- The Link Between Bad Breath and GERD
- How To Prevent Bad Breath Caused By Acid Reflux?
- What Causes Bad Breath In Those That Suffer Acid Reflux?
- Step Up Your Dental Hygiene
- Keep Up Your Fluid Intake
- Maintain Your Overall Gut Health
- How to Treat Bad Breath from Acid Reflux
- What Is Acid Reflux
- Signs Your Bad Breath Is Caused by Acid Reflux
- The Causes of Bad Breath from Acid Reflux
- Home Remedies for Acid Reflux Breath
- Treating Bad Breath from Acid Reflux
- Treating Acid Reflux: When Will It Go Away?
- Quick Fixes
- Bad Breath From Stomach Problems
- What Your Bad Breath Might be Telling You
- Is Reflux Giving You Bad Breath?? (And What To Do About it!)
- Quick Treatments For Bad Breath From Reflux:
GERD (Chronic Acid Reflux)
- What is GERD (chronic acid reflux)?
- What are the main symptoms of GERD (chronic acid reflux)?
- What is heartburn?
- What do I do if I think I have GERD (chronic acid reflux)?
- How common is GERD (chronic acid reflux)?
- What causes acid reflux?
- What are the symptoms of GERD (chronic acid reflux)?
- How do I know I’m having heartburn and not a heart attack?
- Can GERD (chronic acid reflux) cause asthma?
- Is GERD (chronic acid reflux) dangerous or life-threatening?
- Related posts:
The Link Between Bad Breath and GERD
You brush, floss, and pop breath mints like crazy, but nothing can kill your stubborn bad breath. Sound familiar? If you’re frustrated by this stinky and embarrassing problem, maybe it’s time to look beyond your mouth for some answers. Sometimes bad breath causes can be medical problems, like acid reflux and gastroesophageal reflux disease, commonly called GERD.
“GERD can certainly contribute to bad breath problems,” says Chin Hur, MD, MPH, an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School in Boston and director of gastrointestinal health outcomes research at Massachusetts General Hospital. In some people, he explains, food doesn’t move efficiently out of the stomach, starts to decay there, and can contribute to bad breath and GERD. Others with GERD may actually regurgitate small amounts of undigested food, which can also cause bad breath.
“Bad Breath Reflux:” How a Dentist Can Help
If you have bad breath you just can’t shake, your first stop probably should be your dentist’s office. Marc Nock, DDS, of Zenthea Dental in New York City, says your dentist will first rule out typical bad breath causes like periodontal disease, poor oral care, and sulfur molecules on the tongue.
The dentist may then investigate whether there’s a connection between your bad breath and GERD or other medical conditions. A sensation of acid reflux and frequent heartburn are the most typical GERD symptoms, although it’s also possible to have atypical or “silent” GERD – without the usual symptoms. Silent GERD symptoms can include a bad taste in the mouth, chest pain, coughing, hoarseness, and tooth decay, explains Dr. Hur.
Even if you’re unaware that you have GERD, dentists can often tell by looking in your mouth and throat. Sally Cram, DDS, a periodontist in Washington, D.C., and a consumer adviser for the American Dental Association, says that people with GERD often experience acid erosion of their teeth and an inflamed red throat, especially around the tonsil area. Other signs include areas of irritation on the tongue and gums, and sour smelling breath.
Dr. Cram says that if it’s suspected that your bad breath and GERD are linked, your dentist will suggest a visit to your primary care physician or a gastroenterologist for diagnosis and treatment. After all, the bad breath won’t go away until the GERD symptoms are under control.
Treatment for GERD and “Bad Breath Reflux”
Doctors often diagnose GERD by getting a detailed description of your symptoms. Hur says that your doctor may start you on GERD medication (either prescription or over-the-counter) to see if your symptoms improve with treatment.
Your physician may also suggest making lifestyle changes. Many people find that GERD symptoms get better when they avoid common triggers like fatty and spicy food, alcohol, and big meals, especially close to bedtime. In most people, the combination of lifestyle changes and the right medication can get and keep GERD under control.
Though not common, a pH probe study may be used to diagnose GERD. For this diagnostic test, a thin tube is place through the nose and deep into the esophagus. The tube is attached to a monitor to measure how much acid travels up from the stomach and into your esophagus in a given time period. If the amount of reflux is above a certain percentage, this is highly suggestive of GERD. From there, doctors can decide on the best course of treatment.
When can you expect the bad breath to go away once treatment begins? Cram says it could take a week or even longer, especially if the doses of GERD medication need to be adjusted.
In the meantime, Hur suggests drinking plenty of water and chewing gum (sugar-free) because it stimulates saliva production and clears acid from the mouth. Giving up cigarettes is especially important because smoking contributes to GERD symptoms and smoker’s breath, he adds. Follow your doctor’s advice, and you should be able to banish “bad breath reflux” for good.
How To Prevent Bad Breath Caused By Acid Reflux?
If you frequently suffer from acid reflux, you’ll know all too well how the embarrassing side-effects of bad breath can wreak havoc on your self-esteem. The link between acid reflux and bad breath might even surprise you, but it’s important to know the real cause and then take action. Luckily, there are a few techniques you can incorporate into your day to prevent bad breath, so you don’t have to worry about awkwardly covering your mouth every time you have a conversation with someone.
What Causes Bad Breath In Those That Suffer Acid Reflux?
Bad breath is not always the result of eating pungent foods. It also affects those that suffer from stomach complications. In one detailed study, a strong link is found between acid reflux and halitosis (bad breath) due to:
- Acid reflux triggering a mucous response where mucous from your nose or sinuses run down the back of your throat. Therefore, mucous builds on your tongue adding to your bad breath.
- Stomach acid, and even food particles, passing back into the esophagus, causing a bad odor and bacteria to build.
- The actual damage of the sensitive esophageal lining.
There are many lifestyle changes you can implement into your day to reduce the occurrence of acid reflux. However, when you notice a bad taste in your mouth, or someone comments on your bad breath, it’s a strong indicator that you need to take more care of your health.
Step Up Your Dental Hygiene
How often are you brushing your teeth a day? What about flossing or other hygiene steps? Twice daily is essential if you find bad breath to be a side-effect of your reflux. Going the extra mile with your dental hygiene includes:
- Flossing after meals
- Brushing your tongue
- Try oil pulling, the ancient Ayurvedic remedy
- Salt water gargle or essential oil gargle (not commercial mouthwashes)
- Chewing sugar-free gum
These daily habits cover all bases, and if you’re doing all of these steps, then you’re doing everything you can to maintain a healthy mouth!
Keep Up Your Fluid Intake
As saliva helps to flush away bacteria in your mouth, you need to keep well hydrated to avoid that dry mouth feeling, as this will only increase your bad breath. If you engage in a lot of sport or exercise, you need to take extra precautions to ensure you have enough fluids on hand to prevent dehydration.
Maintain Your Overall Gut Health
Two thousand years ago, the great Hippocrates famously quoted “All disease begins in the gut”. Medical professionals, particularly in the Western World have only just started listening. Bad breath can stem from antibiotics that disrupt the gut flora, poor eating habits and lifestyle choices and is an indicator that something isn’t right in the body.
Looking after your gut health should be of primary focus when you suffer from acid reflux. You should ensure you’re taking a daily probiotic to balance the good and bad bacteria in your gut, therefore setting up a healthy digestive system and allowing your body to perform optimally. A diet rich in leafy greens and fresh fruit will also help to detoxify the system and banish both acid reflux and its nasty side effects, such as bad breath.
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Shannon has a burning desire to share the best health and wellness tips to lead a life that is rich and fulfilling. She has a particular interest in nutrition, holistic approaches, wellness, integrative medicine and naturopathic treatments through healing foods”
Latest posts by Shannon Davidson, Health Writer (see all)
- Home Remedies For Acid Reflux During Pregnancy – September 12, 2017
- Why is Acid Reflux Bad in the Morning and How to Minimize it? – September 6, 2017
Bad breath can be embarrassing. We’ve all had days when we order lunch without considering the effect it might have on that 1 p.m. meeting or notice a strange taste after waking up from a long nap. But what if the odor never goes away?
“Aside from being a result of a stinky lunch or poor oral hygiene, bad breath can be a symptom of a larger or unrelated condition,” says Dr. Mohsin Wazir, oral and maxillofacial surgery resident. “It also has a medical name: halitosis.”
The breath/body connection
In its most common form, bad breath happens when you eat foods with a strong odor.
Digestion and the breakdown of food start in the mouth, so particles are left behind until the food has passed through your whole body. For this reason, no amount of mouthwash or mints can actually remove the odor. Instead, those will just mask it temporarily.
“The connection between food we eat, our digestive system and how our breath smells is helpful when we try to understand other medical causes for halitosis,” says Dr. Wazir.
Cavities, poor fillings, crowns – oh my!
Having dental issues that require attention, or simply the arrangement or condition of your teeth, can allow food particles to become impacted in spaces which are hard to reach with a toothbrush. As we all know, food left in a warm place for a long period of time can begin to smell bad. The same thing happens with food particles that become lodged in cavities for several days.
Unfortunately, normal toothbrushing can’t remove food from these crevices. A visit to the dentist may be mandatory for treating this type of halitosis.
Medical causes for bad breath
When it comes to bad breath not caused by food, there are a few suspects.
- Gum disease is an infection inside the mouth caused by bad oral hygiene, smoking or hormonal imbalances, among other things.
“There are two types of gum disease,” notes Dr. Wazir. “The first is gingivitis, which lives in the gum-line. The second is periodontitis, which is an advanced form of gum disease that spreads to the bone which houses your teeth, called the alveolar bone.”
Both types can lead to tooth decay and loss, as well as the decay of your alveolar bone.
If you notice bleeding or inflammation in your gums and persistent pain, you should make a note to speak to your dentist. But if you notice unexplained bad breath, tooth decay or movement in the teeth, you should seek help from a dentist right away to prevent permanent damage.
- Ketoacidosis occurs when a person with diabetes experiences dangerously low insulin levels and their body is forced to use fat stores for energy. As that fat is broken down, ketones—a potentially-poisonous chemical with a distinctive odor—are produced, which may lead to bad breath.
“If you are managing diabetes and experience unexplained bad breath along with dizziness, fatigue, abdominal pain or confusion, you could be suffering from ketoacidosis and should see a doctor immediately,” explains Dr. Wazir.
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a chronic condition marked by persistent acid reflux, or the rise of stomach acid in the esophagus. The misplaced stomach acid may be the cause for unexplained bad breath but is often paired with other symptoms.
“GERD can cause permanent tissue damage in the esophagus and should be treated with medication,” says Dr. Wazir. “Other symptoms include heartburn, nausea, vomiting, and difficulty or pain with swallowing. Additionally, repeated acid reflux can erode the enamel and hard tissues of the teeth, subsequently causing crevices and slight spaces where food can become lodged.
Many people experience periodic gastroesophageal reflux (GER), but it is usually situational and will go away with treatment. If you are experiencing chronic acid reflux, be sure to speak to your doctor.
Most serious causes of unexplained bad breath are paired with more serious symptoms, making the conditions hard to overlook. However, it’s important to maintain good overall gum health to keep teeth and bones strong and healthy. Those close to you will thank you.
The dentist’s office is the best place to start your journey to better breath. After establishing good oral hygiene and routine exams, additional treatment may be needed to address issues such as tooth decay, gum disease or infection. Geisinger’s Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons specialize in treating conditions that affect the jaws or face, including dental implants, dental and soft tissue surgery and wisdom teeth management, among other treatment options. To make an appointment with an oral and maxillofacial surgeon, click here.
How to Treat Bad Breath from Acid Reflux
Acid reflux and bad breath usually go hand-in-hand, but that doesn’t mean you have to live with bad breath forever. In this article, we discuss the cause of acid reflux, as well as some immediate remedies you can apply right now to improve your breath.
So, how do you treat bad breath from acid reflux? Medicinal intervention is usually applied to more advanced cases, but making lifestyle changes are great for getting long-term results. Quitting smoking, limiting alcohol and caffeine consumption, and taking antacids are all great ways to alleviate acid reflux and prevent bad breath.
What Is Acid Reflux
Acid reflux, also known as heartburn, is a common condition characterized by pain in the lower chest. This usually happens when stomach acids bubble up to the esophagus, the tube moving food from the mouth down to the stomach.
A muscle called the gastroesophageal sphincter is responsible for keeping stomach acid right where it belongs. However, certain triggers can cause the “valve” to malfunction, and the acid is brought back up to the esophagus. Other contents including bile and undigested food particles can also make their way to the esophagus.
Read more: Does Working out Make Acid Reflux Worse?
Although common, acid reflux can develop into a chronic condition. Persistent acid reflux symptoms that manifest more than twice a week will be characterized as GERD or gastroesophageal reflux disease. At this point, physicians may recommend medical intervention to manage the disease.
Can acid reflux give you bad breath?
Aside from heartburn, the most common complaint of patients experiencing acid reflux is bad breath. Stomach contents may regurgitate back to the esophagus, including any stomach acids, bile, and undigested food that will linger in your esophagus and creep up your pharynx, causing bad breath.
Can acid reflux cause you to smell your own bad breath?
Acids attaching to the walls of your esophagus can be smelled by other people. This is because gas particles can also attach to the tongue, which can aggravate the bad smell. Patients with acid reflux often report burping, which can also intensify the smell of the stomach acid.
On the other hand, acid reflux breath may also be smelled by the patient. In some cases, patients report smelling their own breath even without opening their mouth. Bile wafts from the stomach up to the nose, which produces a pungent, often acidic smell.
What does acid reflux breath smell like?
Acid reflux on its own smells like bile. Anything sulfuric, pungent, strong, and acidic can be characterized as acid reflux smell. Patients also report different smells based on the medicine they are taking to manage GERD.
Any sort of smell present in the mouth can be symptomatic of ulcers and other gastrointestinal problems. We recommend getting checked by a gastroenterologist to rule out acid reflux and other possible diseases.
Signs Your Bad Breath Is Caused by Acid Reflux
Bad breath is typically managed by flossing, brushing the teeth, and using mouthwash. However, more persistent cases of bad breath could point to problems that don’t have anything to do with the mouth.
Here are some signs that bad breath is being caused by acid reflux:
1. It’s related to food. When bad breath seems to follow any eating pattern, it may be because of gastrointestinal problems. Whether it’s eating too much or too little, eating spicy or sour food, the point is that the bad breath is triggered by a feeding pattern.
When you observe that the bad breath comes after drinking coffee, it could be that the acid in the coffee is triggering stomach acids, leading to bad reflux. Test out your breath after eating certain foods and see if any feeding habits trigger bad breath.
2. It coincides with other digestive symptoms. Constipation, bloating, burping, and pain can all be signs of acid reflux. This is especially true when digestive symptoms come right after a feeding pattern.
After drinking coffee, do you experience cramps in your lower abdomen? Do you start burping and experience a strong metallic taste in your mouth? Paying attention to your body’s physical reactions to food is an effective way of ruling out the cause of bad breath.
3. Your breath smells sour or acidic. Bile is commonly described as sourness accompanied by a burning sensation. Stomach acid backflow into the esophagus usually comes in the form of bile, which is a distinct sign of acid reflux and indigestion.
4. It gets worse with caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco use. Acid reflux is caused by the gastroesophageal sphincter weakening, leading to regurgitation of stomach contents back to the esophagus.
Ingredients in caffeinated and alcoholic products are known to weaken the gastroesophageal sphincter. Other foods such as chocolate, foods high in fat and acid, as well as mint, onions, and garlic may produce the same reaction.
5. You feel discomfort in your throat. Acid backflow is usually accompanied with a strong acidic sensation in the throat, precisely because the acid is not meant to occur outside the stomach.
If your throat feels scratchy, itchy, or tingly after burping, these are clear signs of acid reflux. A burning sensation in the throat accompanied by bad smell is a telling sign you have stomach problems.
6. Your tonsils are affected. Some patients may instinctively visit their dentist for a consultation after discovering that they have bad breath. Dentists can provide a preliminary diagnosis by ruling out the cause of bad breath.
Inflammation around the throat, together with acid erosion on the teeth, are signs to watch out for. Your dentist may recommend a visit to a physician after the dental exam once signs of irritation are found.
The Causes of Bad Breath from Acid Reflux
Acid reflux itself isn’t the reason behind bad breath. There are two ways this situation could aggravate the smelly symptoms, and cause longer episodes of foul oral breath:
1. Tooth Decay: The stomach may be exposed to these strong acids, but it is also lined with a protective barrier that keeps the acid from “burning” the stomach. However, other parts of the body don’t have this lining and will be susceptible to acid damage, given prolonged exposure.
Over time, acid wafting up through the esophagus and to the mouth can cause teeth to slowly erode and rot. The build-up of decaying matter around the teeth could contribute to the bad smell, especially after the teeth rots. Maintain proper oral hygiene to prevent plaque and bacteria accumulation on and between your teeth.
2. Bacteria In Mouth and Throat: The esophagus is designed to be a highway for the food from the mouth to the stomach. With acid reflux, there is a backward flow or particles that are not meant to stay in the esophagus.
When left untreated, bacteria can grow on the walls of the esophagus, leading to bad breath. Irritation, itchiness, and a tingling sensation are signs of bacteria presence in the throat.
Home Remedies for Acid Reflux Breath
- Observe good oral hygiene
- Drink pineapple juice
- Consume a lot of water
- Have some healthy yogurt to promote good bacteria growth
- Drink milk to counteract bad breath
- Eat a slice of orange or lemon after meals
- Use products with zinc to keep bad breath at bay
- Drink green tea
- Snack with apples
- Make a homemade mouthwash with vinegar or baking soda
Treating Bad Breath from Acid Reflux
One definitive way to treat bad breath is to treat the cause of acid reflux. Triggers can be anything from simple lifestyle choices to treatable gastrointestinal problems. Common causes include:
- Being obese or overweight
- Putting pressure on the stomach valve by eating too much food at once
- Lying down immediately after meals
- Snacking close to bedtime
- Eating foods that are highly acidic
- Consuming large amounts of fatty, fried, or spicy foods
- Patients with hiatal hernia are known to experience acid reflux. This occurs when the upper part of the stomach bulges and moves above the diaphragm.
- Pregnant women commonly experience acid reflux during pregnancy. Symptoms worsen over the course of the third trimester, but immediately go away after delivery
- Taking medication such as ibuprofen, muscle relaxers, and blood pressure regulators
Treating Acid Reflux: When Will It Go Away?
Acid reflux usually goes away on its own. On the other hand, those with chronic acid reflux or GERD may be prescribed with medication to help with acid reflux. Not all GERD medication are compatible with one patient, so it may take a while to find the right treatment.
Bad breath can go away in as little as a week up to three weeks, depending on your treatment plan.
The best way to get rid of bad breath caused by acid reflux is to treat acid reflux itself. On the other hand, knowing some quick fixes can help you get through an entire day without having to worry about acid reflux breath:
- Stay hydrated. Always have a glass of water next to you. Dilute the stomach acid as much as possible by drinking large amounts of water.
- Consider mint and parsley. Both are known to help with bad breath so keep an eye out for these garnishes when dining with people.
- Use raw lemon. Lemon is said to help keep the gastroesophageal sphincter close. A slice or two is fine; consuming acid more than necessary may worsen acid reflux.
- Use antacids to neutralize stomach acidity. Some antacids are best used 20-30 minutes before or after a meal. Follow clear instructions to make the most out of the medicine.
- Take some deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL) chews. DGL chews are known to increase mucus production, which helps protect the esophagus and stomach from acid exposure. These are also typically prescribed to help with ulcer, although not to the extent that they replace antacids.
- Don’t drink coffee on an empty stomach. Make sure to grab something to eat before consuming anything caffeinated or carbonated.
- Refrain from overeating. Similarly, eating too much can put a lot of load on the gastroesophageal sphincter, which can worsen acid reflux. Eat moderately and stay away from spicy and acidic food until symptoms improve.
Do you think your bad breath is a sign of a stomach problem? Book a consultation with Gastro Center NJ today to get a proper diagnosis on your stomach health.
Jump to Topic
- Introduction to GERD
- Causes of GERD
- Symptoms of GERD
- Heartburn and GERD
What are the common symptoms of GERD?
Chronic heartburn is the most frequently reported symptom of GERD. Acid regurgitation (refluxed acid into the mouth) is another common symptom, sometimes associated with sour or bitter taste.
Can symptoms other than heartburn be signs of GERD?
Numerous symptoms other than heartburn are associated with GERD. These may include belching, difficulty or pain when swallowing, or waterbrash (sudden excess of saliva).
An alarming symptom needing prompt medical attention is dysphagia (the sensation of food sticking in the esophagus).
Other GERD symptoms may involve chronic sore throat, laryngitis, throat clearing, chronic cough, and other oral complaints such as inflammation of the gums and erosion of the enamel of the teeth. Small amounts of acid can reflux into the back of the throat or into the lungs and cause irritation.
Hoarseness in the morning, a sour taste, or bad breath may be clues of GERD. Chronic asthma, cough, wheezing, and noncardiac chest pain, (it may feel like angina) may be due to GERD. People with these symptoms often have less frequent or even absent typical symptoms of GERD such as heartburn.
Learn More about GERD
Chest pain or chest pressure may indicate acid reflux. Nevertheless, this kind of pain or discomfort should prompt urgent medical evaluation. Possible heart conditions must always be excluded first.
When seeing a doctor, relief or improvement of symptoms after a two-week trial therapy with a proton pump inhibitor (a prescription medication that inhibits gastric acid secretion) is an indication that GERD is the likely cause. This can also be confirmed with pH monitoring, which measures the level of acid refluxing into the esophagus and as high as the larynx.
Adapted from IFFGD Publication: GERD Questions and Answers. Revised 2010 by Ronnie Fass, MD, Chair, Division of GI and Hepatology, Metro Health Medical Center, Cleveland, OH. Original Contributors: Joel E. Richter, MD, Philip O. Katz, MD, and J. Patrick Waring, M.D. Editor: William F. Norton, International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders, Milwaukee, WI.
Bad Breath From Stomach Problems
Think about a time when you had a stomach illness or intense heartburn. Do you remember also having a sour taste in your mouth? If you did, you most likely had smelly breath, too. Bad breath from stomach problems is a struggle for people dealing with stomach-related health issues and certain diseases.
There are several medical conditions related to your stomach, lungs and kidneys that can also have a direct impact on your breath. If you are being treated for a chronic illness, you may not realize that your breath has developed a bad odor. This can be made worse since many medications also cause dry mouth, another contributor to bad breath.
What causes bad breath from the stomach?
If you have been diagnosed or are being treated for a serious disease, be aware of any changes in your mouth. Those can be your first signs of bad breath. Here are just a few stomach illnesses that can lead to bad breath:
Chronic acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) – This is when some of the stomach’s content flows back up into the esophagus. When this acid is regurgitated, it causes a burning sensation or heartburn. It also changes the taste in your mouth.
Gastrointestinal disease – These can include a variety of conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), colitis, colon polyps and cancer, in addition to other medical issues related to digestion. These, in turn, can create heartburn, burping and other symptoms that can lead to changes in your mouth and bad breath.
Stomach ulcers – When the stomach lining is irritated or inflamed, it can’t protect against acid, which causes an open sore that can be easily irritated with smoking, drinking alcohol, excessive stress or eating spicy food. Burning stomach pain is a fairly typical sign of having a gastric ulcer. The heartburn and belching can have a direct impact on your breath.
Kidney disease – When kidneys aren’t properly cleaning waste product and toxins from the bloodstream, you may notice significant changes in urination, lower back pain, swelling in your feet, hands or face and shortness of breath. Having a metal taste in your mouth is another symptom, which means your breath is starting to smell like ammonia.
Follow these steps to treat your breath
There are many ways to get rid of bad breath from the stomach. You can make changes in your daily habits to help relieve both your stomach and breath issues.
- Avoid food and drinks that can irritate your symptoms like spicy, fried and fatty foods, caffeinated coffee and tea, alcohol, chocolate and peppermint
- Drink plenty of water
- Increase your activity levels
- Quit smoking
- Brush and floss your teeth more often
- Use alcohol-free mouthwash, which won’t dry out your mouth
Know when to see your doctor
If you’re noticing early signs of stomach problems or if your condition is getting worse, it’s time to contact your doctor. Depending on your symptoms, diet and family history, your doctor may suggest using over-the-counter antacids to relieve your heartburn. If you have severe symptoms or you are having complications, your doctor may recommend:
- An endoscopy to evaluate your esophagus
- A pH test to measure the acidity of your esophagus
- A Barium X-ray to see the outline of your digestive system
- A urine test to check for high levels of protein in your kidneys
What Your Bad Breath Might be Telling You
Halitosis—or persistent bad breath—can be awkward, embarrassing and even offensive. And it doesn’t discriminate. Everyone gets halitosis at some point, and doctors estimate that 20 to 30 percent of people in the U.S. have it at any given point.
While bad breath is usually just a nuisance in need of a minty fix, it can also be a sign of serious health issues. We spoke with Ram Neelagiri, MD, MPH, of UNC Primary and Specialty Care at Brier Creek to learn more.
Common Causes of Bad Breath
Halitosis is most often caused by poor oral hygiene, Dr. Neelagiri says. “If you don’t floss or brush your teeth properly, bacteria will break down the leftover food particles and produce an odorous sulfur compound. Likewise, water serves as an aid to wash away food and bacteria, so if you don’t drink enough water you could be left with an unpleasant smell.” Coffee can also cause bad breath by slowing down saliva production that is responsible for killing bacteria in your mouth and digesting food particles that cause bad smells.
Sinus issues such as sinus infections, postnasal drip and nasal polyps are also a common reason for halitosis because they facilitate the buildup of odor-causing bacteria in your nose and sinus cavities.
Serious Causes of Bad Breath
The good news is that most cases of halitosis are caused by poor oral hygiene and can be easily remedied. Dr. Neelagiri estimates that only about 5 to 10 percent of bad breath is caused by diseases outside of the mouth or nose. Still, it’s important to be aware that bad breath may point to a number of serious issues.
Diabetes occurs when your body lacks insulin, the hormone responsible for bringing glucose to your cells to be used for energy. When this happens, the body will turn to burning fat instead of sugar which produces ketones in your body. One ketone in particular, acetone, will cause your breath to smell like nail polish. People who eat an extreme low-carb diet such as the ketogenic diet or the Atkins diet may also experience bad breath, as the fat burning associated with these diets also releases ketones.
- Kidney Disease
The kidneys are the bean-shaped organs below your ribs that are responsible for filtering the blood to be used by your heart and body. If your kidneys fail, they can’t properly filter minerals out of your bloodstream. If there is a mineral buildup in your bloodstream, you’ll be left with a metallic taste in your mouth and your breath will smell like ammonia.
- Liver Disease
Your liver regulates your body’s blood sugar. If your liver can’t function properly, toxins will build up in your bloodstream and give you foul-smelling breath that takes on a sweet, musty odor.
Pneumonia is a bacterial or viral infection in your lungs. When the lungs become infected, the air sacs become inflamed and fill up with phlegm or pus. This causes serious fits of coughing, and when the odorous phlegm or pus is coughed up, it will cause halitosis.
Bronchitis occurs when your bronchial tubes, the tubes responsible for carrying air to your lungs, get infected and swollen. This causes a severe cough that is accompanied by foul-smelling mucus and bad breath.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) occurs when acid in the stomach flows back up the esophagus, the tube that connects your mouth and stomach. GERD is often associated with chest pain, the feeling of a lump in your throat and the regurgitation of undigested food that can cause bad breath.
When Should You See a Doctor?
Dr. Neelagiri emphasizes that while bad breath may be a sign of something more serious, most of the time it’s not. “Before visiting a doctor, make sure you brush your teeth regularly, and try to drink more water and gargle with wash. If it doesn’t go away, then come in and get it checked out. If you think the bad breath may be caused by something more serious, pay attention to your body. There will be other noticeable symptoms that indicate something is wrong.”
Concerned about bad breath? Find a doctor near you.
Is Reflux Giving You Bad Breath?? (And What To Do About it!)
In the meantime…
One thing I will tell you about GERD/reflux is that a big part of the problem is that the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) is not closing properly. And a very important factor in keeping that LES closed is adequate stomach acid.
That’s important to understand as we go through some of these helpful tips to try on the fly…
Quick Treatments For Bad Breath From Reflux:
- Chug a glass of water: First thing! (This is less ideal if you just ate a huge meal.)
- Fresh parsley: This can be helpful for any type of bad breath. Grab some garnish off a plate and chew!
- Lemon: Stimulate stagnant digestion and the closing of that LES … Is that ever-so-slight leaning away thing happening while out at a bar on a date? Ask the bartender for a lemon wedge!
- Tsp of ACV 10 minutes before meals: Stimulate your stomach acid so you digest better.
- Calcium antacids (Tums): These neutralize acidity. Not ideal right after a meal, but can help in a pinch. (I’m also not a fan of the artificial colors and additives.)
- DGL chews: DGL stands for deglycyrrhizinated licorice. These can provide symptomatic relief without affecting stomach acid to the extent of calcium antacids.
- Don’t overeat: An overly full stomach will put more pressure up on the LES and worsen reflux.
- Don’t put off eating and just have coffee in the morning. This can increase acid.
- Take deep belly breaths after eating: Pull down your diaphragm while simultaneously stimulating the “rest & digest” nervous system.
Bonus tip: AVOID MINT. This herb often relaxes the LES and makes reflux worse.
With just a bit of awareness and effort you can absolutely reduce this very unwelcome issue! Dive in and give it a shot! 🙂
GERD (Chronic Acid Reflux)
Stomach acids flow back up into the esophagus, causing reflux.
What is GERD (chronic acid reflux)?
GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease, or chronic acid reflux) is a condition in which acid-containing contents in your stomach persistently leak back up into your esophagus, the tube from your throat to your stomach.
Acid reflux happens because a valve at the end of your esophagus, the lower esophageal sphincter, doesn’t close properly when food arrives at your stomach. Acid backwash then flows back up through your esophagus into your throat and mouth, giving you a sour taste.
Acid reflux happens to nearly everyone at some point in life. Having acid reflux and heartburn now and then is totally normal. But, if you have acid reflux/heartburn more than twice a week over a period of several weeks, constantly take heartburn medications and antacids yet your symptoms keep returning, you may have developed GERD. Your GERD should be treated by your healthcare provider. Not just to relieve your symptoms, but because GERD can lead to more serious problems.
What are the main symptoms of GERD (chronic acid reflux)?
The main symptoms are persistent heartburn and acid regurgitation. Some people have GERD without heartburn. Instead, they experience pain in the chest, hoarseness in the morning or trouble swallowing. You may feel like you have food stuck in your throat, or like you are choking or your throat is tight. GERD can also cause a dry cough and bad breath.
What is heartburn?
Heartburn is a symptom of acid reflux. It’s a painful burning sensation in the middle of your chest caused by irritation to the lining of the esophagus caused by stomach acid.
This burning can come on anytime but is often worse after eating. For many people heartburn worsens when they recline or lie in bed, which makes it hard to get a good night’s sleep.
Fortunately, heartburn can usually be managed with over-the-counter (OTC) heartburn/acid indigestion drugs. Your healthcare provider can also prescribe stronger medicines to help tame your heartburn.
What do I do if I think I have GERD (chronic acid reflux)?
With GERD — when reflux and heartburn happen more than once in a while — the tissue lining your esophagus is getting battered regularly with stomach acid. Eventually the tissue becomes damaged. If you have this chronic acid reflux and heartburn you can see it’s affecting your daily eating and sleeping habits.
When GERD makes your daily life uncomfortable in this way, call your healthcare provider. Although GERD isn’t life-threatening in itself, its chronic inflammation of the esophagus can lead to something more serious. You may need stronger prescription medications or even surgery to ease your symptoms.
How common is GERD (chronic acid reflux)?
GERD is very common. The condition and its symptoms touch a huge number of people: 20% of the U.S. population.
Anyone of any age can develop GERD, but some may be more at risk for it. For example, the chances you’ll have some form of GERD (mild or severe) increase after age 40.
You’re also more likely to have it if you’re:
- Overweight or obese.
- Smoking or are regularly exposed to second-hand smoke.
- Taking certain medications that may cause acid reflux.
What causes acid reflux?
Acid reflux is caused by weakness or relaxation of the lower esophageal sphincter (valve). Normally this valve closes tightly after food enters your stomach. If it relaxes when it shouldn’t, your stomach contents rise back up into the esophagus.
Factors that can lead to this include:
- Too much pressure on the abdomen. Some pregnant women experience heartburn almost daily because of this increased pressure.
- Particular types of food (for example, dairy, spicy or fried foods) and eating habits.
- Medications that include medicines for asthma, high blood pressure and allergies; as well as painkillers, sedatives and anti-depressants.
- A hiatal hernia. The upper part of the stomach bulges into the diaphragm, getting in the way of normal intake of food.
What are the symptoms of GERD (chronic acid reflux)?
Different people are affected in different ways by GERD. The most common symptoms are:
- Regurgitation (food comes back into your mouth from the esophagus).
- The feeling of food caught in your throat.
- Chest pain.
- Problem swallowing.
- Sore throat and hoarseness.
How do I know I’m having heartburn and not a heart attack?
Chest pain caused by heartburn may make you afraid you’re having a heart attack. Heartburn has nothing to do with your heart, but since the discomfort is in your chest it may be hard to know the difference while it’s going on. But symptoms of a heart attack are different than heartburn.
Heartburn is that uncomfortable burning feeling or pain in your chest that can move up to your neck and throat. A heart attack can cause pain in the arms, neck and jaw, shortness of breath, sweating, nausea, dizziness, extreme fatigue and anxiety, among other symptoms.
If your heartburn medication doesn’t help and your chest pain is accompanied by these symptoms, call for medical attention right away.
Can GERD (chronic acid reflux) cause asthma?
We don’t know the exact relationship between GERD and asthma. More than 75% of people with asthma have GERD. They are twice as likely to have GERD as people without asthma. GERD may make asthma symptoms worse, and asthma drugs may make GERD worse. But treating GERD often helps to relieve asthma symptoms.
The symptoms of GERD can injure the lining of the throat, airways and lungs, making breathing difficult and causing a persistent cough, which may suggest a link. Doctors mostly look at GERD as a cause of asthma if:
- Asthma begins in adulthood.
- Asthma symptoms get worse after a meal, exercise, at night and after lying down.
- Asthma doesn’t get better with standard asthma treatments.
If you have asthma and GERD, your healthcare provider can help you find the best ways to handles both conditions — the right medications and treatments that won’t aggravate symptoms of either disease.
Is GERD (chronic acid reflux) dangerous or life-threatening?
GERD isn’t life-threatening or dangerous in itself. But long-term GERD can lead to more serious health problems:
- Esophagitis: Esophagitis is the irritation and inflammation the stomach acid causes in the lining of the esophagus. Esophagitis can cause ulcers in your esophagus, heartburn, chest pain, bleeding and trouble swallowing.
- Barrett’s esophagus: Barrett’s esophagus is a condition that develops in some people (about 10%) who have long-term GERD. The damage acid reflux can cause over years can change the cells in the lining of the esophagus. Barrett’s esophagus is a risk factor for cancer of the esophagus.
- Esophageal cancer: Cancer that begins in the esophagus is divided into two major types. Adenocarcinoma usually develops in the lower part of the esophagus. This type can develop from Barrett’s esophagus. Squamous cell carcinoma begins in the cells that line the esophagus. This cancer usually affects the upper and middle part of the esophagus.
- Strictures: Sometimes the damaged lining of the esophagus becomes scarred, causing narrowing of the esophagus. These strictures can interfere with eating and drinking by preventing food and liquid from reaching the stomach.
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