Bad Breath? Removing one of these root causes may be the answer! Facts on common causes, home remedies and simple prevention!
Typically, this smelly situation is rather harmless, and if anything it’s just inconvenient.
According to science, bad breath, or halitosis, occurs at the microbial level. Bad breath is a result of the bacteria in our mouths breaking down lingering food particles in between our teeth, on our gums and tongue. (1)
When this happens, sulfuric compounds are released, giving off a bad odor and producing what we know as bad breath, or what medical practitioners refer to as halitosis. (2)
From a more holistic perspective, looking to the wisdom of Ayurveda (Ancient Indian Medicine) they would also agree with these statements. Practitioners of Ayurveda suspect that poor oral hygiene and surprisingly enough, poor digestive function, are the primary causes of bad breath.
Let’s explore these causes a bit more, along with 12 others. We will also look at some holistic solutions for overcoming bad breath.
14 Reasons You Might Have Bad Breath
1. You Just Woke Up
This is perhaps the most obvious cause right here. But let’s take a look at why this is: during sleep, the body is actually busy at work detoxifying, repairing, and regenerating tissues.
The bacteria in the mouth are quite awake, as well. This is due to the fact that saliva production dramatically slows during sleep. Because saliva has a major role in cleaning the mouth and keeping pathogens from thriving, there can be a buildup of bacteria after sleeping.
Chronically breathing through the mouth may lead to dry mouth by inhibiting saliva production. Dry mouth, as we’ll discuss, is a major cause of bad breath.
If the mouth is overly dry from mouth breathing, then it loses its ability to properly eliminate leftover food particles.
One German study actually showed that those who spent a lot of time in physical training were more likely to have cavities – which can be a cause of bad breath. The researchers considered that the heavy mouth breathing results in low saliva production.
While breathing may be simple, many people do it only automatically. Better to practice more conscious breathing, particularly during exercise. It’s best to take deep breaths from the diaphragm through the nose to avoid dry mouth. (8, 9)
3. Stinky Foods
Sometimes bad breath is as simple as the foods we eat.
However, there are also other culprits, including certain spices and cruciferous veggies like cabbage, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts. These foods are also high in sulfur, which can produce an unpleasant odor.
As we will discuss later, bad breath can stem from the digestive tract, so while these foods may not be unpleasant to taste, burping them up later can produce an off-putting sulfur smell. When you eat these particular foods, the sulfuric compounds are absorbed into the bloodstream then into the lungs, where they can be expelled even hours after consuming them. (10)
Chew sugar-free gum after a particularly stinky meal. This stimulates the production of saliva to prevent foul mouth odors.
Time to add to the list of health conditions that can be caused by cigarettes. Unsurprisingly, smoking not only increases the amount of odor-producing compounds in a person’s mouth and lungs, but the habit can also dry out your mouth, leading to lower saliva production, according to a 2004 review by researchers from Hong Kong. (11, 12, 13)
There are more serious reasons to quit smoking than bad breath. We’re not going to run down the laundry list of why it’s bad for your health but here is a good place to start if you’re trying to quit.
Certain meds—like some antihistamines, diuretics, antipsychotics, and muscle relaxants—can cause side effects that include dry mouth, says Dr. Rifai. And that, in turn, can reduce the amount of saliva your mouth produces and increase the bacteria camping out there.
Since you can’t do anything about your medication regimen, try cleaning your tongue with either a toothbrush or a tongue scraper. According to the American Dental Association, your tongue harbors most of the bacteria that causes smelly breath, and scraping it off the surface may halt bad breath, at least temporarily.
6. Sinus Infection/Cold
The mucus in your nose helps filter all the foreign particles that you breathe in from the environment—a good thing. But what happens when that mucus starts building up in the back of your throat because you have terrible pollen allergies or a nasty cold?
Those foreign particles eventually travel into your mouth, settle on the surface of your tongue, and in turn trigger bad breath, according to one 2012 review in the International Journal of Oral Science. As if a sore throat wasn’t bad enough.
Use a saline nasal wash to help clear your nasal passages but if the problem persists, see your doctor.
7. A Low-Carb Diet
People who slash their carbohydrate intake have been known to report increased levels of halitosis. And, in fact, when researchers from Yeshiva University compared subjects on a very low-carb diet to those on a low-fat diet, they found that more people in the former group reported having bad breath than the latter.
However, it should also be noted that the low-fat dieters also confessed to more burping (and, um, farting.)
If a low-carb diet is working for you, sugar-free gum and drinking more water will help mask the order.
Your mom has already warned you that a buildup of plaque can erode your teeth, leaving you with cavities. And while poor oral hygiene certainly contributes to bad breath, those “holes” may also trigger halitosis indirectly, too: “Food can get caught in the cavities,” explains Dr. Grbic, and since cavities can be hard to clean, the remnants of your last meal can linger there for longer-than-usual periods of time, which can then lead to more bad breath. (For the record, yes, you’ll need a filling.)
For fresh breath, following proper oral hygiene habits is very important. Proper brushing, flossing, and tongue scraping are a few ways to prevent odor-inducing bacteria from building up on the teeth and tongue.
9. Dental Appliances
We’re not just talking about braces—orthodontic appliances like dentures and fixed bridges can be difficult to maintain, too. (Research also shows that dental appliances are linked with higher amounts of plaque accumulation—which is why a good cleaning regimen is so important.)
It’s important that you clean them every day, says Dr. Grbic, as they’re also prime magnets for food particles, which can become lodged in the material.
Alcohol lingers on your breath long past last call. In fact, one 2007 study by researchers from Israel found that drinking alcohol was linked to increased rates of halitosis—this despite the fact that their subjects had fasted for 12 hours overnight and were also allowed to brush their teeth in the morning.
The study authors suspected that not only does booze dry out a person’s mouth, but that a certain odor is triggered when the body metabolizes alcohol.
If you tend to get unusually smelly breath after drinking, stick to a limit and don’t go past it. Also, a glass of water between drinks not helps keep bad breath at bay, but also helps control your alcohol intake by making you more full.
11. Heartburn or Acid Reflux
The overwhelming majority of halitosis cases are caused by the bacteria in a person’s mouth—but researchers also suspect that in a minority of people, bad breath is triggered by a GI disorder like gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), in which the contents of a person’s stomach leak back up into the esophagus.
One 2007 study published in the journal Oral Diseases found that bad breath was more prevalent in people with GERD than those with other digestion problems, possibly because the disease may damage a person’s throat tissue.
Avoid foods that may aggravate acid reflux. This includes spicy foods, alcohol, fruit juices, and coffee.
12. Strep Throat
Strep is a bacterial infection, not a viral one, and those invading bugs can cause your breath to smell bad, says Dr. Grbic. Not only that, but other kinds of sinus infections can turn into bacterial ones that produce a smelly, pus-like type of mucus. (Sorry for the visual.)
Plus, some of these infections are also associated with specific types of bacteria that are known to produce a particularly bad odor in a person’s mouth.
To wash away bacteria lingering in your mouth, brush your teeth daily, scraping your tongue each time, and to gargle with water after each meal.
13. Poor Digestive Health
A healthy digestive system is crucial for optimal overall health. In your gut there are trillions of beneficial bacteria that influence many of your body functions, including your immune system.
Studies show that an estimated 80 percent of your immune system is located in your gut. (14)
Your gut should have a balance of somewhere near 85 percent good bacteria and 15 percent bad. (15) An imbalance between good and bad bacteria can predispose you to a wide number of health problems more serious than bad breath and body odor.
Having less-than-optimal gut flora can make you vulnerable to health conditions linked to bad breath. A fishy smell in the breath suggests kidney problems, while fruity-smelling breath may mean uncontrolled diabetes. (16)
This is why reseeding your gut with beneficial bacteria is essential for optimal health and disease prevention. But before I enumerate the steps that will help you achieve this, you must first understand how your diet plays a significant role in the imbalance of your gut flora.
14. Compromised Immunity
At the core of overall good health is a well-functioning immune system. Essentially, our immune system keeps builds antibodies to protect the body from being taken over by pathogens.
To say the least, there is a strong correlation between the immune system and dental health. If you suspect this is the case, then stick to building your immunity up with gentle exercise, good sleep, and other basic healthy lifestyle habits.
(Read This Next: The Complete Guide To Perfect Teeth)