What foods cause bad breath?

Many adults are affected by bad breath (halitosis). It can be a problem for self-confidence and how they engage in conversations or interact with friends, colleagues and family. Although bad breath can be a sign of a health problem that requires medical treatment, what we choose to eat and drink is one of the main causes of bad breath. 

Some foods can dehydrate the mouth and that can make it easier for the bacteria that cause bad breath to grow and thrive. Whilst you should not try and completely avoid foods that cause bad breath as they can be part of a healthy diet and add flavour to food, being aware of the worst offenders can help you to reduce their impact. 

Here are 7 foods that can cause bad breath, and some tips to minimise their impact: 

  1. Garlic and onions 

Garlic and onions are probably the foods that we can all agree linger and lead to bad breath. Although garlic and opinions do help to make food taste better, they are a consistent cause of bad breath. If garlic and onions cause you to have bad breath, consider brushing your teeth to reduce the smell and continued taste. However, as both of these foods contain sulphurous compounds that can enter the bloodstream, brushing your teeth might not completely prevent bad breath. 

  1. Tea and coffee 

Most people drink a lot of tea and coffee, but they dry out the mouth and have strong, lingering flavours that can lead to bad breath. As eradicating tea and coffee from our diets completely is probably impossible, and will certainly affect our daily routines, to reduce the risk of bad breath, simply follow your tea or coffee with a glass of water as it will help to replenish moisture levels. 

  1.   Alcohol 

Alcoholic drinks dehydrate the mouth and are usually high in sulphites, and so can cause bad smelling breath. In addition to limiting alcohol intake where possible, reduce the potential for bad breath by drinking a glass of water after alcohol. 

  1.  Protein rich foods 

Foods that are high in protein like meat and fish do not have a strong smell on their own, but they can lead to processes that cause bad breath. If your diet is higher in protein, relative to fat or carbohydrate then the body can use protein for energy. The breakdown of protein for energy can result in ketones being produced and they have a pungent smell that can lead to bad breath. Increasing water intake can help to reduce the effect of a high protein diet, or you could work with your GP or dietician to reduce your protein intake. 

  1. Acidic foods 

Although fruit and vegetables are essential to a healthy diet, they are highly acidic and can lead to an environment in the mouth that fosters bacterial growth and leads to bad breath. To reduce the impact of acidic foods, you could try swapping acidic fruits for apples, which act like a natural mouth cleaner. Melons are also a good choice as they are not acidic and contain vitamin C that can help to fight gum disease and gingivitis. 

  1. Canned fish 

Fish in a can, whilst an easy and convenient lunch option, can also lead to bad breath. When fish is stored in a can, odours are created. These smells can stay in the mouth long after your meal. Try rinsing your mouth with water or brushing your teeth to reduce the fishy odour. 

  1. Sugar 

Sugar is a fuel for the bacteria that can cause bad breath. To minimise the chances of developing bad breath, try to reduce your sugar intake, and also chew sugar free gum after eating as this can help to keep the mouth moist. Avoid chewing gum that contains sugar as that just adds fuel to the bacterial fire and could just make the problem worse. 

Do you have persistent bad breath? 

If you experience bad breath regularly you should get checked out by a dentist. Dentists can determine whether the persistent bad breath is a symptom of something more troublesome and they will also be able to give you some more tips on how to reduce the impact of your diet. 

If your dentist finds that your bad breath is an indicator of gum problems, you should act promptly to avoid the problem worsening. If the bad breath is not a sign of a worse problem, you should arrange to have your teeth regularly cleaned by your dental hygienist. A dental hygienist can give you the tools and techniques to reduce bad breath whilst you are away from the dentist.