You might be surprised to hear that unless you have rotten teeth or gums, bad breath often has nothing to do with the mouth, which is why breath fresheners don’t help. One of the most common causes is that you are not digesting food properly. If you are regularly stressed, take antacids,or antibiotics, have hypothyroidism, pernicious anaemia (impaired absorption of B12), have had a recent stomach bug (Helicobacter pylori) or are deficient in niacin, chloride, sodium, potassium, zinc and/or iodine, you may have inadequate levels of stomach acid (HCl). HCl is the substance that digests food in the stomach, so if you don’t have enough, food may be fermenting in your stomach and making your breath smell. Other signs of low stomach acid include reflux, abdominal discomfort, feelings of fullness even if eating a small meal, weight loss, diarrhoea, constipation and abdominal bloating.
A simple test, to assess whether you have low stomach acid is on an empty stomach, add one teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda to a glass of water. To stimulate your stomach acid think about, smell or look at your favourite food for several minutes. Then drink the entire contents of the glass and wait 10-15 minutes. If acid is present it will react with the bicarbonate producing carbon dioxide, resulting in burping. If there is no effect then acid levels may be low. I’d recommend you do this on a day you plan to stay at home as this test can sometimes induce diarrhoea. This is a normal consequence of the test and you should not worry if this happens.
If you find that you are low in stomach acid, HCl is available in capsules, usually in the form of betaine hydrochloride. Take 300mg with each meal. However, a word of caution, do not take HCL if you have, or suspect you may have a stomach ulcer – the two do not mix! Also, as stress interferes with the body’s HCl production, relax as much as you can, especially when you eat and chew your food well.
Shani Shaker BA (hons), dipION, mBANT, CNHC, is a registered nutritional therapist with a focus on regenerative and functional nutrition, disordered eating, addiction and mental health. Based in London her services include one-to-one coaching, group classes and Skype sessions. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you’ve tried brushing your teeth and tongue as well as flossing regularly and using breath fresheners, bad breath may be a symptom of something more serious and indicate a disease elsewhere in the body. These include stomach disorders, indigestion and occasionally liver disease which often shows no other symptoms in the early stages but is more likely to occur if you drink a lot of alcohol. Visit your GP or dentist if you have any concerns. The information provided is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. Please consult your healthcare provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your condition. Supplementation should only be temporary. If you’re eating a nutrient-rich diet, extra supplementation should only last for a month or two, just long enough to resolve the deficiency.