How Does What You Eat Affect Bad Breath?

Bad breath or halitosis is a condition characterized by unpleasant mouth odor. There are a variety of factors that can cause bad breath like poor oral hygiene, oral infection, or diet. Though everyone is aware of how hygiene and oral infection affects mouth odor, few know that what you eat can also affect your breath. Yes, you heard it right. If your breath smells bad, you should watch what you eat.

Reason for bad breath

The human mouth is home to millions of bacteria, especially the dorsum of the tongue. The mouth’s warm and moist environment supports the growth of these bacteria. Reduced production of saliva or poor oral hygiene causes food particles to build-up on and between the teeth. Bacteria in the mouth break down these food particles and liberate foul-smelling compounds like hydrogen sulfide, which results in bad mouth odor.

How does food affect your breath?

What you eat can affect your bad breath both negatively and positively.

Triggers bad breath


  • Onion and garlic: Pungent food items like onion and garlic liberate smelly sulfur compounds upon digestion. These compounds are absorbed in the bloodstream and released when you exhale.

  • Coffee and alcohol: They create an environment favorable for the growth of bacteria. Bacteria in the mouth react with food particles to liberate smelly compounds, causing bad mouth odor. They also result in dryness of the mouth by reducing the flow of saliva. Saliva flushes out the bacteria and the low amount of moisture aids bacterial growth.
  • Low calorie and high protein diet: Such diet promotes the rapid breakdown of fats, releasing ketones (fatty acids). Ketones have a fruity smell that results in mouth malodor.

Improves bad breath


  • Water: Consuming water regularly flushes out bacteria from the oral cavity, which is a prime reason for oral infection and halitosis. It also promotes the production of saliva that naturally flushes out bacteria.
  • Herbs and spices: Herbs like parsley are rich in chlorophyll, which have a deodorizing effect on the mouth. Chewing parsley leaves after every meal helps get better results. Cloves, anise, and fennel seeds are also seen to improve breath odor.
  • Teas: Compounds in both black and green teas (polyphenols) keep bacterial growth under check. Polyphenols also prevent the release of malodorous compounds like hydrogen sulfide by the bacteria present in the oral cavity.
  • Sugarless chewing gums: It cleanses food particles and dirt from the surface of the teeth, gums, and tongue. Gums are also seen to increase the production of saliva. One can use chewing gums after every meal to keep the mouth fresh.
  • Oranges: Dryness of the mouth due to less production of saliva is one of the causes of halitosis. It is seen that vitamin C in oranges promotessaliva production that triggers the cleansing of bacteria from the oral cavity.
  • Yogurt: Research indicates that consuming sugar-free yogurt with probiotic bacteria helps to reduce bad breath by lowering the level of odor-causing sulfide compounds. It is recommended to consume 3 ounces of sugar-free yogurt twice a day for 6 weeks for its optimal result. Fortified yogurt with vitamin D is also seen to have a good effect on reducing mouth bacteria.

Halitosis is a common condition affecting nearly 50% of the general population. Breath consists of volatile compounds that can cause bad breath. Apart from dietary medication, bad breath remedies include regular brushing, flossing, cleaning tongue, and treating oral infections if any. One should always optfor a regular dental check-up.

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