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Solving the Puzzle of Bad Breath

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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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I also have bad breath after eating too much sugar or drinking milk. My daughters say they have the same problem. My solution is that I try to avoid completely anything with sugar in it with the exception of fresh fruits. I get my milk products through yogurt and I make my own because too many of the commercial yogurts have sugar in them.

I have restricted my regular diet to fresh fruits and vegetables, eggs, fish and chicken, yogurt, nuts and whole grains. I feel so much better and have so much more energy since cutting out all the processed foods, bread and sweets. When we are invited out to eat, of course I do eat some of these things and when I do, I have bad breath the next morning.

Here's my theory--all of us have yeasts living in our bodies--yeasts feed on sugar. Could it be that when we eat sugar the yeasts cause us to have bad breath? Incidentally, when you decide to eat like this at first you crave the sugar but eventually that goes away and then you find yourself looking forward to a salad as much as you used to look forward to deserts. Really.

Try probiotics - you can buy it at any health food store or walmart. It has solved my problems including bad breath.

Google tonsil stones.

Just a gentle nudge - if you have an issue with sugar intake causing strong *sweet* breath, it would be important to do tests for the possibility of diabetes. A sign of uncontrolled diabetes can be strongly-sweet breath, which is reduced by the action of insulin or with oral medicines like metformin.

I stopped eating sugar almost 12 years ago, and it was one of the best decisions of my life. Most important is that I found that my tastes changed, and that I no longer desired candy, etc. Certain foods began to taste sweet (beets, sweet peas). Of course I am a fanatic at reading labels in the grocery store, and simply don't buy anything that has sugar. It limits my choices, but there is enough choice anyway. At restaurants, I just stay away from things likely to have sugar, e.g., tomato soup, and order items that are unlikely to cause the chef to be tempted to add it.

Saying that "table sugar is a combination of glucose and fructose" while correct, may be addressing the wrong problem. The issue could be a surface allergy instead of a digestive problem.

I have the surface allergy to sugar. When I eat sugar, my throat gets raw and I get bad breath. As a surface allergy, the shape of the molecule is important. Table sugar is sucrose which has two sugar rings. Glucose and fructose are both one sugar ring molecule and do not cause as much problem for me. I ran into one person who thought that it was an allergy to something that was produced by mouth bacteria after eating sugar.

Sucrose can be found in many forms in process foods. Some of the names it goes by are:
Sugar, dextrose, corn syrup, maple syrup, molasses, evaporated cane juice, organic sugar, agave nectar

I have been lactose intolerant for many years and always have to take Lactaid enzyme tablets whenever I have dairy. The last couple of years the intolerance has become increasingly worse, even with the tablets. To the point where I was having increasing body odor. Once I eliminated dairy from my diet, the odor went away.

I still have diary on occasion but I still have to take the enzyme tablets.

Just take a chlorophyll pill every time you eat the offending foods. Chlorophyll will kill the odor.

Apple Cider Vinegar is a great breath freshener and is sooo good for you. It's extra handy in a squirt bottle.

Fennell Seeds (vitamin supplement) is great for helping to prevent bad breath. I take one in the morning with breakfast.

fresh apples too.

I notice lately that I have very bad breath maybe is the medication I am taking but I have been using this medication for one year, now and suddenly the smell is bad I am very embarrassed to talk around people, I found out is Tonsil Stones. My nose is dripping during the morning I walk everyday and the allergies are up here in Florida, I am looking for a remedy to stop the Tonsil Stones. I never suffer of this and is affecting me indeed! I brush my teeth morning and night, floss it, use mouth wash and still not works, it is not my teeth I know it is something else and after I discover tonsil stones I know that is what is affecting me! I am 67 and is too late to have my tonsils removed... what is the best home remedy? thanks ! Maria

I too have bad breath after sugar or milk. I too have been trying to figure it out for decades. Call me crazy but I've also noticed that when I eat sugar, I tend to have nasal congestion and thick mucus drainage down the back of my throat. The doctor says that the smell comes from the sinus drainage. I beg to differ and think it's more than that. It's affected my life so much that I try not to sit next to others, avoid functions and family gatherings. I'm almost like a hermit and it hurts because that's not my personality. I will try the suggestions mentioned in this site though. I'm up for any suggestion at this point.

I had severe tonsil stones. I had them so bad that I opted to have my tonsils removed (because stones would embed themselves there) at the critical age of 45 years old. It was just as the surgeon said it would be, very painful. Children of friends of mine had theirs out and returned to school after a few days. I didn't feel completely back to normal until after 3 months. I thought it would solve my bad breath problem; it didn't. Six months later while waking up from sleep, a stone came up from my throat and I just fell apart. I still have a problem because of dairy or sugar. It was very disappointing.

Been eating lots of fruit-tis the season-and my breath from what I hear has gotten pretty bad. When a person has "bad" breath it can smell many different ways; overly sweet, like chemicals, or putrid.

Am wondering if the fruit has caused this as it only started a week ago? I had this problem a few years ago and started using enzymes sparingly and probiotics, started scraping my tongue, flossing every day, and gargling with a special peroxide type rinse. The problem went away, but it's back. It's very difficult living with someone when you know you stink up the entire room. So I have stopped eating the fruit and will see what happens, but I suspect that is the problem.

My son developed bad breath about 10 years of age. It took a while to figure out it's not due to poor oral hygiene. If he eats cheese I could smell the stench 6 feet away. It takes few days for the smell to go away. I confirmed this by repeatedly giving him or denying him cheese. I would like to know if there are any solutions? Are there any cheese digesting enzymes that can help?

I had bad breath for most of my life, and VERY few friends told me about it. I had constant post-nasal drip, due to my dairy allergy, causing bad breath. Once I cut-out all dairy, my bad breath went away (and started to hold women's attention). I researched dairy products and found that no human should digest this stuff. Further research has lead me to being Vegan. Everyone should get an allergy test (and stop all dairy) to correct their life/health. No-other animal ingests another animals milk; they are weened.

I agree with you Carolyn. I also have the same problem. Every time I eat anything with diary or sugar, including fruits, I get this odor that fills a room up. It goes away after 12 or so hrs. My diet is nothing but meat, grains, & vegetables during the week(at work). On the weekend I eat whatever I want. Don't care who smells it. But on Sunday it is back to the same diet after 3pm. Crazy way to live. I brush my teeth constantly when I get this odor and nothing helps. I also take probotics and it doesn't help. Does anybody know what this is?

I really noticed after I had my first child...I had intense morning sickness that I had to drink water in order to swallow my spit. That was 24 years ago..anytime I chew gum...mouthwash or sweet drinks ....back away from me....please help


I have suffered from bad breath for years. Sometimes I brushed up to 5 times a day, in addition to tongue scraping, flossing,and gum irrigation. I have tried probiotics, oil of oregano, increasing my fiber, etc. to no avail. I now avoid dairy and sugar. I have post-nasal drip and my doctor prescribed a nasal spray (Azelastine) that seems to help. I've noticed that since I started using it, and made dietary changes, people don't step away or rub their noses anymore when I talk. I did a juice fast for four days (Kale, celery and green apples) and for the first time in years, my mouth tasted fresh. It's hard to maintain, but may be a good place to start if you think you have food sensitivities. Try adding new foods one at a time to see how it affects your breath. Good luck to all of us who face with this terribly isolating problem.

thanks for this info, I have suffered with bad breath most of my life and it can be devastating for one's social life.

Hi. I just want to say that I'm in the same situation. I am a 37 yo male and I suspect it's been going on since my late 20s. Dairy or sugar makes my breath terrible. I think it takes a week for the stench to clear after eating daily. The halitosis from sugar probably goes away after brushing and flossing. My dental hygiene is impeccable. As said before, it's so hard avoiding those foods. I also had my tonsils taken out two years ago, but it didn't help. I feel everyone's pain. I'm bookmarking this page so that I could read it when I need strength.

I've had the same issues since I was about 18 - I'm 28 now, and haven't figured out all the causes of bad breath but so far for me, its dairy, sugar, processed carbs (which is most of them) and I think there is a post nasal drip issue I need to correct as well since I have excessive phlegm on occasion.

I"m eating a lot more vegetables every meal and it makes a difference - along with Ecodent mouthwash... but after eating I still have issues (I've been snacking on cheese and dried fruits) - once I cut out all the problem foods I hope and pray this will solve this crisis for me. Good luck to all of you... there is a way to get our lives back! Maybe not eating and drinking the way we used to, but I'd prefer a strict diet to a limited social/love life at this point.

well I smoke a lot, two packs a day, but I don't think that is the cause of my terrible bad breath. my mouth and noise smell, especially when I take starchy foods milk and sugar. what do I do?

I also have the same problem which I've been suffering for years. My bb don't go at all it just intensify whenever I eat dairy, meet, and especially the worst thing is sugar. Whenever I eat sweets or anything with sugar like desserts and juice drinks I notice that people rub their nose when I talk.

I also notice that whenever I swallow my saliva the smell comes out of my nose, so I guess the smell is coming from my throat or my stomach because my mouth is close. I had tonsillectomy last year thinking that my bb was coming from my tonsils but unfortunately after the operation my breath problem still continues. I also tried probiotics but it did not help. Even the unsweetened yoghurt dont help but instead adding more to my bb.

The only remedy I know now is eating steamed leafy vegetables without any seasoning. It seems to help because my mouth feels fresh when I stick to this diet but it is very difficult. If there is anyone here who can suggest what else I can do to cure my bb please post it here. It is very difficult to live in this world with this problem. Please help me.

ALKALINE foods and water will help a lot. NO RED MEATS, no milk, low carbs intake, alkaline water (water+lemon) or water ph 7.7 or higher google alkaline foods and avoid the acid ones. try this to see if it works..

Same for me but its more so meats and dairy. I think I have narrowed it down. For me its an infection within your soft palette. The section around your adenoids, uvula, section where your tonsils are to include the back of your throat all the way up to your sinuses. Because there is no documented evidence that this is possible, doctors are quick and I mean quick to say that's not it. Unless you have a before or after pic of your throat who can tell if something is wrong unless its drastic. The problem is, its not drastic The infection is directly under the skin camouflaged and interacts with certain irritants.

I'm a 40-ish male. Suffered the same problem with cheese -- a foul breath that brushing could not cleanse.
For other health reasons I started drinking apple cider vinegar each day (about a tablespoon or two in a glass of water). Most people's body pH is below 7, and it should be above 7 (about 7.5 if memory serves me). Anyway, I suspect that the acv adjusted my pH. Whatever it did, it COMPLETELY took away my foul breath. I can eat the hell out of cheese and my wife notices nothing.

You should Google: "health benefits of acv". Just know that regular vinegar will not work. Also, you need it to be unpasteurized and with "the mother". Bragg is the brand most recommended -- and it's pretty common here in Texas.

I thought once you got your tonsils removed you can't have tonsil stones, I too suffer from this and hearing your story at age 20 man it hurts cus I was planning on having my tonsils removed I have been trying to save money for a tonsillectomy.

I had the same problem with both pregnancies. It was dire! and very embarrassing as I had to have a box of tissues all the time to dry out my mouth and I had to be really discreet so as not to keep it out of sight of other people. A stress. With my second, when it happened again I decided to take myself in hand and I did a really strong meditation and with will power, focus, concentration and a sort of self-hypnosis, it went away. I somehow conquered it.

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....

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!

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!

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

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.

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