Bad Breath from Stomach? What it Means and How to Deal

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When it comes to bad breath, most know to avoid the repeat offenders such as strong-smelling foods or tooth decay. But your bad breath might not be coming from the condition of your mouth, but your stomach. In fact, bad breath from stomach issues can be even more perplexing than typical bad breath, because it's harder to identify, isolate and treat. Still, understanding the different causes of stomach-related halitosis can help you decide if your bad breath is just from a garlicky lunch, or something more serious.

Bad Breath Causes

Your digestive tract can have more to do with your oral health than you think. Here are some common problems when dealing with bad breath from stomach issues.

  • GERD or reflux. If you tend to have heartburn or reflux after eating certain foods – think dairy and spicy fare – then your bad breath could be related to the excess acid produced by your digestive tract. Those acids can have a sour odor, resulting in those gaseous smells affecting your breath. According to the Mayo Clinic, bad breath can be a sign of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, or GERD.
  • Kidney disease. The U.S. National Library of Medicine noted that bad breath that smells fishy or has a heavy ammonia-like smell can sometimes be a sign of chronic kidney disease.
  • Ulcers. Halitosis in the mouth is often attributed to the common H.pylori bacteria. It is hypothesized that this bacteria not only contributes to stomach ulcers but can emit a sulfuric odor. A study published in a 2012 issue of the Journal of the College of Physicians and Surgeons Pakistan found that while the link between H.pylori and halitosis still needs further exploration, subjects that were treated for H.pylori did experience beneficial results for their bad breath.

The first step in dealing with bad breath that seems to come from the stomach is determining its cause. If you know that you're sensitive to certain foods, you'll know that your bad breath is probably related to stomach acid. Or, if you notice that the smell is distinctively ammonia-like in scent, you could deduce that it might be the result of a kidney infection or chronic disease. Talk to your doctor about what you think might be the cause of your halitosis, so you can work together to come up with a treatment plan for your specific issue.

Once you've addressed the underlying issue for your bad breath, you can consider other treatment options to keep unpleasant scents at bay.

  • Avoid your triggers. If spicy food, dairy, stress, or other triggers seem to make your bad breath worse, take note so you can avoid them in the future.
  • Chew gum. The American Dental Association suggests chewing on sugar-free gum to help banish bad breath, if only for a short while until you can address the real issue.
  • Keep a healthy mouth. Just because your bad breath stems from a stomach issue doesn't mean you should ignore your oral hygiene. Brushing twice daily and using a mouthwash helps to kill some bacteria that contributes to bad breath.
  • Consider a probiotic. Better breath could start with a healthier gut, so talk to your doctor about taking a probiotic or adding a daily cup of yogurt to your health routine. Probiotics can restore the balance of acid in your digestive tract so you're less likely to suffer some negative effects.

You can't always blame bad breath on germs in the mouth. Sometimes, the problem goes much deeper than that. By isolating some other side effects you've experienced with your bad breath and talking to your doctor, you can address the issue head-on and get a healthier stomach and mouth to boot.

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