Which foods cause bad breath?

It can wreak havoc on your social life. It can ruin relationships. It can even make your own children run away in terror. We’re talking about bad breath, a condition from which one in four adults in the UK suffers.

In nine out of ten cases, bad breath is caused by a dental problem. These problems include gum disease, tooth decay, poor dental hygiene, tongue coat, throat infection, and faulty restorations.

But did you know that food can also cause bad breath? It’s true: some foods have been scientifically proven to promote halitosis. Read on to find out more.

Culprits of bad breath

  • Garlic and onions. If you always eat garlic and onions, then it shouldn’t be a surprise that your breath sometimes makes people turn away in horror, and not just vampires either. Both garlic and onions contain smelly sulphur compounds that linger in your mouth. These compounds are expelled when you exhale, thus letting everyone in a five-metre radius know exactly what you had for lunch. And there’s not much you can do about the smell either. As the author of author of Garlic: The Mighty Bulb says, “It goes right into your system and seeps out through your pores, not just your breath.”
  • Alcohol and caffeine. Alcohol and caffeine can also cause bad breath. Again, this is probably not a surprise. Who hasn’t woken up with a hangover and then discovered they have morning breath? Alcohol and caffeine cause bad breath in the same way: decreased saliva production. When you drink an espresso or sip a cocktail, the saliva production in your mouth is decreased. This makes your mouth go dry, which is the perfect environment for bacteria to grow. The bacteria in turn produce smelly gases that cause bad breath. So, if you want to avoid bad breath, think twice about your nights on the town and your daily caffeine dose.
  • Spicy foods. This is also common sense, but spicy foods such as strong curries can temporarily cause bad breath. This is because spices such as cumin have a strong and lasting aroma. Just think of the breath of people stumbling out of their local curry house. Or on second thought, maybe don’t.

Foods and drinks that combat bad breath

Thankfully, some drinks and food actually make your breath smell better.

  • Water. Water is a great choice as it washes away bits of food in your mouth, and promotes saliva production. It’s also odor-free. What’s not to love?
  • Chewing gum. Chewing gum is another way to reduce bad breath. The act of chewing secretes saliva, which in turn helps kill the bacteria in your mouth. Gum also helps loosen bits of food from your teeth. But don’t use gum that contains sugar, otherwise you’ll be encouraging bacteria instead of killing them.


If you have persistent bad breath, then see your dentist or doctor. Sometimes bad breath can be a sign that there’s something seriously wrong with your body, such as diabetes, cancer or even liver failure. Rest assured though that most cases of bad breath go away with after an improved oral hygiene routine.


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