THE BLOG
08/11/2011 04:03 pm ET Updated Sep 19, 2011

Is Your Diet Causing Bad Breath?

Let's face it; food is a major part of our everyday lives. We eat to be healthy, to satisfy cravings, to deal with stress and just because we're hungry. But did you ever stop to think that your food choices may affect your breath? Several recent articles have focused on certain types of food that may help -- or hinder -- the quality of our breath.

Although your breath is probably the last thing on your mind when you go out with friends or your partner to get a few drinks, being drunk can lead to very bad breath. In fact, people that are caught driving while intoxicated often have to take a breathalyzer test that involves blowing into a device to measure alcohol content.

When you drink, the alcohol often stays on your breath and can lead to dry mouth -- which causes more bad breath. The National Institutes of Health state that breath constantly stinking of alcohol may be a sign of addiction or alcoholism. Of course, other symptoms must also be present, but a person that constantly smells of alcohol may be suffering from alcoholism.

What can we learn from this? Aside from not drinking and driving (which is always extremely important), when you're out for a night on the town, be sure to bring some sugar-free mints or gum so you don't share your alcohol-laced breath with anyone you have a conversation with, says one article.

From social gatherings to your everyday job, diet may really affect your breath and be noticed by your friends and co-workers. It's important to be mindful of your food choices while on the job to avoid halitosis because you may not have a chance to brush your teeth. For example, did you know that peanut butter can cause bad breath? It's true. As stated in one article, after you eat peanut butter, the smell on your breath is usually recognizable. What's worse is that the smell most likely won't go away any time soon.

According to the National Peanut Board's Consumer Attitudes Tracking Study, more than 90 percent of Americans have eaten a jar of peanut butter in the past year. Yes, the love for peanut butter is all around us. In a recent story in Salon, the author talks about secret binges on the sticky stuff where entire jars where consumed spoonful by spoonful. As if that wasn't enough to make you want a glass of milk, in a review by LA Weekly, a grilled cheese sandwich cookbook has a recipe for a delicious (but bad breath causing) sandwich that combines peanut butter, bologna and pickles. You'll definitely want to brush your pearly whites after that delicious snack! Peanut butter is even munched on in prisons. Reportedly, Vince Neil, former lead singer of Motley Crue, lives solely on peanut butter, Doritos and bologna sandwiches. Let's hope that the former '80s hair band member also remembers to gargle and floss after meals. All kidding aside, peanut butter doesn't just stink up your mouth, but also sticks to teeth and this (without proper oral care) can lead to tooth decay and gingivitis. Peanut butter is a great source of protein and a delicious snack, but make sure to take extra care in being thorough in cleaning your teeth after enjoying the goopy food, so that bad breath and peanut butter remnants don't ruin your smile.

Very few things go better with a peanut butter (and jelly) sandwich than a nice, cool glass of milk. But wait! While drinking milk may help rid the mouth of garlic or peanut butter breath, (according to a study in the Journal of Food Science) bad breath may linger from the milk itself. According to an article, health care experts at the Houston Chronicle noted in a column called the "People's Pharmacy" that milk can cause two types of bad breath.

Of these two types, one is more common than the other. The more common of the two is when traces of milk remain in the mouth and oral cavity and are eaten up quickly by oral microbes. These microbes let off sulfurous molecules that really have a pungent odor. The less common type is a result of lactose intolerance. As you may know, lactose intolerance is the body's inability to digest the sugars from milk (or any dairy product) and can lead to bad breath, gas, cramps, diarrhea and bloating. The news source suggested taking a diagnostic test to find out how much hydrogen is on one's breath. This is because, according to the Californian Pacific Medical Center, those with lactose intolerance may exhale an excess of hydrogen mostly because that is the gas that is given off by bacteria that can't process lactose. So if you're stomach feels a little funky every time you have some ice cream or milk, you may want to see a doctor about being lactose intolerant. You definitely don't want a glass of milk causing funky breath.

While we're on the subject of beverages, do you like to drink tea regularly? Have you heard through the grapevine that tea can help alleviate halitosis? According to a recent article, the scientists at the University of Illinois - Chicago, have stated that drinking black or green tea in small amounts may help stop bad breath. However, the tea must not be sweetened and drinking tea only reduces bad breath odors by one third. Two dental health experts at U of I's College of Dentistry discovered that oral bacteria exposed to the polyphenols in certain teas grew more slowly and produced fewer volatile sulfur compounds (VSCs) -- about 30 percent. These VSCs are the molecules that are the main culprits for stinky breath.

However, the study did have a few disclaimers. The bacteria in the test weren't directly exposed to green or black tea, but the polyphenols in the tea. Drinking a cup of tea may produce a different reaction. Something else to consider is that the microbes in the test were exposed for a full 49 hours. Keeping tea in your mouth, or at least drinking tea and not brushing for more than two days, really isn't (or shouldn't be) an option for anyone.

What's the bottom line? While there are tons of research studies being done to find out what foods really cause bad breath, enjoy your tea or milk or garlic -- just make sure to have an oral care routine that is thorough and oral care products that don't contain harsh chemicals or additives.