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.

Join Over 110,000 Subscribers at The People's Pharmacy

Each week we send two free email newsletters with breaking health news, prescription drug information, home remedies and a preview of our award-winning radio show. Join our mailing list and get the information you need to make confident choices about your health.

  1. Chris
    Reply

    I have the same problem: sour milk breath after eating dairy. Even taking lactaid pills doesn’t help.

  2. Tee
    Reply

    I may come bearing good news for sufferers of this dreadful affliction, although I don’t think my advice will be welcome with open arms, as it generally flies in the face of the standard western diet. And also, please do note that I am NOT a health professional, and you should always get a second or third opinion from health professionals if you are worried about following any advice that I may impart.

    That being said, I shall continue.

    I suffered from chronic bad breath for around 20 years, and maybe even before that (I’m 40 now) but have pretty much got it in check for the most part.

    The main antagonists I found, for me personally, are, in no particular order; black tea, coffee, dairy, meat, eggs, fried food, sugar, white pasta, white bread, and generally anything that contains gluten. And the two obvious ones, which are tobacco and alcohol.

    (I’m 99% vegan now, barre the very rare one or two slices of margarita pizza. And as a side note to that, I haven’t felt this strong and fit in years. It’s also a great deal cheaper than the standard western meat, dairy and eggs diet.)

    It may sound like that without any of those things that there is literally nothing left to eat, but you’d be wrong! There are plenty of alternatives these days, such as brown rice pasta, vegan egg replacer, soy/rice/oat/coconut milk, green/red/white tea (red tea is my favourite, and is said to help keep you hydrated – google rooibos tea for more info) and a whole list of others. There is pretty much an alternative for any foods these days, including meat, and actually the meat substitutes are absolutely superb. Depending where abouts you are in the world, you may wish to check out Gardein products or Fry’s Family Food products.

    Plus we have hundreds of different fruits and vegetables, grains and pulses that can be used in surprising and ingenious ways. Again, youtube and google are your friends here.

    Which brings me to my next point. Eat a good amount of fruits and vegetables each and every day in your diet and make sure you’re getting enough calories, vitamins and minerals – it simply cannot be overstated. If you are to choose a meat, dairy and egg free diet, you must put in some research, as you will need to eat a bigger volume and variety of food. Also, find a B12 supplement (a very tasty vegan food called nutritional yeast often comes fortified with B12. And also, the yeast is de-activated before you worry.) And if you live in a country with restricted sunlight year round, like the U.K. for me, a vitamin D complex is a must.

    Exercise! This helped me loads, and I honestly cannot stress this enough. Get yourself to the gym, or go out running, or do yoga, or all three. But push yourself though, at least an hour a day, everyday, and I assure you that you will see a difference.

    Keep yourself hydrated. It’s no good chugging a litre of water down and expecting your body to keep you hydrated for the next few hours. Smaller sips work much better. Carry some fruit with you, like a couple of apples, as not only are they good for juice, but they also get between your teeth and give them a bit of a clean. Pretty much a floss on the go.

    And if you are to follow the majority of my advice or thereabouts, then there are products on the market that can help you further keep it under control. I’m sure many of you have heard of Therabreath, and they do some decent products. I know they’re sold in many outlets in the U.S., and they have recently began selling a small range in the U.K. as well, which consists of the normal strength toothpaste, 2 different flavours of mouthwash and the mandarin mints. Their mouthwash works quite well, and you can even carry a smaller bottle around with you that you can top up and keep handy for whenever you feel the need to freshen up a bit – just a quick 30 second gargle when you take a trip to the toilet. I’ve also found that the range of Sencha Green Tea Mints work quite nicely, and helps produce natural levels of saliva. I personally enjoy their Chai and Mango flavours, but tend to avoid the ‘obvious’ mint flavours. They’re got a whole range of flavours, but have only tried chai, mangho and mint so far.

    Well, I hope I have not left anything off so far, and hope that by following some of the advice here that you will gain some relief.

    And if there is anything that I have forgotten and deem it important, I’ll be sure to come back here and make an extra post.

    Keep your chin up people, there is hope for us all :)

    Tee.

  3. fellow_struggler
    usa
    Reply

    I’ve been battling this for a few years. Here are some of the things that worked:

    I got a prescription for a cycle of antibiotics. Taking all of these completely killed it for a while, but it came back.

    I’ve sometimes found that drinking a pot of homemade ginger tea helps a little.

    My experience confirms what others have said on this thread; completely cutting dairy and refined sugars is key. I’ve also found that coffee and caffeinated tea tend to activate the bad breath. I can have a single cup of black tea and the stench will be back within a half hour and will take days of diligent care to remove again.

    I had known for a while that the smell was partially related to my sinuses, and my chronic post-nasal drip. I tried neti rinses, including “friggy’s flip-turn” method (google it). They did help somewhat, but didn’t eliminate it.

    One important breakthrough I had was to discover that I needed to rinse my nasopharynx, which is the passage where your sinuses drain into the back of your throat. I leaned my head back and instead of misting it, I shot a stream of liquid saline into both nostrils and let it run into the back of my throat. It stung like hell at first; like an instant sore throat. I knew I’d hit a spot that hadn’t been getting reached by the neti rinses.

    Long story short, I now have a routine that I do twice a day. After brushing and flossing, I fill a plastic nasal dropper (the kind used to suck snot out of baby’s noses; you can find them in the baby aisle of any drug store) with straight Alkalol nasal rinse (an amazing product), and repeatedly shoot it into my nose and sort of hork the stuff back through my nasopharynx and spit it out in the sink. This is kind of an intense experience at first because it’s unfamiliar, but you get used to it. Then I mix baking soda and hydrogen peroxide in a little glass cup and stir in a little warm water, and gargle several times with that. Then I finish up with a tongue scraper.

    I’ve found that if I stay away from dairy, sugar, coffee, and tea, that this method is reliably effective at completely eliminating the bad breath, but it can take a few days to kick in.

    One last thing; I think part of the problem is that I have a swallowing issue, where every time I swallow food or drink, some of it gets kicked up into my nasopharynx, which then creates a breeding ground for bacteria. So, I carry those little bottles of saline nasal rinse and try to rinse out my nasopharynx after meals when I’m out. It only takes a second or two and can be done in a restroom.

  4. john
    uk
    Reply

    My girlfriend has bad breath, and can cure it pretty much instantly by rinsing her mouth out with a handful of water and one drop of tea tree oil. Bad breath is caused by bacteria, tea tree is a very strong natural antibacterial oil. It’s not the best taste in the world but a small price to pay for good breath. If you want to go a bit more extreme get some proper wide floss (dentotape) put a drop of tea tree oil on that and then floss as the final step. This ensures that the bacteria killing tea tree oil get to all those tough to reach areas in your mouth. I can really vouch for the effectiveness of this approach. I was hoping to find the underlying cause here, I’m sure it must be some kind of imbalance and I want to track it down.

  5. Sandy
    North Carolina
    Reply

    Thank you to everyone who shared information about the difficult problem of bb. Sad to hear that some have even lost jobs due to the bb problem. I recently decided to take drastic measures to rid myself from this embarrassing bad breath problem. I gave up eating wheat months ago after reading a book about wheat belly, but alas a puffy belly seemed the least of my problems when considering the stench coming from my mouth when I speak or breath. I had wondered if I were kin to a dragon. I had to admit that the love of my morning routine was the main source of my nasty breath problem. (3 cups of strong coffee with cream and sugar.)

    I’ve decided to quit eating refined sugar as well as the fake stuff and kick the coffee habit. Is anything left…yes a fresh breath to look forward too….finally Rest easier NC dragon breath is behind me.

  6. Grace
    Virginia
    Reply

    Lemon water and ginger help my bb. Each morning on an empty stomach, I cut a fresh lemon into 4 pieces, squeeze into a glass and add 6 oz. of warm water. I purchase the ginger root from the grocery store, slice, boil and add honey. I boil approximately 20 slices in quart size pan. I drink 10 oz. of the tea each morning. Also, ginger capsules help. I take 2 capsules after each snack or meal during the day. I don’t know how ginger works. It just know it is an effective remedy. I’ve done some research and read that the body can be too acidic and cause bb. Alkalizing the body can help to eliminate bb.

  7. entity
    ny
    Reply

    I have had the chronic bb issue for at least 10 years:

    I have read a lot about cutting sugar, so I will try it again. The issue with Sugar feeding a yeast infection is that this has never been studied by western medical researchers. In fact, they don’t even acknowledge the fact that a male could have an internal yeast infection. This is very frustrating. Here is a list of what has not worked for me:

    Visiting Endocronologist (google getting rid of smell and you will discover that the source could be from anywhere within the body) no problems found in blood

    Lung tests- no negative results
    Acupuncture- she was sure that the cause was too much heat gathered at my core. This did nothing after 3 treatments
    Upper GI/Lower GI tests- revealed nothing except for fructose malabsorption. This could be resulting in bad breath.

    Giving up caffeine- did nothing to stop odor
    Giving up eggs/meat- read that eggs and meat (even fish) contains choline, and this could produce a bad smell for days . This is where I am now, giving up meat/eggs/fish. I will need to add dairy to this list based on what I have read here.
    Thank you for the input everyone. I am tired of being the offender in society. It’s hard to live a normal life like this.

  8. Loren
    Southport, UK
    Reply

    Hi, I’m pleased to have found this information. I, too, suffer from bad breath and have recently been trying to work out the cause. I searched to see if cheese and sugar was mentioned on the internet and found this forum. I have noticed that by licking my hand some times it smells bad, like dog dirt. But it has recently been getting better. Some days the smell is almost gone, but then it comes back. I’m a vegetarian, so thinking maybe I am not eating properly. I do take some supplement B6 when I remember.

    I got my blood tested, and the results came back fine. I do have a slight gum bleed some days.

    I do have a trickle of post-nasal drip in the back of my throat on occasion, and I am linking this to bad breath. I have tried have tried Pro-biotic (a course of tablets 6 days to cleanse the gut).

    Also took Echinacea with goldenseal root. Had probiotic acidophilus 5 billion and tried drinking plenty of water. I did think my breath got worse if I was dieting.

    So, now I’m going to try not eating cheese and drinking sugar. I’m a vegetarian. What is there left to eat?! I did hear that eating pickles helped and have been doing that. It can be embarrassing.

  9. Harry
    uae
    Reply

    Sugar and milk are the problem

    • Loren
      Reply

      I can confirm, a rinse out with water and bicarbonate of soda and water kills all smell, an hour and a half later it does come back, I’m starting to think it’s acid smelling now, I may try a anacacid tablet or lemon and water drink. You can drink water and a spoon of bicarbonate of soda but it depletes vitamins in the body.

  10. Deb
    Cali
    Reply

    Anyone had their gall bladder removed?

  11. Randall
    Chicago
    Reply

    Wow!!! Thanks to everyone that posted something. I was on line last night and couldn’t Find anything linking dairy to BB.. But this thread answered all of my questions. I was drinking a coffee with cream and sugar in it as I was reading this.. I’m done w the dairy and sugar starting now

  12. Shelia
    US
    Reply

    Just wondering if anyone found any solutions ?

  13. ACISSEJ
    Reply

    I have this problem too, not so much with dairy, but anything sugary, I try to avoid them all the time. It’s a nightmare.
    Cb12 mouthwash after eating sugary food seems to really help me though.

  14. Cheek
    Spore
    Reply

    I’m not alone but it doesn’t make me feel any better. .

    • Sue
      Texas
      Reply

      Wow I thought I was going crazy I Also have experienced this as well . And it seems the foods that gives me bad breath especially sugar is what I crave the most.

    • Shelia
      Us
      Reply

      I have the same problem after eating sugar my breath is so bad it makes people nauseated

  15. sarai
    Reply

    I cannot believe I found this thread and I’m so happy I did. I first realized I had a problem when I was speaking to a friend of mine and she told me ‘you need a mint’ it shocked me but didn’t overly concern me. That’s when I was around 22. The next time was when I was at work and my client offered me a mint and I turned it down and she was like, ‘NO Really Try It!’ It was then I knew there was a problem.

    These are some symptoms I was having runny nose, lactose intolerant, tonsil stones, slime in the back of my throat, stomach cramps when I would eat subway bread and constipation. I would always ask my friends and family did they smell anything and they all told me no. (Here comes the kinda gross part). So one morning, because it would usually occur in the morning, I took a cup and coughed up as much as I could the slime in the back of my throat. It smelled so bad that I almost fainted!! I’m thinking how is it possible they didn’t smell this!!

    Also, forgot to say, I had a tonsillectomy done in desperation which didn’t do a thing for me except no tonsil stones. So I got married and my husband has been a big support to me. We didn’t live together before we were married so I had to tell him my secret that, of course, EVERYONE knew already. Since then he’s told me; of the things I eat what makes it worse. Bread, processed foods, sugar, dairy, some strong seasonings like garlic, moldy environments and some meats.

    It’s hard for me because I have religious meetings to attend several times a week and I used to get the ‘let’s look behind us to see who has the bad breath’ face from people sitting in front of me, so now I just sit all the way in the front. Also after reading this thread and I have started drinking ACV/apple cider vinegar/ and lemon/lime juice both diluted with water for about a week now and my husband says he doesn’t smell it any more.

    Hopefully this has ‘cured’ me but in my mind I still take all the needed precautions when around people-make sure abt 3 feet away when speaking, avoid talking too long and get out of there as soon as I can. I have to give a huge THANK YOU to all of you who are suffering and still posted your stories!!

    • MD
      Reply

      Sounds very familiar! Thanks for sharing

  16. Michael
    San Francisco, Ca
    Reply

    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?

    • lisa
      Albany
      Reply

      How much ACV and lemon/lime juice do you dilute and drink, together(?) daily? A table spoon, half a cup? Thanks

    • Catherine K
      California
      Reply

      I’ve had very similar experiences. The “itchy” noses, sudden 2 steps back from people you speak to, and a few brave or rude souls who take it upon themselves to inform me. Been offered mints and gum endless times. Meanwhile I spend a fortune on probiotics, digestive enzymes, tongue scrapers, toothbrushes, water piks, and breath products. On and on. I’ve quit jobs because it’s just become too humiliating. I am well-groomed and it surprises people. Of course, many dental and doctor visits which have drained my finances. I sleep elevated, have been on omeprazole and rarely eat foods on the ‘no’ list. So dang frustrating. Although I have a loving and supportive family, there are times I feel completely hopeless. I have a wonderful job again…..but just yesterday was informed by a co-worker on the use of dental floss. (I had brushed my teeth and tongue and flossed 30 minutes prior) So another position that it looks like I will be forced to leave.

  17. Dasha
    Yonkers
    Reply

    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..

    • Hope
      Reply

      How did those things work?

  18. Ryan
    Melbourne
    Reply

    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
      Reply

      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.

  19. MS
    MA
    Reply

    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.

  20. SHOSHO
    UAE
    Reply

    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
      FL
      Reply

      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?

  21. cpmt
    Reply

    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.

  22. Aw
    Reply

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

  23. jen
    Reply

    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!

  24. CW
    Reply

    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!

    • Shelia
      Us
      Reply

      Hi CW I was wondering if your husbands breath is still fresh or did it come back

      • Kevin
        AU
        Reply

        Hi CW, I would like to know too if you and your husbands bad breath been cured once for all?

    • Krisi
      Philadelphia, PA
      Reply

      Thank you very much for sharing your experience! I’ve had this problem for like 5 years! TOTALLY AWFUL and I sit home all the time being depressed! And I’ve lost a job I was at for 3 years because of it. (Jerks)

  25. Ram
    Reply

    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….

What Do You Think?

We invite you to share your thoughts with others, but remember that our comment section is a public forum. Please do not use your full first and last name if you want to keep details of your medical history anonymous. A first name and last initial or a pseudonym is acceptable. Advice from other commenters on this website is not a substitute for medical attention. Do not stop any medicine without checking with the prescriber. Stopping medication suddenly could result in serious harm. We expect comments to be civil in tone and language. By commenting, you agree to abide by our commenting policy and website terms & conditions. Comments that do not follow these policies will not be posted.