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What Bad Breath Says About Your Health

min read

By Catherine Roberts

No one likes to hear it, but we’ve all had bad breath. It might strike first thing in the morning or after a particularly garlicky meal. Regardless, sometimes no amount of mouthwash or breath mints will banish a nasty case of halitosis.

However, if bad breath becomes chronic, it might become more than an embarrassing problem or even tooth decay. Lingering halitosis may indicate an underlying health issue that you aren’t even aware of.

So let’s forget about the awkward social mortification for a moment and discuss the many health conditions that persistent bad breath might indicate.

Here are the ten most common medical conditions that cause bad breath…

1. Respiratory Tract Infections

You may catch a nasty flu bug, which develops into bronchitis or sinusitis if left untreated. These respiratory tract infections all end up causing bad breath if the sinus, lung, and throat tissues become inflamed and blocked, allowing odorous bacteria and mucus to accumulate.

2. Diabetes

Indeed, there’s a link between unstable blood sugar levels and chronic bad breath. Doctors often associate a notable fruity-acidic odor on the breath to a condition called, ketoacidosis, which is common in diabetics. When insulin levels are inadequate, the body will often excrete “offensive” acidic ketones. If untreated, ketoacidosis can lead to diabetic coma and death.

3. Obesity

Studies draw a direct association between bad breath and being overweight due to diets high in protein and dairy, which causes an overgrowth of foul-smelling bacteria due to excessive amino acids.

4. Alcoholism

We all know that we risk dehydration if we consume too much alcohol. That’s why the day after a night of imbibing; a nasty headache is likely to be your only souvenir.  This is because alcohol acts as a diuretic, depriving your body of water and prompting an unattractive case of dry mouth.

5. Acid Reflux

Digestive issues and other stomach conditions commonly cause halitosis. In fact, a plethora of digestive woes—including acid reflux and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) obstruct efficiently digestion, causing it to remain and begin it’s decay in your gut, leaving you with regurgitation, acid indigestion, and smelly breath.

6. Stomach Ulcers

Another painful digestive woe that occurs on the inside and causes bad breath on the outside is stomach ulcers. Medical researchers claim that the very same bacteria linked to the growth of stomach ulcers, H. pylori bacteria, also causes chronic halitosis.

7. Kidney Disease

Do you have fishy breath? Did you eat a tuna sandwich recently? If you didn’t, you may be experiencing kidney issues. Because the kidneys filter toxic chemicals from our bodies via urine, once damaged,  they will become inefficient in toxin removal and a fishy, ammonia-scent may be noted in exhalation, indicating kidney failure or renal disease.

8. Lung Cancer

Bad breath can actually help pathologists diagnose lung cancer. This much cheaper alternative is being used more and more rather than costly and invasive biopsies and ultrasound scans to diagnose patients for lung cancer. Doctors actually scan a patient’s mouth using a pre-programmed “electronic nose,” which can identify volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in respired breath.

9. Sleep Apnea

We’re all guilty of some pretty evil morning breath. However, if you sleep with your mouth open, saliva production is obstructed during sleep, producing bacteria and severe halitosis. That’s why those prone to chronic snoring, or sleep apnea, will often breathe through the mouth and develop offensive sleeping breath in during deep slumber.

10. Cardiovascular Disease

Would you believe that a simple breath analysis could detect a heart condition? It turns out breath samples can diagnose several cardiovascular conditions, including a pending heart failure.

Catherine Roberts


Catherine is our go-to writer for women’s health news, diet trends and more. She’s dedicated to providing Activebeat readers with the information they need to maintain a healthy lifestyle every day.

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