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Breath of Fresh Air

It’s one thing to wake up with a stale mouth, but when bad breath becomes a problem, it’s time to take action. Along with good oral hygiene, what we eat and drink can make a difference.

Breath of Fresh Air

Social situations can be uncomfortable when someone has bad breath. Being self conscious about your own breath or being on the receiving end of someone else’s can ruin an otherwise enjoyable encounter. Bad breath, or halitosis, is a symptom in which a noticeably unpleasant odour is present on the exhaled breath. Certain foods may cause temporary bad breath, such as garlic or onion. A stale taste in the mouth when you wake up – or “morning breath” – can be attributed to decreased saliva production while sleeping, and a dry mouth provides a conducive environment for odour-causing bacteria to thrive.

As long as it’s not persistent and it is alleviated by drinking water or teeth brushing, an occasional case of morning breath is not a major health concern. Genuine halitosis, though, is caused mainly by bacteria that linger below the gumline and on the back of the tongue. In some circumstances, halitosis may be due to disorders in the nasal cavity, sinuses, throat, lungs, oesophagus or stomach.  Although rare, halitosis may also be attributed to more serious conditions, such as liver failure.

Water: a double defence Dehydration will exacerbate halitosis. The bacteria in the mouth feed on loose food particles throughout the day, releasing odour-causing by-products. Drinking plenty of water combats halitosis in two ways as it physically removes food particles while also assisting in the production of saliva, which is is the body’s natural solution for removing offensive bacteria. Saliva contains natural enzymes that help stimulate the production of antibodies, which neutralise bacteria. Halitosis may also be the result of a build-up of heavy metals, yeast overgrowth, and other toxins inside the body.

Bartram’s Encyclopaedia of Herbal Medicine states that bad breath is often indicative of toxaemia, or defective elimination via the liver. Dietary intervention works well in this instance, flushing the system and reducing toxic overload. Drinking herbal teas, such as one made from stinging nettle (Urtica dioica), can help purify the blood and eliminate toxins from the body while increasing excretion of uric acid through the kidneys. All of this targets the halitosis at its cause, rather than simply disguising its effect with breath fresheners.

For an alternative to nettle tea, Japanese scientists have also tested green tea. A study published in the Journal of Periodontology in 2009 analysed the health of 940 men and found that those who regularly drank green tea had better periodontal health than those who consumed less green tea. The researchers suggested that the antioxidant catechin, which is found in green tea, could be the contributing factor as it helps reduce inflammation in the body.

Crunchy fruits and vegetables that are rich in fibre are also beneficial in the fight against halitosis. Eating raw carrots, celery, radishes and apples, for instance, can help scrape out the plaque build-up that is responsible for causing milder forms of bad breath. These foods also increase the production of bacteria-fighting saliva inside the mouth. The bacteria on the tongue that contribute to halitosis are said to be sulphur creating. It is this sulphur by-product that creates the odour. For this reason, be aware that foods high in sulphur – such as onion and garlic – exacerbate the problem.

Caffeine and alcohol also create a favourable environment for bacteria. Fresh mint or parsley can provide relief, as can consumption of the nutrients listed below.

Zinc

Zinc deficiency can contribute to halitosis as zinc helps create a clean and bacteria-free mouth. A known antimicrobial, zinc aids in the neutralisation and elimination of harmful germs. Consuming foods high in zinc – such as pumpkin seeds, oysters and cacao – will help. Eating foods high in sugar will deplete zinc, potentially exacerbating the condition.

Probiotics (acidophilus)

Regular bouts of constipation or a sluggish digestive system increases the likelihood of halitosis. Each of these conditions create an excess of gas in the body and much of that gas exits through the mouth. A study published in the journal Current Opinion in Gastroenterology in 2011 found that probiotic supplements actually help replace odour-causing oral microbes with beneficial varieties. Specific probiotic strains such as Lactobacillus salivarius have been identified as helping colonise the oral cavity with beneficial bacteria. Consuming probiotic-rich foods such as yoghurt, sauerkraut and kombucha may help. Supplementation with prescription-strength probiotics may also be necessary.

Vitamin C

As a strong antioxidant, vitamin C protects gums from gingivitis while removing harmful toxins and mucus from the body, which contribute to bad breath. Choosing fruits such as oranges, lemons, raspberries and cranberries will also contribute to saliva production, thereby further inhibiting bacterial growth and survival. B Vitamins A lack of B vitamins – including B2,
B6 and B9 – can contribute to halitosis as they play a role in removing odour-causing bacteria. B vitamins also improve digestion, thereby improving bad breath that is associated with digestive complaints. These water-soluble vitamins are easily depleted and need regular inclusion in the diet from whole grains, legumes, meat and leafy greens.

Apple Cider Vinegar

A strong antibiotic that increases digestive enzymes, which improve food breakdown, apple cider vinegar may help relieve bad breath linked to poor digestion. Take one tablespoon in a glass of water before meals.

Lemon/Lime

Citrus not only masks bad breath but can prevent bacteria build up by promoting salvia, while the vitamin C content creates an unfavourable environment for bacteria. Start the day with a squeeze of lemon or lime in warm water.

Cinnamon Quills

An essential oil in cinnamon called cinnamic aldehyde masks the odour of bad breath and can also help reduce bacteria levels in the mouth. Steep quills in hot water for two minutes for a cinnamon-flavoured tea.

Dark leafy greens

Leafy green vegetables contain chlorophyll, which clears toxins from the bloodstream. For halitosis caused by toxic overload, leafy green vegetables will get to the root of the cause. Make them a feature at every meal.

Pumpkin seeds

These little seeds are an excellent source of zinc – often included in mouthwash due to its antimicrobial action. Chewing them raw will help physically remove food debris and plaque build up responsible for mild bad breath.

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