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Unusual Reasons For Having Bad Breath

Updated on May 26, 2013

Why does bad breath develop?

Bad breath - or medically speaking 'halitosis' - is a common problem and there are a number of solutions. However, in order to effectively deal with bad breath you need to get to the root cause. Some of the things leading to odorous breath might surprise you.

The most common causes of bad breath - apart from poor dental hygiene - is the process of food breakdown and digestion. In particular when proteins/amino acids found within foods are broken down, certain chemicals are released:

  • Hydrogen
  • Putrescine
  • Methyl mercaptan

All of these gases can cause your breath to become odorous every time you have something to eat. This is because they are absorbed into the blood stream, from the large intestine, and will eventually be expelled from the body through the lungs.

Another common cause of bad breath is 'morning breath'. The majority of people do have some bad breath in the morning usually due to the saliva of the mouth drying up during sleep. This means that any residual food particles or dead cells, normally removed by saliva, begin to decay during the night. It's the process of the bacteria breaking down these particles that causes unpleasant smells on the breath. Once people have taken a drink and/or brushed their teeth the bad breath disappears.

However, as we shall see, not all bad breath problems are so easily identified.

Basic mouth hygiene is usually enough to keep bad breath under control but some people have a more difficult problem to deal with.
Basic mouth hygiene is usually enough to keep bad breath under control but some people have a more difficult problem to deal with. | Source
The digestive system, bacteria and food can all be causes of bad breath.
The digestive system, bacteria and food can all be causes of bad breath. | Source

Unusual causes of bad breath

We'll look now at some of the less well known causes for bad breath.


This might seem like an obvious one at first glance. However, bad breath caused by drinking often has nothing to do with the alcohol itself. When we drink alcohol it causes the digestive system to produce gases. These gases tend to rise up into the mouth causing bad breath. Alcohol also has a drying effect on the mouth that contributes to bad breath.

The Digestive System

If your digestive system is having a bad time, not only does this make you feel very uncomfortable but it can also cause bad breath.

For example, you may think that constipation couldn't possibly affect the way your breath smells. In fact, when this happens the digestive system produces foul smelling gases that can actually make their way up the body and be expelled through the mouth.

Having poor digestion in general can also lead to bad breath. Undigested or poorly digested food passes into the intestines where it decays. This releases foul gasses that can be detected through the mouth on your breath. Having a nutritious diet and drinking plenty of water is usually enough to get the digestive system back on track and get rid of nasty smells emanating from the mouth. In addition, when the diet is a balanced one this promotes the growth of good bacteria within the intestines. These limit the development of problem bacteria that can lead to bad breath.

Lastly, dehydration can also lead to bad breath as this condition dries out the mouth. When this happens, bacteria that are usually washed out by the saliva remains in the mouth and their activities causes bad breath. Ensuring that you drink plenty of water is usually enough to ensure that dehydration doesn't happen.

Crash or poor dieting habits

Going on a crash diet or low carbohydrate diets is never a good idea at any time - but especially if you are concerned about bad breath. When you go on this type of diet the body is stimulated to break down fats very quickly. This makes the body more acidic, producing a substance called ketones that can you can smell on the breath.

In addition, when you exercise vigorously without having a proper diet then ketones are produces in a similar way to crash dieting and can lead to bad breath.


It may seem unlikely that stress - the cause of so many health problems - could also lead to bad breath, but it does. The reason is that stress has a huge impact on the proper functioning of the digestive system. The result is that, due to tension, gases produced during the breakdown and digestion of food are often forced up the way leading to bad breath.

Natural ways to stop bad breath

Sinus problems can lead to bad breath
Sinus problems can lead to bad breath | Source

Medical reasons for bad breath

There are a number of medical problems that can lead to bad breath. I've listed just a few but there are many more. In addition, people who are on regular medication, including pain relief, may find that as a side effect they develop a dry mouth. This can also lead to having regular bad breath.

Intestinal Parasites

As well as causing general ill health, bloating and other problems of the digestive system, parasites can also lead to bad breath. This is caused by the upset to the digestive system that these parasites cause, creating gases and also the toxins that they produce.

The Menstrual Cycle

As if we ladies didn't have enough to put up with during the monthly cycle, hormone changes during this time can also lead to bad breath. The pre-menstrual phase of the cycle is believed to be the time when bad breath may be at its worst. This is due to the increase of proteins in the saliva, which in turn feeds bacteria that release foul smelling gases. However, proper dental hygiene usually ensures that these bacteria don't cause any problems.

Milk Intolerance

People who have a milk (lactose) intolerance are unable to digest milk and other daily products properly. As a result this leads to both stomach and intestinal problems when they eat these foods. Due to the upset in the digestive system, gases are produced that rise up the way causing bad breath. To cure this problem, people can avoid dairy products or when they do eat them they supplement their diet with the enzyme lactase.

Sinus problems

When people suffer from sinus problems this can lead to nasal discharges dripping onto the back of the tongue. This mucous is packed with bacteria and possibly viruses that will cause bad breath. In addition, the natural oral bacteria will also feed on this mucous. During this process waste matter is made and this will cause bad breath. Once the cause of the sinus problem is cleared, then bad breath from this condition is no longer present.

I hope you've found this article useful in finding out the different causes of bad breath. Normally a good oral hygiene regime is more than enough to ward off bad breath. However, if you have continual problems then look a little further to your diet or lifestyle for the cause. If your odorous breath is due to a medical condition, then the treatment for this should help. However, if you have any concerns then speak to your doctor or your dentist for further advice.


Submit a Comment
  • Seeker7 profile imageAUTHOR

    Helen Murphy Howell 

    5 years ago from Fife, Scotland

    Hi Buildreps, many thanks for your comments and huge apologies for taking so long to reply. I haven't been around Hub Pages in recent weeks.

    Emmm Yes! Breathing in someone else's bad breath is not a pleasant experience and your comparison to it being 'almost a sudden death experience' is spot on!!!

  • Buildreps profile image


    5 years ago from Europe

    Interesting information about causes of bad breath, Helen. I once heard an explanation that a leaking flap or valve somewhere between the stomach and the oesophagus also can be the cause of bad breath. The most terrible experience I ever had regarding this issue, is that I breathed deeply in while someone else with terrible breath exhaled in the same moment - it was almost a sudden death experience.

  • Seeker7 profile imageAUTHOR

    Helen Murphy Howell 

    6 years ago from Fife, Scotland

    Hi Ghaelach,

    I agree about the kiss on each cheek from someone with bad breath - LOL!!! You just have to keep smiling through and be polite - but oh boy, it's hard at times!!!

  • Seeker7 profile imageAUTHOR

    Helen Murphy Howell 

    6 years ago from Fife, Scotland

    Hi Rasma, as always lovely to hear from you and glad you enjoyed the hub. Yes, chronic bad breath can affect quite a lot of people and often they look to the mouth to resolve the issue, when it could be elsewhere in the body that's causing the problem. Many thanks to for the share - always appreciated my friend!

  • Seeker7 profile imageAUTHOR

    Helen Murphy Howell 

    6 years ago from Fife, Scotland

    Hi Alicia, lovely to hear from you and glad that you enjoyed the hub. It's horribly embarrassing thing to have and luckily there are a number of things that can be done to prevent it.

  • Seeker7 profile imageAUTHOR

    Helen Murphy Howell 

    6 years ago from Fife, Scotland

    Hi Tom, lovely to hear from you and glad that you enjoyed the hub - and many thanks as always for the vote up!

  • Seeker7 profile imageAUTHOR

    Helen Murphy Howell 

    6 years ago from Fife, Scotland

    Hi Frank, that's an interesting one about your friend have a metallic odour. This can be caused by dental problems, digestion problems among a few others. If he gets a check up with his doc this should solve his problem.

  • Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

    Gypsy Rose Lee 

    6 years ago from Daytona Beach, Florida

    Voted up and interesting. Thanks for sharing this informative hub. I've known people with chronic bad breath. Passing this on.

  • AliciaC profile image

    Linda Crampton 

    6 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

    Thank you for another useful health hub, Seeker7. You've given lots of interesting and helpful information about a potentially embarrassing problem!

  • kashmir56 profile image

    Thomas Silvia 

    6 years ago from Massachusetts

    Hi Helen great informative information on the causes of bad breath, found all this information within this well written article very useful .

    Vote up and more !!!

  • Frank Atanacio profile image

    Frank Atanacio 

    6 years ago from Shelton

    wow some of these are very interesting.. a friend of mine has a metalic type of bad breath.. I let him know all the time . maybe ill send him this hub thanks :)

  • profile image


    6 years ago

    Hi Helen.

    Great hub and I must say I wouldn't have expected anything less. Good info on bad breath. I try to keep it under control and mornings after a few beers, seems to be the worst. Although as I have problems in the gastro side of things I get the problem with my breath.

    There's nothing worse than greeting someone with a kiss on both cheeks (as in continental Europe) and they have bad breath.

    Voted up and sharing.

    Have a good week.

    LOL Ghaelach


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