The only thing worse than having bad breath is being on the receiving end of someone else’s. While many cases of bad breath are caused by something you ate (garlic and onions are typical offenders), if it occurs on a regular basis, you’ll want to apply these natural remedies before your next close encounter:
1. Try liquid chlorophyll
Chlorophyll is produced by plants for photosynthesis. It’s also believed to have a neutralizing effect on the body for symptoms like bad breath and body odour. Chlorophyll acts as a deodorizer, eliminating smells in the mouth and throat and it also aids with digestion which, when poor, can often contribute to bad breath. It’s a fairly inexpensive product available at most health food stores and often comes with a bit of mint oil mixed in to further the freshening benefits.
Bottom line: Add a tablespoon to eight ounces of water and swish it around your mouth for 30 seconds before spitting it out. Spinach, parsley and garden greens also have high chlorophyll content so try adding them to your diet to relieve symptoms.
2. Slow down on the sulphur
It’s not so much the sugar, dairy, onions, garlic and coffee that can throw your breath off, it’s the bacteria that love them that will. Like other acidic items, highly processed and refined foods create an environment in your mouth and stomach that promote the growth of bacteria. In turn, these bacteria produce sulphur compounds that can remain until your food is digested. One review looked at the effect of diet on gastrointestinal health and, not surprisingly, found increasing evidence that it’s not only about oral health – the upper gastrointestinal tract disease plays a role in bad breath. This is another reason why it’s important to keep your digestive system functioning optimally.
Bottom line: If your mouth wash isn’t having a neutralizing effect on your breath, you may want to look more closely at your diet. To beat mouth odour, aim to include more alkalizing foods (think greens and veggies), while reducing acidic items like sugar, dairy, wheat, and processed foods. Lastly, be sure to include a non-psyllium fibre supplement once or twice a day to keep things moving along.
3. Get better gum health
There are a few compounds that work towards stabilizing collagen in the gums and boosting gum health, including vitamin C and coenzyme Q10. Chronic bad breath with gum disease is almost always a sign of a vitamin C deficiency. Vitamin C can help prevent gum disease and gingivitis by creating an unwelcoming environment for bacteria growth.
Bottom line: In conjunction with taking a trip to the dentist to assess your oral health, I recommend adding 2,000-3000 mg of vitamin C per day (if you get loose stools, simply reduce the dose) along with 100 mg of coenzyme Q10.
4. Add digestive support
What comes out of your mouth can be directly related to what’s going in it, and more specifically, how you digest your food. A 2010 study showed that oral administration of probiotics improved halitosis and also showed beneficial effects on bleeding gums. A similar study showed that probiotics can benefits on patients with periodontal disease by boosting salivary levels and improving plaque index. The International Journal of Contemporary Dentistry looked at the use of probiotics in cavities, periodontal diseases, halitosis and oral candidiasis and found that it was associated with an overall improvement in oral health.
Bottom line: I recommend adding digestive enzymes with each meal to improve the breakdown and absorption of nutrients, and a high quality probiotic with 14 billion cells per capsule 1-2 times per day on an empty stomach. You should also consume more unflavoured, unsweetened yogurt for this effect.
5. Check your stomach’s acid levels
An adequate level of stomach acid, technically known as hydrochloric acid, is essential for proper functioning of the digestive system. It activates digestive enzymes that break down food into small particles for absorption. Low stomach acid creates inflammatory changes in the stomach lining over time. Regardless of how good your diet is on a day to day basis, poor digestion and malabsorption of nutrients will leave you susceptible to degenerative diseases and health conditions.
Normal levels of stomach acid help to keep the digestive system free of bacteria, yeast and parasites. With low acidity and the presence of undigested food, bacteria are more likely to colonize the stomach or small intestine and interfere with the digestion and absorption of protein, fat and carbohydrates. And you can imagine what this can do to your breath.
Bottom line: I recommend that all my patients start their new program with the HCL Challenge. You may just find that your breath improves, along with your digestion.
6. Rid your gut of harmful bacteria
Helicobacter pylori is a type of bacteria that tends to overgrow when our stomach acidity is low – it can also be the cause behind any oral odours. H. pylori tends to cause a reduction in stomach acidity, thereby setting a positive feedback scenario beneficial for its own growth. This nasty infiltration increases the likelihood of colonization of the stomach and small intestine by other unwelcome organisms, as well. H. pylori is even associated with heart disease, gum disease, rosacea, asthma and chronic headaches or migraines. If you have had chronic acid reflux symptoms in addition to bad breath, I recommend asking your health practitioner to test for h. pylori bacteria.
Bottom line: Treatment options can include berberine, oregano oil, hydrochloric acid supplements taken with each meal, and digestive enzymes (including pancreatic enzymes, plant-based enzymes, papaya, bromelain or pepsin) taken with each meal. Check with your practitioner to determine your best course of action.
What cures your bad breath?
Natasha Turner, N.D. is a naturopathic doctor, Chatelaine magazine columnist, and author of the bestselling books The Hormone Diet and The Supercharged Hormone Diet. Her newest release, The Carb Sensitivity Program, is now available across Canada. She is also the founder of the Toronto-based Clear Medicine Wellness Boutique. For more wellness advice from Natasha Turner, click here.