Milk bottles; dairy

Q. I have seen some questions in your column regarding bad breath. I’d like to share my personal experience. I used to have bad breath and had seen my dentist and my doctor about it, but found no solution until I discovered that my lactose intolerance was causing the problem.

On a two-week trip overseas several years ago, I happened to consume no milk. I felt better than I ever had in my life, and did not worry about my breath.

When I got home, I started consuming milk as usual and the problem returned. Avoiding dairy products solved the problem.

A. Lactose intolerance is an inability to digest milk sugar. Symptoms often include gas, bloating, diarrhea and abdominal discomfort. We have not been able to find studies linking bad breath to lactose intolerance in the medical literature. Nevertheless, we congratulate you on finding a simple solution to your problem.

There is a hydrogen breath test for lactose intolerance. People who suspect that their digestive woes are caused by dairy products can request it from a physician. There are also lactase pills (Lactaid, house brands) that help break down milk sugar to reduce symptoms.

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  1. Ruffa

    I have a nasal condition, an odor in the left nostril and it affects the breath too. I have tried taking milk away from my diet, and have started to eat more vegetables. I have noticed the mouth feels a lot more clean and fresh, but I will keep going, too see if the nasal odor goes.

  2. SS

    I have been having BB for the last 7 years which affected my confident in work and social environment massively. Having had some wisdom tooth problems I thought that was the issue but later realized that I am destine for BB and couldn’t shift. So I tried lots of different things including cutting out sugar, caffeine, drinking lots of water and oil pulling but they were only short lived solutions. However, in last 3 weeks I have stopped having milk altogether and seems to be working. I also find a few drops of clove oil on my toothbrush when brushing with regular toothpaste also does wonders.

  3. Sarah

    I’ve had the randomest thing happen to me body, I have yeast infection in my nose which stinks of cheese, my breath is constantly stinking and my I randomly got bv which was made worse with docs meds, turns out all the meds contain lactose, I’ve been eating probiotic yoghurts for years and that’s when my bad breath started. I’m planning to go docs Monday for a test… I’m 27 and I think this is why my I smell so bad, lately I’ve been eating nothing but dairy, tea, babybels, yoghurts, cream, everything dairy! This is why I stink so much and have bad bacteria everywhere in my body which it can’t fight off because I’m topping it up everyday. I’ve only discovered this by accident..

  4. Sandra

    I have been cursed with BB for as long as I can remember (I’m 62)…..I am an outgoing confident person until someone comes within 3 feet of me, then my self esteem hits rock bottom…The frustration is endless, I have tried absolutely everything, to no avail..It’s only now, I’m starting to wonder if it’s the fault of my diet….I eat quite a lot of dairy, always have…Now I am wondering after reading all these comments (which I find very informative) if I have a Lactose intolerance…I will pay more attention to the dairy I am consuming, and see if it makes a difference to my breath….Thank you for the info…!

  5. amber

    So I just came across this site because I was ok with dairy products for most of my 16 now, and suddenly last year I began to feel sick every time I drank/had milk with cereal or just on its own and at one point I had a pint of milk with biscuits and was pretty close to being sick, although I had no stomach distress, I felt queasy.
    My mouth would go dry before this happened, no idea why and now I don’t even have yogurt in case it happens again, but I can have cheese though which I find weird, but sometimes get a sour aftertaste which is disgusting. I also get bad breath after consuming cheese which is I think is normal for most ppl. So I’m just wondering if anyone thinks I’m lactose intolerant but I don’t get stomach pains digesting milk just sickness.

  6. MW

    I’m so pleased to find a rational explanation for my occasional bouts of bad breath. On and off for years my husband has complained that my breath smelt occasionally and has always blamed it on a rotten tooth even though the dentist has always said my teeth are fine. A few weeks ago he complained again and I’d just had porridge for my breakfast. I blamed it on that but he shot the idea down until the same thing happened again this morning and we finally thought it could be a milk issue. After Googling ‘bad breath and milk’ he found this enlightening page. I’m so pleased that I can now see a way forward to solving this problem.

  7. TG

    I have suffered from bad breath my entire life. It has caused me to be anti social and I am a very outgoing person. All through middle school and high school, I spent a fortune on chewing gum because I was so insecure. I have been to specialist and my dentist and no one could understand what was causing it.
    My children and my niece and nephew also suffer from bad breath and oddly enough our breath all smells the same. I have sneezed or coughed and discoverd a tonsil sloth in my mouth and my niece has also but this is less than a monthly occurence.
    We are all milk drinkers. We make cookies or cakes just for an excuse to eat milk. I very recently noticed that when my daughter has milk before bed that her breath is much worse in the morning. I decided to slow down on the milk before bed also and I can see a difference in my breath. I am wondering if I cut it out of my diet entirely if this would help my breath.
    Could this be some form of lactose intolerance? I have never had pains from milk but and I am not saying that the milk causes our bad breath but I can say with 100% certainty that it has a HUGE effect on it. I agree that they should look into this a little more and if you know anyone who suffers from bad breath, please recommend they try to cut out dairy. I hope this can help someone else.

  8. Liza

    Besides onion and garlic, I find red meat of any sort causes it for myself (though when u refer to the book I mentioned type A blood isn’t supposed to have red meat) take last nights dinner for example had beef mince when making pasta sauce, after brushing, flossing and using mouthwash this morning it was as if i never brushed em coz breath smelt rank…. I guess if there’s something you know causes bad breath for you avoid it if possible if you don’t want stinky breath. Everyone is different so you have to find out what your bad breath causes are.

  9. Liza

    I recommend people read a book called “eat right for your type” people I know as well as myself have read it and follow the things we should and shouldn’t eat in accordance to blood type. I did an experiment….. I followed the eating plan for my blood type as recommended in the book and as a type A meant avoiding dairy product etc… My IBS type symptoms went and skin cleared up and breath didn’t smell like rotten meat or garbage.
    However, when I started consuming the ‘normal’ doses of dairy of 40g cheese 250mL milk and 200g yogurt a day…. I had high levels of mucus in my throat, bad breath and the IBS type symptoms returned. I believe there is a link between the milk consumption and bad breath and it would be great for scientists to do more tests to prove it.

  10. Margaret H.

    I read your column about milk causing bad breath. Are there any other things that could cause bad breath?

  11. Rita T.

    I use to get the bad breath, sore throat, phlegm, chills whenever I consumed dairy. When I was a child I would suffer with strep throat which seemed to develop into a cold. I figured this out about 30 years ago. I no longer suffer with these problems. I now eat extremely healthy; without dairy. I take no medications I feel great and feel great for a 64 year old. Thanks, Peoples Pharmacy who I’ve been listening to for over 20 years.

  12. sue

    Many who have issues with milk actually have bad breath from tonsil stones, they are these yellowish/white tiny hard balls that are in the tonsils. I found that when I have a lot of milk, I get them, they smell horrible and will make one’s breath smell bad.

  13. ebm

    As a child in Germany we got our milk from local milkmen or straight from the farmer, un-adulterated poured through cheese cloth. Not pasteurized, homogenized, etc. It had all the enzymes and nutrients, including lactase and I could tolerate it with food. When I drank a whole glass by itself I didn’t feel good.
    Later, here in the US I was muscle tested by a chiropractor and reacted badly to milk, coffee and black tea. I eliminated it and was ok. When I cheated, it gave me a sore throat every time (even Bailey’s Irish Cream!!!), what a pity that was. Ice cream gave me my first bladder infection I ever had at age 50+ and again 20 yrs later when I ate it several days in a row.
    Yogurt does not do it, I like the whole milk creamy plain kind and prefer it over the sugar laden fat free. Plain fat free is just too tart and watery for my taste.

  14. Judy Z

    Is it possible to have lactose intolerance and then have it go away?
    I definitely had it 20 years ago, before I learned about vitamins and herbs from the People’s Pharmacy. I now take a number of supplements including turmeric and ginger, and I recently discovered that milk products no longer bother me.

  15. ls

    I developed lactose intolerance in 1967, undiagnosed until 1969, as a result of getting traveler’s diarrhea in India. After recovering from the initial symptoms, I could not tolerate even the smallest amounts of milk, whether in baked products, cheese, yogurt (which lactose intolerant people are supposed to be able to digest), or anything else.
    I never had diarrhea again if I inadvertently ingested milk in any form, but I inevitably got bad breath, a bad taste in my mouth and a pimple or two on my face. The medical literature may not have reported an association between bad breath and lactose intolerance, but I can confirm the reader’s personal experience with my own.
    I had to strictly avoid milk in any form for something like thirty years, after which I very gradually introduced sheep’s milk cheese into my diet without negative effects. After many months, I successfully tried cow’s milk yogurt in very small amounts. I can now have moderate amounts of yogurt, cottage cheese and even small amounts of ice cream, as well as sheep’s milk cheese. I suspect that cow’s milk is still a problem, based on the bad taste in my mouth if I eat something containing milk.

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