trimethylaminuria and the fishy breath - colgate india

Trimethylaminuria And The Fishy Odour

Halitosis or bad breath can create embarrassing social situations for some people. Bad breath usually originates in the oral cavity, but in rare instances, it can be a systemic problem. The International Journal of Advances in Nursing Management explains that Trimethylaminuria is a metabolic or inherited autosomal recessive disorder in which the body is unable to break down trimethylamine in to trimethylamine oxide which results in fish odour in mouth, sweat, reproductive secretions and urine. Here's what you need to know about the disorder and how it affects your oral health.


If you have this disorder, you have an inherited enzyme deficiency. In fact, most cases of trimethylaminuria are caused by mutations within the FM03 gene. Bacteria in the stomach produce trimethylamine from the precursors of trimethylamine-N-oxide and choline. It has a fishy odour, but it is typically converted back into trimethylamine in the liver by an enzyme's actions. This by-product is usually odourless.

The International Journal of Advances in Nursing Management explains that in most people with trimethylaminuria, the FMO3 enzyme is missing or their FMO3 gene doesn't work because of genetic mutation. This allows trimethylamine to build up in the body and trimethylamine will release in a patients sweat, breath, urine, and genitourinary tract results in fishy odour or smell. In some normal conditions excessive intake of certain food containing choline also will causes the fishy odour. Combining this bad breath and body odour can cause the person experiencing the condition to be very self-conscious.

Trimethylaminuria Diagnosis and Treatment

In order to determine a diagnosis, your physician must rule out other disorders that may be causing an uncontrollable body odour. For diagnosis of trimethylaminuria, the International Journal of Advances in Nursing Management notes that the Urine test must be done to measure the ratio of trimethylamine to trimethylamine N-oxide (the odourless chemical). The International Journal of Advances in Nursing Management also notes that Gene testing can also be carried out to look for any genetic change in the FMO3.

Trimethylaminuria symptoms are managed through diet adjustments, such as avoiding fish and other foods high in trimethylamine-N-oxide. Sometimes antibiotics are prescribed to attempt to correct your stomach's flora (or bacteria). Activated charcoal can also be used to try to bind the trimethylamine in the stomach.

Effects on Your Oral Health

While there is no known or documented negative effect of trimethylaminuria on the teeth or gums, it is a potential cause of bad breath. The tongue is the area most likely to host the bacteria that cause bad breath, so a toothbrush with a built-in tongue scraper can help scrub away this bacteria. In the end, however, don't forget this is a medical problem that requires intervention from your physician.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.