Bad Breath: You Are What You Eat - Dr. Katz interviewed by WGAL news
Posted: September 27, 2007
Expert: Odor Sticks Around Until Food Leaves System
This piece comes to us from Michele Biaso of WGAL news in Lancaster, PA, who recently interviewed Dr Katz about the relationship of what you eat and how your breath smells.
Michele Biaso, Staff writer
There you are in the office, sitting down for a meeting when something catches your attention.
It's the girl from accounting sitting next to you. You are convinced she ate a raw onion on her lunch break. She has no idea that the slice of onion in the pita wrap she ate an hour ago is causing people in the meeting to slowly scoot their chairs farther away.
Halitosis -- or bad breath -- is more common than people think.
Dr. Harold Katz said one-third of the population suffers from bad breath and some don't even know it.
"That's because you can't smell your own breath," he said, adding that your brain gets used to your own odor, a process called acclimation.
Katz, founder of California Breath Clinics, said the foods you consume play a direct role in odors you emit from your mouth.
According to the American Dental Association, mouth odors will continue until the body eliminates the food. So from the time you take a bite of that garlic bagel, it becomes absorbed in the bloodstream, gets transferred to the lungs and is then expelled you give off a scent.
Obvious foods such as garlic, onions and curry can directly cause bad breath because they contain sulfur compounds, which is what people smell in bad breath. But Katz said there are less obvious foods that can make your breath clear a room.
Feeding Bacteria In The Mouth
One bad breath myth he wants to debunk is that bad breath comes from the stomach.
In almost every case, he said, a smelly mouth is caused by bacteria that breed beneath the surface of the tongue, throat and tonsils.
Some foods play an indirect role because they provide fuel for the anaerobic sulfur-producing bacteria that produce chronic halitosis, he said.
Katz said dairy foods like milk, cheese and yogurt can also cause breath problems.
"They contain dense proteins that these nasty bacteria use as a fuel source to create odors," he said.
What you drink is also important in keeping your breath fresh.
Coffee is a problem because it is very acidic. Katz said bacteria love an acidic environment because they can reproduce faster.
Candy and gum that contain sugar are also major problems because sugar feeds the bacteria. And Katz doesn't recommend adult beverages either, because alcohol makes the mouth dry, allowing the bacteria to breed.
Those cutting calories should also be careful.
"When one diets, saliva is diminished so there is less natural protection," Katz said. Also, when the body also starts to break down stored fats, which Katz said can lead to a different kind of bad breath.
Body builders are notorious for this problem because of their high intake of whey protein, which they use to bulk up muscle. Whey protein contains high concentrations of amino acids that contain high amounts of sulfur.
"High-protein diets are a problem because the bacteria create odors by breaking down amino acids in proteins. Then they excrete sulfur compounds as their 'poop,'" he said.
Water Washes Away Stink
Katz said the best thing people can do to keep their breath fresh is to drink six to eight glasses of water per day. Drinking tea is also a good idea, he said.
Saliva is nature's way of keeping your breath fresh.
"Saliva contains a high percentage of oxygen, which is the natural enemy of anaerobic bacteria," he said. "The more saliva, the fresher your breath."
Katz said foods that contain a lot of water also help. Celery, cucumbers, grapes, zucchini and carrots all have high water content.
Foods that are juicy, such as watermelons and strawberries, also ward off bacteria because they encourage saliva production.
If you can't stay way from the garlic, onions and other stench-creating foods, Katz said to use an oxygenating mouthwash and toothpaste.
Katz, creator of TheraBreath System formulas, said oxygen compounds in the mouthwash and toothpaste attach themselves to the sulfur compounds and create a non-odorous compound.
Mouthwashes that contain alcohol defeat the purpose by creating a dry mouth, Katz said.
Breakfast Important To Odor
One thing Katz recommends is to eat breakfast every day. He said people who skip breakfast tend to have horrible breath because a morning meal stimulates saliva production immediately.
"When one sleeps, there is no saliva production. So, you literally have a sulfur factory in your mouth for seven to eight hours since there is no natural saliva or oxygen to fight the anaerobic bacteria."
And as your dentist has been telling you since your first visit, brushing your teeth is always a great defense.
According to the ADA, food can collect between the teeth, on the tongue and around the gums. It can then rot, causing an unpleasant odor.
If you don't brush and floss daily, particles of food remain in the mouth and collect bacteria. This can contribute to halitosis.
In most cases, Katz said, the food you eat will not make you smell bad forever.
"Once saliva kicks in, most people return to fresh breath," he said.