Within the last 3 weeks I have been to two separate conferences, one of which was 3 days long. The experience was wonderful, on all occasions, and I absolutely love meeting new people and having the opportunity to have multiple conversations all day long. Every now and then, however, I would meet someone who suffered from bad breath. I’m not talking about the kind of bad breath that only your partner can sense when you have an intimate kiss after having chugging an espresso or enjoying some garlic on your pasta. I’m talking about the kind of bad breath that you can smell from a distance and is probably chronic. If I had to estimate, I would say about 1 in 25 people I met required me to pay conscious attention to not react to the breath. That is not a lot of people, but it is enough that I felt I could address it here for the benefit of anyone who is worried they are a sufferer, or if they happen to have a loved one in their life that could use a few pointers to help the situation.
First of all, if you or someone you know suffers from bad breath it is NOTHING to be ashamed of and I am in NO WAY trying to call anyone out for bad behaviour or to be the butt of a joke. Unfortunately, it is a health concern and I am sure that people who suffer from bad breath wish they could find a simple solution to their condition. Luckily, I happen to know of a few handy tips that you might be able to put to good use. In fact, even if bad breath is not a chronic condition for you, these tips can come in handy for everyone at some point in their life. For example, perhaps you are out on a nice date and you just can’t help but have some of the delectable garlic bread that is sitting beside your pasta dish – which may or may not have more garlic, not to mention cheese, which is notorious for causing bad breath! If the date goes well, no doubt you are going to want to get a little up close and personal without sharing the after effects of such foods. Keep this post in mind, my dears…
So after a bit of research, I found that as many as 1 in 10 people have to combat their breath (aka halitosis) on a regular basis. I am sure that this number includes a range of seriousness, and I am sure every single one of us has experienced a day or two on the losing side of the battle. As a person who loves to find natural solutions to natural problems, I have come up with a few quick and easy weapons for you to test out in the good fight. As always, I want to remind you that I am NOT a doctor, nutritionist, health professional of any kind and you should only read this as my personal opinion. Please conduct your own research and/or consult a professional before making any lifestyle or diet changes.
How to Cure Bad Breath
At the most basic level, bad breath is cause by bacterial growth in your mouth. If you stop the bacteria from growing, you will stop the bad breath, simple as that. There are other causes, such as some medications or sicknesses, but I’m not going to speak to those today, as this article is going to be long enough with just the basics today!
As usual, I have done most of my research through 2 sources: WebMD and the Mayo Clinic. Both of these sources have sections on medications which, of course, I have chosen to ignore in the interest of staying au naturel, but if you have a serious problem, you may want to seek some more scientific remedies.
There are two ways you can combat the bad breath beast, and I would suggest practicing both on a regular basis: food/dietary choices and oral hygiene practices.
Note: some of the links in this post, though not all, are affiliate links. This means that I will make a small commission if you decide to buy product through one of my links. It will not affect your price on the item and, in fact, I always try to find the best priced items for their value in order to share with you. I will only ever link to products I have personally tried and enjoyed! These small commissions help me to stay in business, providing you with the highest quality information I can!
You may be rolling your eyes and shaking your head right now because obviously you brush your teeth, right? Well, that’s a great start. But what are you brushing your teeth with? I’m not going to get too far into the toothpaste discussion right now because I plan on devoting an entire post to this topic in the future but I will leave you with 2 resources:
- The reason I ever questioned toothpaste in the first place was after hearing an episode of the Food Heals Nation podcast. Specifically, episode #3 which you can find here: http://foodhealsnation.com/3/ Do yourself a HUGE favour, listen to that episode, subscribe to their show, and change your toothpaste ways.
- I make my own toothpaste and here is the recipe: equal parts food-grade diatomaceous earth and baking soda, twice as much coconut oil, 1 drop each of organic, 100% pure peppermint oil, tea tree oil and citrus oil. How much you make really depends on what you are keeping it in. Before this recipe, I used to brush with nothing but coconut oil. Straight up. You know of my love by now, lets be honest.
Next question, do you floss regularly? Do you really? Be honest with yourself, because ultimately it’s yourself that suffers. If you floss today and have any gum sensitivity (you will), you don’t floss enough. The great thing is that if you floss every day for a few weeks your gums will become healthy and you can start flossing less. Listen to your body. If you have any sensitivity, it’s because you’re not taking good enough care of your gums and you need to floss more often. Being on a plant-based diet I have found that my gums are much healthier and I only floss about once a week now, with no sensitivity whatsoever!
What about mouthwash? Well, to be honest I am currently on the search for a great DIY all natural mouthwash product. If you have suggestions, please leave a comment! I will always avoid the typical drugstore varieties because of all the chemicals and preservatives used, but also because of the alcohol. A lot of mouthwash is sold on the power of alcohol, because it kills all the bad bacteria in your mouth. But it also leaves your mouth in a very dry state which is a perfect breeding ground for bacteria to come back for a full force re-attack! I am a big proponent of listening to the signals your body gives you and the burning sensation that I always used to experience with mouthwash just seemed like a bad sign to me. Not pleasant.
Finally, do you ever scrape your tongue? Are you giving yourself a mental high five right now because you do use the little bumps on the back of your toothbrush or perhaps you even use the bristle to brush your tongue? Stop it. Stop it right now, you’re doing it wrong. No judgement, I never even knew you were supposed to do this, but a few months ago (podcast!) I learned that it can make a huge difference in your oral health! If you are brushing your tongue, you are basically just moving the bacteria around. What you need to do is scrape it off and get it out of your mouth. This is the scraper I personally use, and it’s only about $10, so it’s not a huge investment or anything: Diamond Dental System Tongue Scraper
I did some quick research and found that a copper scraper is supposed to be ideal because a) copper is bacteria-resistant and b) it is supposed to add healthy enzymes that create an environment for healthy bacteria (the not-smelly variety) to flourish. I need to do more research on the subject, so stay tuned for a full post, and make sure you do your own research on the subject if you have any hesitation whatsoever.
That is the basics for the oral hygiene portion.
There are two components to this section: preventing bad breath and eliminating bad breath. There are certain foods that are known to create bad breath, and some that will eliminate it. For best results, whenever possible, you are going to want to combine best practices from each category.
Prevent Bad Breath
There is quite a bit of scientific evidence that shows bacteria thrives in an acidic environment. If you maintain an alkaline environment in your body, and mouth specifically for the purposes of bad breath, bacteria cannot grow. No bacteria, no bad breath! There are also some foods that have heavy odours which will remain in your mouth, and there are others that contribute to an oral environment full of unhealthy, smelly bacteria. Here is a list of foods you probably want to avoid, as well as a few details as to why and when.
Foods to Avoid in an Effort to Maintain Fresh Breath
- Onions, garlic – both of these foods contain suffer, which collect in your bloodstream and come out when you exhale. Because this is actually on your breath, rather than in your mouth bacteria, it tends to last longer even if you take action like brushing your teeth. It is best to avoid these if you have a big date or important up-close-and-personal conversation to have. Both of these items have incredible health benefits, so I really don’t want to scare you away from them! Keep reading to find out a few choice options that will allow you to keep these two in your regular meal plans without the smelly consequences.
- Sugary foods – sugar is a breeding ground for bacteria!
- Coffee, soft drinks and alcohol – these all lead to dry mouth, which creates an ideal environment for bacteria to form, since there is no saliva to naturally rinse your mouth.
- Tobacco (did you think I was going to give smokers a pass? Heck no!) will not only cause bad breath, but it can also stain your teeth, irritate your gums and reduce your ability to taste things, not to mention all the other health issues that are commonly associated with smoking. Anything that inhibits my ability to taste my food is NOT welcome in my life!
- Dairy – I have to admit, I was shocked that neither of my go-to sources touched down on dairy as a culprit for bad breath because, in my own experience with people in my life, dairy (cheese specifically, I am sorry to say) is the worst! I searched for this cause specifically and actually found little scientific evidence, except for an article by TheraBreath, which I do not really know the reliability of. There reasoning sounds good, and my own personal experience encouraged me to leave this as a cause, though I want to highlight the lack of support I found. The conspiracy theorist in my wonders if the “Drink Milk” propagandists are at work here…In any case, this was the reasoning I found:’
- “In a typical mouth, the tongue, teeth and palate are coated with millions of bacteria. After a drink of milk, these microbes go to work digesting the leftover lactose, lipids and proteins that coat the mouth. Over time, this digestive process results in an excess of hydrogen sulfide in the mouth, which can cause a sour smell on the breath. Babies often have very pronounced milk breath, for obvious reasons.” TheraBreath
Eliminate Bad Breath
If you already have bad breath, and want a few suggestions on getting rid of it right now, some of these food sources might help you out.
If you’ve ever met me or have been following me for a while you’ll know that this is my favourite drink of all time. I drink so much green tea it may actually be unhealthy. Happily, it probably helps keep my breath fresh! Green tea is rich in polyphenols and antioxidants, both of which destroy the bad bacteria that tries to hang out in your mouth. My go-to green tea is the Organic Mango Green by Touch Organic…so fruity and flavourful!
Similar to green tea, apples and leafy greens like spinach and kale are high in polyphenols, so they work to destroy the smelly bacteria before it can become a problem on your breath.
Probiotics help replenish the good bacteria in your body, which fights the bad bacteria. In a battle against the bad breath beast you want as many of the good guys on your side as possible! A lot of people take a probiotic supplement, but I try to stay supplement free, whenever possible. Yogurt is one of the most common sources (and Kefir is yogurts super-cousin, if you partake of the dairy), but as a Vegan, that doesn’t work for me either. I’ve tried organic Rice Probiotic drinks by Bio-K, which were delicious and quite reasonably priced as well. There are protein powders made from fermented plant-based foods, which are high in probiotics and protein, if you’re into that sort of thing. I get a tonne of protein in my normal diet so again, I try to avoid supplements in favour of whole food choices. Fermented foods are also a great source of probiotics. Stay tuned to my blog because this is something I am new to and will be posting about soon! My to-do list today, in fact, includes trying my hand at fermenting for the very first time (green beans!).
Parsley and basil are often used to freshen breath. Again, I’ve seen both of these ingredients in my dog treats with claims as to freshen my pups breath. She loves to lick my face, and I have to say, it’s not too bad, for a dog. In any case, similar to green tea, it is the polyphenols that are supposed to be the fighting force behind these bad breath busting herbs. If you are making a dish with garlic or onions, you may want to consider adding parsley and/or basil as well, because their claim to fame is defeating the sulphur compounds before they make it to your exhale.
This delightful spice did not surprise me at all. It is an ingredient I see listed all the time in my dog treats, not to mention toothpastes and gum. It is also a favourite for heart shaped candies, which makes total sense!
There are two main reasons cinnamon is effective in treating bad breath:
- It simply smells nice, and it is strong enough to essentially mask other, less pleasant smells.
- More importantly, however, cinnamon is a natural anti-septic which basically means that bacteria has a harder time growing in your mouth. No bacteria growth, no bad breath.
I am personally not a candy person, and it probably wouldn’t be a great idea in the long run to make cinnamon hearts your go-to breath freshener. I also can’t stand gum – I find it incredibly frustrating to spend that much time and energy chewing something without the ultimate satisfaction of getting to eat it! So, what I would recommend is using actual cinnamon. I have know people who love to chew on the actual cinnamon stick, though I’ve never tried it myself. If you have the patience to grate your own cinnamon, kudos to you! That is your best solution. I am much too distractible to do that, so I enjoy organic cinnamon, all pre-ground and ready for consumption. Simply Organic offers one of the tastiest, most flavourful cinnamons I have every tried!
I love the taste, so I add it to my oatmeal, toast with peanut butter, smoothies, stews, and so much more. I bake with it, cook with it and drink it. It tastes heavenly in a cup of coffee and even with some teas. Some people even add the spice to water and use as a mouth wash. This is actually one I am going to try soon; I’ve been looking for a good, all natural mouthwash. You can also add a drop of organic 100% pure cinnamon oil to your homemade toothpaste! Is that enough on cinnamon? Be creative and enjoy!
This section is going to be much shorter than the one above, simply because it is almost identical. Cloves have a similarly pleasant aroma that can and will overcome many other, less pleasant smells, and they are also naturally antibacterial. You can enjoy cloves in all the same ways as cinnamon, with the exception being that they are not a stick, but rather a flower bud. Again, Simply Organic is a great source, with both ground cloves and whole cloves options in their spice lineup.
Whew! This was a long one, I apologize, but I thank you for reading to the end! I hope that means you enjoyed the information!
As a quick recap, if you want to know how to cure bad breath, there are daily practices of oral hygiene that your going to want to commit to in order to keep your mouth in prime condition to automatically fight off bad breath bacteria, and there are food/dietary choices that will either help or hinder this process. If you have chronic bad breath or continue to experience bad breath after practicing all of these tips for a few weeks, you may be dealing with something more sinister than simple bacteria. If you fall into this camp, it may be time to book an appointment with your dentist and/or general physician. Oral health is a very serious indicator of overall health, so you do not want to wait if you have any concerns! Again, I am NOT any sort of professional, but I hope you have found my research helpful!
I love reading your comments, so please leave them below, or feel welcome to send me a personal email about your struggles and successes!