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.

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  1. Muddey H
    Makkah Province

    Please help me in finding a remedy for getting rid of chronic halitosis (bad breath) most of the docotors in Saudi Arabia failed to diognise this disease which I suffered for long term and I having unleaving pain at the end of the my tongue and having metalic test on tongue and having dry mouth.

  2. ess

    Bella – thanks for the reply. I am on day 5 now, and do not see results yet, but I will keep going.I am down to eating meat, vegetables (non starchy/non tubor), and nuts/berries. I recently dropped tea and coffee, as I am starting too experience acid burn in my throat. Not sure if this is due to dropping carbs. The change is drastic, as I ate carbs for my whole life.

  3. ess

    Bella- thanks for the reply!
    I hope to have better results this week, as I had following your ultimate paleo plan, but many of the sites vary in their approach. I had been eating oats and corn products. The smell did not go away. This could also be due to eating bannanas, so I cut all of these foods out. I hope to have better results with this change. I am totally on meat, organic non starchy vegetables, and nuts now.

    • H

      Ess, from what I read, dropping red meat and all meat in general might be necessary

  4. Looking for answers

    I am so happy I found this thread. I did an experiment and eliminated all dairy and sugar from my diet for the past two weeks before Thanksgiving. My tongue turned pink and NO ONE backed up or rubbed their noses at work or at the store. So during the holiday I ate mashed potatoes, mac and cheese, a slice of cake, pie, had a coke and a few other sugary and dairy things. Now my tongue has that ugly white coating back and people started rubbing their noses again. If this is the cure I am willing to adopt a diary and sugar free lifetime because it felt amazing to be confident enough to talk to people without being so self conscious or covering my mouth to speak or backing away to reply to them. Let’s please continue to support each other so we can all find a cure. Please try the no dairy and sugar experiment. I’m going to go back on it again for another two weeks and if it works this time then I’ll know for sure.

  5. Bella

    ESS- With the Paleo diet, it eliminates all processed food, sugar, dairy and anything that can metabolizes into sugar so basically it’s just vegetables, meat and fruit. However, Paleo does also eliminate fruits and vegetables high in starch. Berries are fine. I started seeing results about 4-5days after changing my diet. Naturally, I’m still insecure when talking people but have noticed that people are no longer touching their face or nose when I speak. Therefore, please post your results so that I can determine if it really works. The more we share our experiences the more likely we are to find a cure!

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