5 Healthy Foods That Cause Bad Breath & What You Can Do About It

Some of our favorite foods provide more than just major health benefits. They also give us bad breath. Learn about these foods and how to combat the bad breath.

5 Healthy Foods that Cause Bad Breath

Photo from Desi on Flickr. 

Do you enjoy consuming the following foods and beverage?

  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Strong Cheeses
  • Horseradish
  • Kombucha

You've heard about the health benefits of these items, but did you know that all of these can lead to bad breath? It doesn't seem right to cut them out altogether. The benefits of onions alone are worth finding a way around the strong onion breath. The same goes for garlic. Its antibacterial properties can stop a cold or an infection in its tracks.

So, how can we consume these foods or beverages to get their nutritional benefits but still avoid or reduce the onset of the bad breath that they cause?

Here are some ideas:

1. Onions

Onions are a great source of vitamins C and B, folic acid, and fiber. Some experts say that onion breath is only a problem after eating raw onions. Their sulfurous compounds during digestion get absorbed into the bloodstream and find their way to the lungs which then releases a foul odor every time you exhale.

Obviously, the best way to avoid onion breath is to avoid eating raw onions, but where are the nutritional benefits in doing that? We can't be cutting out foods, especially onions, just because they cause bad breath. So, what do you do?

Here are a few things to try:

  • Green Tea: Drink green tea with honey several times a day. Green tea is rich in polyphenols which are powerful antioxidants that can kill the sulfurous compounds present in raw onions.
  • Lemon: Rinse your mouth with lemon water two to three times a day. A tablespoon of lemon juice in a cup of water can help neutralize onion breath. The citric acid in the lemon contains antibacterial properties that can kill bacteria that causes bad breath. Just be careful not to let the citric acid sit on the teeth. Its high acidity can contribute to enamel erosion and tooth decay.
  • Mustard Sauce: Swish mustard sauce in the mouth for a minute. This method won't kill the odorous molecules of the onion, but the mustard sauce has a strong aroma and will help to mask the onion smell.  
  • Milk: Drink milk. When you drink milk, the sulfur in the onion is neutralized by the milk's fat content. Milk also acts as a natural mouth rinse.
  • Cardamom: Chew cardamom. Do this after eating onions. Its strong aroma will help mask the onion odor and freshen your breath.
  • Apples: Eat an apple. This is one of the most effective methods to get rid of onion breath because the natural enzymes in the apple break down the onion's sulfur compounds.
  • Mint: Drink mint with water or chew on mint leaves. The mint contains chlorophyll which helps to freshen your breath and mask the onion odor. It also has mild antiseptic properties that fight against bad breath caused by bacteria.
  • Baking Soda: Rinse your mouth with baking soda in water. This method neutralizes the onion smell, maintains the pH of the mouth, and controls the growth of bacteria in the mouth.
  • Apple Cider Vinegar: Rinse your mouth with apple cider vinegar and water. This helps to neutralize onion breath and it also destroys bad-breath-causing bacteria in the mouth.

Trying one of these natural remedies may be your solution to eating onions without limits, but keep reading to find out more about how to battle bad breath and even cure it for good.  

2. Garlic

Garlic is known for fighting cancer and lowering cholesterol and blood pressure. It is also known for causing bad breath. But cutting garlic from your diet obviously won't allow you to receive any of its nutritional benefits, so finding ways to reduce garlic breath is your only viable solution.

The best way to combat garlic breath is to neutralize the odor. But how do you do that?

The garlic odor can be very strong, but it is thought that plant chemicals like chlorophyll and polyphenols bind to sulfur compounds in garlic, helping to neutralize the odor. By eating herbs like parsley, basil, thyme, cilantro, mint, or dill, one can minimize the effects of the odorous garlic but still get its nutritional benefits.

Mushrooms are also known to contain polyphenols and may even be more effective than other compounds in counteracting garlic's effect on our breath.

3. Strong Cheeses

Do you love cheese? Cheese is a good way to get the salivary glands working and producing enough saliva to wash away food particles and bacteria at the end of a meal. But if your love for cheese includes strong cheeses like Stilton, Roquefort, Camembert, or Limburger, you could end up suffering from bad breath as a result. The smellier the cheese, the more odorous your breath can become.

But don't let that stop you from enjoying cheese. In addition to the natural remedies we discussed earlier, here are some more ways to combat cheese-induced bad breath.

  • Vegetables: Eating fresh vegetables after a meal can help you get rid of bad breath from foods such as strong cheese. Celery and carrots are good choices as they fight against the bacteria and plaque that also cause tooth decay and gum disease.
  • Salt Water: Gargling with salt water can help you eliminate bacteria and food particles that are present in the mouth, on the tonsils, and in the throat.
  • Mouthwash: Using an alcohol-free mouthwash or spray can give you temporary relief from bad breath. Keeping a small bottle of mouth spray in your purse or pocket can give you a quick, temporary fix when you're out for dinner, carpooling with a coworker, or sharing a cab.  

4. Horseradish

Horseradish is a root plant that is a member of the mustard family. It is a great source of dietary fiber, vitamin C, folate, potassium, calcium, magnesium, zinc, and manganese, and it is connected to a number of health benefits including weight loss, lower blood pressure, alleviation of respiratory conditions, stronger bones, improved immune system, healthier digestion, better heart health, and a lower chance of neural tube defects in infants. Horseradish also has high levels of glucosinolates which are known to prevent cancer.

Despite all of these great benefits, horseradish is known to cause bad breath. While odorless when left intact, it can produce one of the smelliest oils in the world--mustard oil--when it is cut and grated. But that's still pretty mild compared to its wonderful health benefits. Wouldn't you agree?

So, what are some ways to combat bad breath from horseradish?

Interestingly enough, some sources claim that eating horseradish can actually fight bad breath, but since there are plenty of other sources that claim it is one of the top bad-breath-causing foods available, it's worth talking about remedies for combating it.

Swishing with water is a good first step to remove any lingering food particles or remnants of the horseradish. We've talked about a number of natural remedies in this article, and again, the goal is to neutralize the odor. Experiment with one of these solutions to see which one works the best. We all know avoidance will keep us from taking advantage of the associated health benefits, so find a way to reduce the odor instead of eliminating consumption completely.

5. Kombucha

Kombucha, a fermented beverage of black or green tea and sugar, is a popular superfood that helps eliminate toxins and bacteria in the body. It originated in the Far East about 2,000 years ago and is known as the "Immortal Health Elixir" by the Chinese. It contains vinegar, b-vitamins, enzymes, probiotics, and a high concentration of acid (acetic, gluconic, and lactic) and its health benefits include improved digestion, weight loss, increased energy, cleansing and detoxification, immune support, reduced joint pain, and cancer prevention. Despite all of its health benefits, it can also contribute to bad breath.

What are some ways to battle the bad breath but still get the nutritional benefits?

One of the reasons for bad breath might just be that there is an underlying issue involved. It could signify poor gut health. If your digestive tract is loaded with toxins or if frequent antibiotic use or poor dietary habits have damaged your digestive system, bad breath could merely be a side effect. Getting down to the root cause will help eliminate chronic halitosis. Drinking kombucha could actually improve your gut health, thereby potentially eliminating bad breath.

As for treating immediate bad breath from kombucha, the best method is one that neutralizes the odor. Swishing your mouth with water or following the kombucha with a hot cup of green tea (not fermented) can help fight the odor. The polyphenols in tea, especially black tea, suppress the genes of bacteria that control the production of odorous compounds in the mouth. Chewing on fresh herbs such as parsley, cilantro, and mint can also help decrease the odors caused by a buildup of bacteria.

If All Else Fails

The do-it-yourself world we live in today leads many people to find their own natural solutions to problems, and these natural methods to battle bad breath may help. But if you're still not having success eliminating bad breath or if you are looking for a cure for chronic halitosis, not just bad breath caused by a particular food, there is another, more effective solution for you, one that is designed to kill the bacteria in the mouth that releases the bad odors.

According to Dr. Harold Katz, founder of The California Breath Clinics, developer of the TheraBreath line of premium oral care products, and America's leading bad breath expert, the best solution for fighting bad breath is one that oxygenates the mouth and keeps it from drying out. Oxygen is a natural enemy of anaerobic bacteria which is what causes bad breath. Healthy saliva contains a high concentration of oxygen; it's our bodies' way of keeping the breath fresh. But when we experience dry mouth, we lose the oxygen that fights against the bad-breath causing bacteria.

There are a number of things that can cause dry mouth. These include diabetes, alcohol, medications, smoking, sleeping, and sodium lauryl sulfate which is the chemical used in commercial toothpastes to create the foaming action.

Dr. Katz created the TheraBreath products after his teenaged daughter came home from school in tears. She was experiencing bad breath despite her efforts to curb it with chewing gum. It turned out she had an overabundance of anaerobic sulfur-producing bacteria. What his daughter needed to treat the bad breath was an oxygenating compound that prevents the bacteria from creating bad odors. This process also kills existing odors in the mouth.

Food-induced bad breath can cause insecurities and issues with confidence, especially when you are dining out with your spouse or your friends. To help stay on top of any bad breath that might be a result of food, it's a good idea to know the types of foods you will be consuming so you can plan in advance and have a viable solution on hand. Even if it is a temporary solution, you can still benefit from its odor-fighting effects. By taking special precautions to prevent the bad breath, you can avoid embarrassing breath in a social environment.

The best thing to do is find solutions that work for you. Everyone thinks that more wine or beer or another alcoholic beverage can curb bad breath, but while it does flavor the breath in the short-term, it actually causes bad breath. The alcohol dries out the mouth and encourages the odor-causing bacteria to grow.

If bad breath persists even after trying all of these methods, it's a good idea to schedule a visit with your primary physician or dental hygienist to get to the root cause of the issue. Life doesn't have to be put on hold just because of a case of bad breath or chronic halitosis. Many people who have chronic halitosis can experience fresher breath with just the right remedies or treatments.

If it's time to schedule an appointment with a dentist to get to the bottom of bad breath, be sure to check out Carefree Dental's discount plan first for savings at your dental appointment. If you are looking for a provider, check out our Find a Provider search 









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