Halitosis (bad breath) and your Diet

There are a variety of underlying causes of halitosis or bad breath. Bad breath can indicate a series of health issues from tooth decay to digestive complications. However, the root cause of your bad breath may be as simple as the foods that you eat.

Food impacts many of the areas and processes in your body that cause bad breath including:

  1. Short Term Bad Breath – The simplest form of bad breath directly related to the food you eat contains chemicals or compounds that cause odor. For example, garlic and onions contain sulfur and cause a distinct and unpleasant odor. Tuna and sardines contain trimethylamine which leaves a distinct “fishy” odor while hot, spicy foods and curries produce an overabundance of acid production from your mouth to your stomach that cause bad breath. Alcohol also causes unpleasant mouth odor. Eliminating these foods from your diet quickly eliminates the resulting bad breath.
  1. Short Chain Fatty Acids – Foods that contain dietary fibers that are fermented by intestinal bacteria as they digest will release odors causing bad breath. Foods that cause this reaction and the resulting odors include parmesan cheese (butyric acid), hard cheeses and beer (isovaleric acid), and Swiss cheese (propionic acid). This source of digestive odor is primarily dairy products, the biggest source of dietary short chain fatty acids. Eliminate these foods and you will eliminate the fermentation causing odor and possibly bloating and dietary distress.
  1. Sugar – The inadequate digestion of simple carbohydrates (sugars) is often the result of overeating sweets and simple carbs in a short period of time, not allowing complete digestion. Improper breakdown of carbohydrates is associated with gas, bloating and gastric reflux, any of which can cause bad breath. Sugar and processed white flour promote bacterial imbalance and should be avoided. Sweets that are intended to improve bad breath like sugary candy, mints, and chewing gum may actually cause the anaerobic bacteria to become more active. This increased activity creates even more noxious sulfur compounds, making your bad breath even worse. Strong mints or fruit flavors may temporarily mask your foul breath but do nothing to combat the bacteria causing the problem.
  1. Oral Bacteria – Sugar also feeds the bacteria that live in your mouth. Allowing sugar to remain in your mouth after eating candy or sweets will increase the production of glycan strands, which are directly responsible for the thick layers of plaque on your teeth and gums. These glycan strands soon lead to tooth decay, gum disease, and bad breath.
  1. Starchy Foods – Another form of carbohydrate, starches and dietary fibers like white potatoes, grains, corn and beans may contribute healthy fiber to your diet, but can also increase gas and bloating. These foods tax your digestive process and require additional “work” to break down. The carbohydrates they contain also contribute to fermentation. The slower digestive process combined with fermentation (spoiling) cause imbalances in your gut microbiome, this process can cause putrid gas which is released each time you burp and belch. Eliminating or reducing the intake of these foods, or timing your meal consumption can help get rid of bad breath.

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