Bad Breath and Your Diet

The biological cause of bad breath is the bacteria that are in your throat and on your tongue, that create volatile sulfur compounds in your mouth through their process of respiration and digestion. This article is about foods that can make your breath worse and foods that can make your breath better.

We all know that onions and garlic create bad breath. The reason is that those smelly molecules in onions and garlic are sulfur compounds. Another famous odor that is made of sulfur compounds is the odor of a skunk. The odor of sour milk is also volatile sulfur compounds. So if you notice bad breath after eating onions or garlic, and it’s temporary, you can probably just use a breath mint or a mouthwash or brush to remove the smell. Breath strips can be very useful, especially if you want to impress your dinner partner.

Now, another thing that can cause bad breath is an increase in the anaerobic bacteria that are in your mouth and throat. Obviously if there are more anaerobic bacteria growing in your throat they are going to produce more volatile sulfur compounds.

So there are two ways to attack this problem if we’re looking at diet. One way is to look at the foods that we are eating, and another is to ask, what can we do to reduce the amount of bacteria growing in our mouth, or at least discourage bacteria growth in our mouth.

The foods that we eat

There are four types of foods to consider. These are sugars, acids, dairy foods, and drying agents.

Sugars are fuel for the bacteria that live on your tongue and in your throat. As the bacteria eat and digest the sugars they create more of the volatile sulfur compounds. And there are other bacteria that take the sugars and produce plaque which coats your teeth and your gums. This causes tooth decay and gum disease, which themselves can lead to bad breath. If you like to use breath mints be careful what you use. If they contain sugar they might be masking your breath very well, however they may be causing worse breath and gum disease.

Acidic foods such as coffee, citrus juices, and tomato juice cause the bacteria in your mouth to reproduce faster. Do you get the connection? Note that tea is okay, but coffee, both regular and decaffeinated, has acids that promote bad breath. The reason that acids are involved is that they decrease the oxygenation in your mouth. The bacteria thrive in this type of environment.

Dairy foods have very dense protein strands and if you have a hard time digesting the lactose protein in these foods you end up with a build up of amino acids, which are then converted into the volatile sulfur compounds by the anaerobic bacteria in your mouth and throat area. It’s also possible to have this problem with other protein foods such as beef, chicken and fish, however, its most predominant with people who have trouble digesting dairy products.

A drying agent is something used to dry things out. The most common food drying agent is alcohol. Along with being in beer and wine and liquors, alcohol is used in mouthwash. Another common drying agent would be smoking. Smoking quickly dries out your mouth.

Now, since I mentioned the word diet in the title of this article I might as well talk about going on a diet, and how dieting can cause bad breath. People who go on low-carb diets such as the Atkins diet may often have bad breath because of what’s called ketoacidosis. When your body is burning fat rather than carbohydrates for fuel it produces what are called ketones, which are excreted through the urine and through the lungs. These have a sickly sweet smell. The good news about this is that it means that the diet is working, you are burning fat for fuel. The way around this or to minimize it, is to drink a lot of water, which will dilute ketones.

Another way that dieting can cause bad breath is that the bad breath odor is the product of the decomposition and breakdown of fluids from the pancreas which moved into the stomach while you are fasting. Obviously when you are fasting you’re not doing it for a very long time so this may not be a real problem other than when you are fasting. Some people say that fasting is a good way to clear the system, to decrease or eliminate bad breath. By fasting you allow the body to flush out of your system any toxins or chemicals or decayed matter that have been stagnating there a long time.

Some foods to add to your diet to aid in the fight against bad breath

Along with parsley you can also chew on coriander, spearmint, eucalyptus, and cardamom. You can chew on these or make a tonic by steeping them in hot water. These herbs all aid in digestion as well, so they’re great to have after a meal.

Yogurt cultures. A study found that one serving of yogurt every day reduced the level of odor-causing hydrogen sulfide in the mouth. Yogurt also affects the amount of bacteria in your mouth, which can aid in fighting plaque buildup, and gum disease. Eating the yogurt adds vitamin D into your diet. This vitamin is an aid in fighting the bacteria that live in your mouth. It’s important to have yogurt with active cultures, preferably low or no sugar added to it.

Other foods such as apples, celery, and carrots, help fight halitosis. These foods help increase the production of saliva, which helps rinse out the mouth.

And finally berries, citrus fruit and any thing high in vitamin C again creates an environment in your mouth that is not conducive to bacteria growing. Vitamin C also helps prevent gingivitis and gum disease, which can cause bad breath. It’s better to get your vitamin C from foods versus supplements. But we all do it we have to do.