Bad breath—halitosis—is something we have all experienced from time to time. In some instances, recurring bad breath can be a sign of a medical condition that needs to be checked by a doctor. However, more commonly, bad breath can be linked to something we have—or have not—eaten.
According to Elizabeth M. Ward, MS, RD, for WebMD, brushing, flossing and cleaning your tongue is important, but your eating habits need to be considered, as well, if you are struggling to find the reason bad breath is plaguing you. Some bad-breath culprits are more obvious than others. For example, we all know that garlic and onions can leave us in an unkissable state. But, it’s not just that surface smell that turns into bad breath. Sulfur compounds found in the garlic and onions become absorbed into the bloodstream, and they are then exhaled when you breathe.
And, did you know that some things we drink, like coffee and alcohol, create a great environment for bacteria to begin multiplying? Additionally, these liquids ironically reduce our salvia flow, allowing bacteria to flourish. So, while many food items may have the potential to linger and cause breath odor for a short period of time, some foods actually create environments that are halitosis-friendly, like coffee, alcohol and the date no-go pair, garlic and onions.
Additionally, while we can avoid known bad-breath culprits, there are things we can consume that have a positive effect on our breath, as well, Ward indicates:
- Water: Drinking water promotes saliva production, to help cleanse the mouth and eliminate the substances that create odor from many foods we consume. And, of course, water helps physically flush food from the mouth, removing any potential source of food bacteria could feed upon and grow, as well as just more thoroughly removing a potential breath offender from your mouth.
- Sugarless gum: The act of chewing sugarless gum creates saliva, as well as loosens food from the teeth, gums and tongue. Additionally, it removes dead cells from your mouth, which also reduces the risk of halitosis. And why sugarless? According to Paul Vankevich, DMD, an assistant professor at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine, who contributed to the WebMD article via email, the xylitol used to sweeten sugar-free gum is particularly effective against bad breath because the xylitol inhibits the growth of bacteria in the mouth. Also, Lisa Harper Mallonee, MPH, RD, associate professor at Texas A&M Health Science Center Baylor College of Dentistry, suggested to WebMD via email that chewing the gum for at least five minutes after eating will help you reap the full anti-halitosis benefits of the gum.
- Yogurt: Research has indicated that eating yogurt frequently can help lower the levels of sulfide compounds in your body, reducing breath odor. "Fortified yogurt is also a great source of vitamin D, which helps reduce mouth bacteria," Mallonee told WebMD.
- Herbs and Spices: Some herbs and spices are linked via home remedy to deodorizing the mouth. These include parsley, cloves, anise and fennel seeds.
- Fruits and Veggies: We all know we need to get our fruits and veggies every day, but here is another reason why. Vitamin C-rich foods, Ward indicates, decrease the growth of mouth bacteria. Veggies and fruits high in vitamin C include bell peppers, broccoli and, of course, citrus fruits.
For more information about halitosis, including when it is important to check with your doctor regarding your bad breath problem, visit the WebMD website. And, of course, don't forget: Good oral hygiene is your best bet to fighting and eliminating bad breath.
Image: Wikimedia Commons