Saturday, June 9

Air that You Breathe -- Yuck!

My breath’s so bad it actually woke my husband. “Ugghh,” he said, rolling away from me. “What did you eat?”

It’s happening. Ketone breath. Ketosis. Halitosis on ketones.

In my religious community, we fast together, all 14 million of us, the first Sunday of each month. Those Sundays, we sort of tend to hug one another at arms’ length. It’s only polite, what with the bad breath and all. (There’s also a lot of surreptitious gum chewing going on – which is kind of like cheating, but I’m pretty sure God’s okay with us not gagging our neighbors with our collective smelly breath. Sort of an underground-secret Eleventh Commandment.)

On those Sabbaths, we give to the poor the money we would have spent on food for ourselves. What we don’t give the poor is a whiff of our bad breath. We just donate to a shared pool and let the bishop sort it out -- after he's brushed his teeth.

Fasting breath – ketone breath – is some reeking combination of nail polish remover and rotting apples that you just don’t want to sit next to for very long. You want the scientific explanation? “The ketone body acetoacetate will slowly decarboxylate into acetone, a volatile compound that is both metabolized as an energy source and lost in the breath and urine.”(1) Imagine waking up next to it.

Ketone breath is also what you live with when you’re not exactly fasting, but losing weight rapidly with any diet. There’s not much to be done about it, beyond drinking lots of water to sort of dilute the effects, and chewing mint leaves (yummy, yummy mint leaves) to disguise it.

If I'm going to scale that wall of fat, though, my breath is gonna befoul the air. Apologies to whomever sits next to us in church. Too bad tomorrow’s not Fast Sunday!

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