a man checking to see if he has bad breath

Q. I have a problem with terrible bad breath after eating anything with dairy in it, and also anything with sugar. I have had this problem since my early twenties and am now in my sixties.
My husband says it is so bad that he can sometimes smell it from his side of our king-size bed. This is right after brushing, flossing and rinsing with mouthwash before bedtime.
If I stay away from sugar and dairy, the smell goes away completely after four or five days. It starts again within 30 to 45 minutes of eating the offending foods.
We eat out frequently with our daughter and son-in-law, but it is very difficult to avoid problem foods when we do. Even when I explain it to the waiter, I still sometimes find dairy or sugar in my food. I would be blessed to find a cure. Otherwise, I’m pretty much limited to meat and vegetables and I get tired of that after a while.

A. You are the third person who has told us that dairy products such as milk or ice cream cause them bad breath. We could find no research in the medical literature that addresses this symptom, but we are beginning to believe that it might be more widespread than doctors recognize.
One woman discovered that Lactaid (lactase enzyme pills) solved her problem by breaking down milk sugar in dairy products. Intolerance to milk sugar (lactose) is fairly common, though the usual symptoms reported are bloating, gas and diarrhea rather than bad breath.
The difficulty with sugar is trickier to solve. Table sugar is a combination of glucose and fructose. Fewer people seem to have trouble digesting these simple sugars, so there are no enzyme pills to take. If sugar is contributing to your halitosis, avoidance really is the best strategy. We recognize that this is much easier said than done because sugar is in many processed foods.

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  1. Michael
    San Francisco, Ca

    Here’s my story with apparantly bad breath:

    Began when I was in middle school. Teachers would itch their noses when they stood near me. Their reaction almost seemed allergic, as one teacher constantly itched his nose while looking at me until it looked red. Guys I k ew would ask me why my breath smelled foul. One guy said it was like smelling ammonia.

    I told the Dr. and he said it was on my mind and to brush and floss. A year ago…I’m now 40, a supervisor actually asked me about it. She told me that she wanted to make sure everything was ok as I may have an issue with my breath and it isn’t a good thing for the workplace. I thought I was gonna pass out when she said that. I simply said that I would visit the dentist and thanks for the talk. I had to quit that position.

    I am lactose intolerant. That began in my 20’s. I seem to have issues with sugars. Some fruits and candies will make me use the bathroom. And I may have a sour stomach for the rest of the day into the next…gas, etc.

    Tests: I’ve asked for and received many CBC with metobolic, urine, stool, enzyme, had a diabetes test, which was negative. The dr says I’m healthy.

    Deficiency: deficient in vitamin d. Take supplements and I’m now withing the norm. I did have low b12 and raised it with diet. Other than that nothing else.

    Coworkers still grab their noses and look right at me without saying anything. But the facial expression is clear.

    So….that’s the story. A few ex gf’s have brought it up but somehow the relationships continued.

    So what do ya think?

  2. Dasha

    I had a really fun life before all this. When I turned 23, 10 years ago… my world stopped. I noticed people giving me weird stares and holding their noses. I thought at first I was not showering enough or something. Then I realized whenever I talked a person would jerk back or hold their nose.. Then it got to a point where I don’t even have to open my mouth for someone to smell it and recently a person can be several feet away and still hold their nose. Not to be shallow. I’m a pretty girl. Guys would come up to me and say you have a beautiful smile and then I say thank you and then they look at me as if they smelled death.. All this made me eat overtime to the max. I now weight 90 pounds more than before. This really destroyed my life.. Something simple as going to the grocery store is a challenge.. The cashier looks at me like I have not brush my teeth in years when it is the opposite. I brush like crazy, clean my tonsils, my tongue, douche my freaking nose.. use all kinds of mouth wash and nothing… I even went to the doctor, ENT, G astrologist and they think I’m crazy which tells me the smell comes and goes but I can’t figure what triggers it. This thread I just found given me a reason to keep going. I’m hoping dairy and sugar intake is my problem cause I eat tons of it a day cause I’m so depressed. Never thinking this could be it. I hope to get some results when I cut it out and I’ll post back… Take care and good luck everyone..

  3. Ryan

    Hi All

    I have had horrible breath for the past 5 years, it came out of no where for a guy in his mid 20’s living and eating healthily with the only bad habit being a smoker, it had ruined my confidence, social life and self esteem, I have been to two dentists 3 doctors and been online regularly after a bad day to find resolve with no results. After reading this I stopped eating all sugar (besides the small amount in bread) and dairy for the past 3 days.

    I can’t believe the results I have nearly no tongue coating now after this short amount of time and I can no longer smell my own breath! I will update you all again after I have gone with this new diet for 2 weeks and let you know how I go,

    Thanks to this forum you may have changed my life!

    • asa o.
      United States

      Hi, reading your comment is so hard, because I deal with these very same issues every day. I don’t have to speak and people start to cough and look at me holding their noses. I was wondering if you have found a solution.

  4. MS

    I could just cry reading these comments. I have suspected dairy & sugar as culprits for my bad breath for several months now. But, this is the first time that I’ve had those suspicions validated. I’m in my 50’s and like the person posting this question, have been suffering since my 20’s. I started to piece together dairy & sugar as a combined threat when I realized that dairy intake was affecting the incidence of post nasal drip for me and later, a comment made by a friend about sugar causing inflammation and bacteria feeding upon the excessive mucous. I’ve been told by many health professionals that it is nearly impossible to reach the areas far back in the tongue that may be causing the bad breath.
    I had a lesion on my tongue last year which was precancerous and, unfortunately, using baking soda-type rinses seems to inflame the spot in which the lesion was removed.
    My life is dramatically limited socially by this terrible affliction. But, I had lost hope that any researcher was interested in looking at this problem seriously.
    Now, though, I plan to limit dairy and sugar and see what happens.
    Thanks to everyone for their comments.


    I suffered from BB since 20 years and tried every thing nothing worked except the following:

    1. Brush 3 times but I use soap instead of toothpaste.
    2. Brush teeth then clean tongue with glyciren then brush teet and tongue with soap again.
    3. gargle with baking soda and lemon juice

    Result clean tongue and BB is gone
    Please if you try let me know

    • Scott

      I had a couple of questions on this interesting method…
      What type of soap? How long have you been using this method? And how have you validated your BB is gone?

  6. cpmt

    Does anyone knows which foods contain oxalates ? they told me to remove from my diet and when I google it only gave me a list of 3 veggies. Thank you for any help.

  7. Aw

    Hi can you please elaborate on what foods you can eat? Maybe give some ideas of breakfast lunch and dinner. Thanks so much!!!

  8. jen

    Hello All! I can’t say enough how glad to know I am not alone! My BB does indeed get worse from dairy and sugar. I do believe that aside from an allergy…for some it may be candida yeast imbalance. I’ve toyed with trying to strictly follow the plan but had not been resolved enough..at 36 I’ve suffered enough embarrassment and isolation…
    I will follow the advice given here and start with dairy and sugar elimination and step it down from there. Somehow just knowing I’m not crazy or alone makes me willing to fight. My PCP didn’t even take me seriously. I switched dentists frequently because they all complimented my oral health.
    My gastro even thought I was silly and just prescribed meds for my digestion/constipation issues. We are indeed what we eat and what we eat in the typical American diet is junk and more junk disguised as healthy food. Many prayers for those of us suffering from this isolating affliction. May we all get healthy and smell like a warm summer day!

  9. CW

    My husband suffers from really bad breath, despite brushing and scraping his tongue frequently. Our church did a modified Daniels Fast for 21 days and in short, we eliminated dairy, red meat, all sugars *excluding fruit* (including those found in packaged/processed foods), processed foods, and fried foods. Our diet consisted of fruits, fish (that weren’t “bottom crawlers” like shrimp, catfish, etc) and vegetables (fresh or canned *as long as it didn’t contain additives/preservatives, etc), and water.
    We found that following this diet, his breath didn’t stink AT ALL!! I am simply AMAZED that the source of his bad breath (and mine) was the foods that we were eating!! It didn’t happen overnight – took about 2 weeks for our bodies to rid itself of the toxins. Our fast is over, but we both intend to maintain this diet indefinitely. In addition to no longer having bad breath, we just FEEL BETTER!

  10. Ram

    I used to have this problem, whenever I drink coffee with milk and sugar, and sit with my closed for some time, then my bad breath kicks in.
    Then I starting carrying a tongue cleaner with me, so after the coffee or eating something sweet , I go and scrape my tongue and if I can I will also gargle my mouth with salt water, the bad breath is gone…
    I read in one of the yoga practices, after you brush your teeth in the morning, in a luke warm water add some salt and potassium alum and gargle looking up towards ceiling and making khwg khwg sound…and spit it out.
    Then mix lime in a luke warm water with one tbsp honey and drink it, first in the morning, this will also help in reducing weight and aids digestion, it has so many health benefits.
    Then continue with your life….

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