasn’t as effective as commercial brine from the pickle jar or as mellow tasting. We end up with a lot of naked pickles in the refrigerator plus he has to buy a jar of pickles or take a thermos of pickle juice whenever we travel. While inconvenient, at least he’s discovered something that helps because those cramps, especially in bigger muscles like the inner thigh and hamstrings, are really painful.

    1. My most reliable MD suggested a shot of Braggs apple cider vinegar before dinner. Seems to work pretty well.

  4. By far, the most effective thing for my sometimes “hellacious” cramps has been home-made magnesium spray. The magnesium is absorbed through the skin and there are thus no digestive issues with it. To make it– I simmer one cup of water (distilled, preferably) and dissolve one cup of Epsom salts in it. After it cools, I put it in a spray bottle. After a workout, or before bed, or if I feel at all crampy I will spray it on my legs or abdomen.(Anywhere, really). It feels “slick” to the touch, hence the name “Magnesium oil” even though it is not oily and may leave a dry residue like salt. If I need to I can wash it off after 45 minutes or an hour of application. I like to leave it on all night. It is the only thing that has worked for me, but I am definitely going to try the pickle juice too!

  5. Try magnesium lotion at the location of the cramps. It works for me without fail.

  6. In regards to the cramping (which seems to be a hot topic) I have found plain old salt (well, actually pink Himalayan since that’s all that I have in my house) to be very effective. I also take natural calm every night. Cramps are rare for me, but every now and then I’ll get one in the middle of the night. A pinch of the pink salt on my tongue and it’s gone almost instantly. I’ve heard of the pickle juice thing too but this is way more convenient.

    1. Make sure you get enough iodine. It’s my understanding that Himalayan salt doesn’t contain any.

    1. If you’re drinking anything with artificial sweeteners, check if it has aspartame. I was suffering from lower leg cramps nightly and discovered that, for me, it was because I was drinking a diet soda with aspartame. I completely cut out the aspartame and the cramps disappeared. If it matters, I have been on keto for about a year and a half now.

      1. Nope, no aspartame. I use stevia for any sweetening. I noticed that caffeinated beverages upped the severity so I cut those out. Just recently I started taking COQ10 and I’ve noticed that I haven’t been getting cramps. I’m cautiously bringing back caffeine and haven’t gotten cramps yet.

  7. When it comes to cramping, I’ve had success with quinine in the form of tonic water. Only problem is carbs although Fever Tree and Q brands have lower amounts than the usual brands that use hfcs. I keep a small bottle in the fridge for emergencies.

    1. You can buy or make a tincture to add to water and skip the carbs altogether. Quinine is bitter, I bet it’s working on the same pathway described above. One of the other remedies may work just as well for you.

  8. I’ve never tried keto, re: diet and body odor, I have noticed that I smell worse, and faster, when I’m not following a primal diet (and taking in a crapton more carbs, in the form of sugar, primarily). I’ve been off and on enough to feel confident in this observation!!

  9. Re: odor

    Being Paleo/keto for 5+ years I did notice that odor does depend on leafy green consumption. However I also did come across literature suggesting cucumbers and radishes can have positive effect on body odor. Another (very strong) predictor is stress level. Diet can regulate intensity to a degree but stress can throwbit all off.

    1. Yep same as you, having been primal for years I went keto 12 months ago. First time in my life I had BO problems, only thing that sorted it out was lots of leafy green vegetables, my excuse for a bad ass salad. I did read research on effect of chlorophyl on the body and it is a recognised treatment for excessive sweating in the medical world. So to anyone having issues. Eat your greens. 🙂

  10. About the leg cramps, I recently found out that too much potassium can cause them. I experimented with eating a banana and sure enough that night I got a severe leg cramp. tried it on more than one occasion. Google it.

  11. “The researchers failed to control all the other aspects of the diet, instead focusing only on the meat.”

    Heh. Where have I heard that before?

    Just as an anecdote, when I do my zero carb winter diet, my B.O. disappears. I don’t even wear deodorant most days.

  12. Thank you, Mark, for finally stepping up and saying that many of the keto problems are simply due to the fact that many people just aren’t doing it right…

  13. I work in healthcare and one of my patients told me about using yellow mustard to relieve leg cramps. It works so well that I keep mustard packets in my bedside table. Usually, cramps are better or gone within 5 to 10 min of eating the mustard.

  14. Thanks for the tip about acacia fibre. I’m currently taking inulin but I will try acacia next

  15. I’m somewhat concerned that you suggest a product like Hotshot, to folks living Keto…there are 6 grams of sugar, in one 1.7 oz shot. There are 7 total carbs, but the Keto WOE avoids sugar- at all costs!! This product is not something you want to consume for continued ketosis.

  16. A cautionary note about the sugar-free gums: the sugar alcohols are a trigger for gout. One of the worst attacks I’ve had hit my right knee after a couple of days of chewing the gum.

  17. I used to get leg cramps all the time until I started using an Earthing half sheet on my bed. You need direct skin contact with the earthing sheet with bare skin. They also have mats which may work but I love the sheet. I can feel the cramp coming on and I put my calf directly against the sheet and it stops. An amazing difference from before when I would have to get out of bed and stand on my leg, and even then it didn’t always go away. Check it out at Earthing.com.

  18. Did read some research that the very act of eating something sweet, even a so called sugar free item causes the body to create an insulin spike.