Q. I have taken a variety of drugs for acid reflux. If I try to stop, the heartburn comes roaring back and the pain is unbearable. I also have terrible bad breath even though I brush my teeth three times a day and floss regularly.
Do you have any recommendations for how to get off omeprazole and what I could use instead? I would also appreciate any suggestions you have for bad breath.
A. Bad breath AND heartburn could be a sign that you are suffering from a Helicobacter pylori infection in your digestive tract. One radio listener told us that after years of suffering with heartburn and ulcers he was treated for Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori). This bacterial infection is responsible for many persistent ulcers. After successful treatment with antibiotics, our listener was astonished to find that his long-standing bad breath had disappeared. His girlfriend used to complain bitterly and even his dog would retreat. He was thrilled about the unexpected bonus in curing his ulcers–his dog and his girlfriend no longer backed off.
There can be many other causes of bad breath besides bacterial infection in the digestive tract. Other causes of bad breath may include gum disease, tooth abscess, bacterial overgrowth on the tongue, tonsil troubles, sinusitis, bronchitis, diabetes or liver disease. A specialist should do a complete workup to discover the source of the odor.
One unusual cause that most health professionals have never heard of is lactose intolerance. Normally, a sensitivity to milk sugar causes gas, bloating and diarrhea. But over the last few years we have heard from people who complain that dairy products give them bad breath:
“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.”
“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.”
We discuss H. pylori, lactose intolerance, celiac disease and other causes of intestinal discomfort in our Guide to Digestive Disorders (online at PeoplesPharmacy.com). The diagnosis and treatment will require help from an interested doctor. We also offer suggestions for getting off acid-suppressing drugs and more natural ways to treat heartburn in our book, The People’s Pharmacy Quick & Handy Home Remedies, from National Geographic (also online). In it, you’ll learn about natural remedies such as almonds (page 105), broccoli (page 110), hot peppers! (page 112), fennel (page 108) and ginger (page 109). You’ll also get recipes for Digestive Tea from the Ayurvedic medical tradition (page 108) and persimmon punch from Korea (page 111)