a man checking to see if he has bad breath

Q. I want to thank you because your article on a potential cause of bad breath has solved a long-standing problem of mine. No doctor was able to tell me why I had halitosis and standard tests were not useful.
When I read in your column about a blood test for a germ in the stomach that causes ulcers, bad breath and gastritis, I checked with my doctor. He had never heard of this condition but he gave me the blood test and was surprised when it turned up positive. He was so interested in Helicobacter pylori that he told other doctors about it and prescribed antibiotics to kill it.
Now I am fine after years of bad breath. Why aren’t doctors more aware of this infection that causes ulcers and other problems?

A. Bad breath can be a terrible torment, especially if it persists. There are many factors that may contribute, including tooth decay or gum disease. Medical conditions such as diabetes, liver disease or kidney failure can also create chronic halitosis.
Dr. Barry Marshall, one of the world’s leading experts on Helicobacter pylori, believes that this bacterium is responsible for a large proportion of stomach ulcers. Based on his experience he also believes this bug could account for many cases of hard-to-treat bad breath.
The germ theory of ulcers has been around for decades but it took a long time before it achieved widespread acceptance. Dr. Marshall and his pathologist colleague Robin Warren were given the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2005 for their research.
You can learn more about bad breath, heartburn, ulcers and Helicobacter pylori treatment in our Guide to Digestive Disorders.
We don’t know if treating H. pylori will help others overcome bad breath, but we appreciate hearing about your success.

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  1. Ray

    I wanted to add my thoughts about what might be causing others bad breath problems. I had that problem for many years. It was very embarrassing to me. I was diagnosed with Meniers Disease last year. My doctor wanted to try an Antiviral Medication called Acyclovir. After using it for a few months my symptoms dissappeared. But in addition my wife noticed that I no longer had a bad breath problem. We were both amazed that it is finally gone. I am convinced that we carry bacteria and certain viruses within us that cause us many different types of problems that most doctors would just attribute to lifestyles, diet, or something else. For me it has been life changing. I just wanted to share this with all of you. I hope it helps. Ray

    • Pip

      What dosage of Acyclovir did you take?

  2. lily
    south africa

    is there a cure for bad breath

  3. Lily

    wish to know the antibiotics for h-pylori

  4. NUNU
    south africa

    My breath stinks real bad, could someone help?

  5. prince king

    I have been suffering from bad breath for some time now, even to the point where I will extract my teeth to stop the bad breath without taking medicine it will stop. But since two months ago my bad breath came back and it’s worse now. It’s even gone to the extent where I am experiencing sole on my tongue and gums. Can someone please help to show me a remedy or cure to my problem, and God will surely bless you as I am embarrassed to socialize or go close to anyone to say a word. It’s very urgent please.

  6. James

    I’ve been suffering from chronic bad breath all my life, I am 34 yrs old now and for as long as I can remember I’ve been suffering from this problem since I was 11 yrs old. Whenever I speak to someone they always brush their nose and that is my sign that my breath stinks.
    The worst comes whenever I eat sugary foods my breath stinks from my nose even if Im not speaking and it could fill up a room. It is very embarassing and it makes me think of killing myself or just stay alone in my room and avoid socialiazing. I had tonsillectomy more than a year ago because I thought that my bad breath came from tonsil stones but to my disappointment my halitosis continued even without my tonsils.
    I always try to avoid sweet foods, dairy and meats but it is very difficult. Please help me, I want to live a normal life just like everyone else who can eat whatever they want and not worry about bad breath. I envy those people who can talk and laugh with their friends without worrying about bad breath. I envy my friends who just brush their teeth minimum once a day but their breath doesnt stink while I always brush my teeth and my tongue more than 3 times a day but still my breath stinks.
    Is there an antibiotic that can cure chronic bad breath? Please help me because I think I already tried everything but nothing works for me.

  7. cpmt

    I am going to give my opinion only. H PYLORI is a bacteria that can cause halitosis, ANTIBIOTICS are GIVEN TO KILL THIS BACTERIA. Once everything is OK, no more antibiotics are needed. THEREFORE LOGIC WILL TELL ME THAT if you are not taking more antibiotics and you don’t have H pylori any more and the halitosis was produced by the bacteria and it was killed, you should not have the problem. If you do, then is something else what is causing you to have halitosis. You should have it checked. It can be caused from many different reasons, I am diabetic, and I have that problem. It can also be because other problems in your gut, medication you are taking or an infection…etc etc.

    • Dee

      I feel your PAIN! I been going through the same halitosis misery most my life, I may try somekind of antibiotic, I Hope I can get some sort of relief, have you tried flucanozle?

  8. francisco

    I get you Magdy H. I also wonder if the antibiotics will make the problem worst eventually…

    • Yanna
      United States

      To begin, please apologize my bad English writing. I hope you are able to understand me. I have also suffered from bad breath since my teen years. It has been very horrible for me and affected me in many ways. I get bullied and people make my life miserable. It got to the point of not wanting to go out of my house. I visited many dentists to see if they could help me but I was always told that they did not smell anything. It was not a problem with my teeth becuase I have good oral hygene. I then decided to go with a general doctor and explain to him my situation. He was very professional and understood my pain. He right away told me he was going to do an endoscopy and that’s what showed that I had gastritis and also H. Pylori bacteria. The level of this bacteria in my stomack was very high. I began taking antibiotics to kill this bacteria and right away I felt a difference. The bad nasty taste in my mouth reduced. I know I still have bad breath but not as severe as before. The doctor mentioned this bacteria produces cancer if it is not taken care of in time. He also said it is a pain in the butt to get rid of it. At this time, the level has gone done but I still have it and Im working on it. People, I just want to let you know that there are solutions to this problem. Please forget about the embarrasment, and visit a doctor. This issue can bring severe consequences. Bad breath can be eliminated.

  9. Magdy H.

    I have had halitosis for many years and it is persistent. Now, when I used antibiotics to treat H. Pylori I extremely improved, but the question is, FOR HOW LONG COULD I USE ANTIBIOTICS SAFELY? This is my problem now, if any one has an answer I’d appreciate it.

  10. Elisa

    I just wanted to share a really important piece of information. I’ve suffered with H.pylori for 5months before it was properly diagnosed and even after treatment I’ve suffered with issues that were caused by h.pylori, until now.
    The first time I was tested it came back negative because the bacteria culture hadn’t grown in size enough to show the problem. After I was diagnosed and treated with antibiotics I was told to go back and get another test for H.pylori in three months to make sure it was gone. So I’m guessing that three months after the symptoms start is the key date where it can be seen in the blood.
    Throughout the whole event and until just recently I’ve had seriously stiff joints, my brain has been foggy and my heart has been hurting, all of which started about a month into h.pylori taking over my stomach. These symptoms continued even after the antibiotics.
    Since then, I’ve been tested for everything and even tried a natropath to no avail. I have just recently found the cause and felt compelled to share it with the internet world as I haven’t seen the answer to my problem anywhere. H.Pylori’s favorite meal is potassium!!! It has usurped all of the potassium from my system which apparently only happens with medications or disease and that’s why my doctor didn’t pick up on it. I only figured this out when someone told me to try drinking apple cider vinegar for my joint problem. And within 24hrs my joints stopped aching and I could think clearly! It’s been months of frustration but I’m feeling I’ve finally found the leg up I’ve been needing.
    The recipe is this : 2-3 tsp Apple Cider Vinegar in 1cup of water once daily. There are also recipes where you can put 2-3 tsp of honey in. I’ve found the Braggs company to have the most nutritious form of vinegar. A side note here, don’t do this if you have h.pylori still in your system, they’ll just feed off of it and your stomach will probably feel worse.
    So there you have it, I really hope this is helpful to some of you, it’s an article I wish I had seen months ago! ( :

  11. cpmt

    clean your tongue and floss your teeth, take probiotics, kefir, and yogurts with probiotics… (if you are not allergic to lactose), each parsley, mint, drink mint tea, eat apples 9organic with skin) …some ideas.

  12. Luis

    hey guys I can really use your help I’ve had bad breath for two years now and its destroying my social life if you can email me on what type of antibiotics to take and steps to take please comment.

  13. cpmt

    I know that some diabetic people (like myself) have bad breath related to diabetes. I find difficulty to find something that will work for me… and I’ve tried several remedies…. month, fennel, apple etc… (that can help other people)

  14. Robert.M

    Well there are numerous reasons for bad breath. But recent studies have shown a tie to the Helicobacter pylori, a simple bacteria, with ulcers, gastrointestinal disorders and bad breath. Yes antibiotics could very well solve the problem. But for one looking for home remedies.
    Keep in mind any underlying health issues could be the cause of your problem, and finding this problem could be the only cure. But for someone that is healthy please read on.
    One popular home method to determine the presence of bad breath is to lick the back of the wrist, let the saliva dry for a minute or two, and smell the result.
    Here are a few suggestions. Avoid some of the offending foods known to cause bad breath including, garlic, coffee, onions, dairy products, meats, alcohol, smoking, soft drinks, juices and foods with high acidity.
    You may try some health items to help build the so called healthy bacteria, acidophilus and digestive enzymes to start. Your local health food store can assist you further.
    After a meal you may try munching on some parsley as this will help neutralize some of the obnoxious odors.
    Be sure to brush your teeth on a regular basis and floss. Pay close attention to the tongue and gums when brushing and brush for at least a minute. Any dental or peridontal disease may contribute to the problem. Using Hydrogen Peroxide as a gargle can help kill some unhealthy bacteria, but not to be over used.
    Finally drink plenty of liquids and don’t let your mouth “dry out.” I would suggest not cutting out so called “healthy foods” but watch your intake on unhealthy ones. I will make an additional post if I can think of some other remedies.

  15. cpmt

    Fennel seeds, mint (raw/fresh), anise seeds, eat an apple, and other herbs can help. A mixture of fennel seed and anise can get them at indian food stores, they use it after meals, google or check internet.

  16. TAH

    One cause of bad breath, which is often overlooked, is “tonsil stones” – food that becomes trapped in the crypts of the tonsils. Enlarged tonsils, due to chronic viral infections, can contribute to this problem.
    There is very little medical research on this over-looked problem. Perhaps someday we will have broad-spectrum antivirals that can help shrink the tonsils and eliminate enlarged crypts where food can get trapped and broken-down by the bacteria, enzymes and antibodies in our saliva. It is the break-down process that makes decaying food smell

  17. Alexs S.

    Most cases (85–90%), bad breath originates in the mouth itself. The intensity of bad breath differs during the day, due to eating certain foods (such as garlic, onions, meat, fish, and cheese), obesity, smoking, and alcohol consumption. A very good site to help you is Oraltech Labs. Dr P, Hanson M.D. Since the mouth is exposed to less oxygen and is inactive during the night, the odor is usually worse upon awakening (“morning breath”). Bad breath may be transient, often disappearing following eating, brushing one’s teeth, flossing, or rinsing with specialized mouthwash.

  18. paulbyr

    I am surprised at this post since H. pylori was one of the first tests I received (negative) from my gastroenterologist about 1994, before he stated me on the then new medicine, Prilosec, for GERD. I think that if we want to get specialist’s advice, we can’t expect to get it from a family practice doctor.

  19. cpmt

    IS there any good home remedy for bad breath ? (when is not possible related to stomach bacteria )

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