Bad breath results from two key issues: oral hygiene and gastrointestinal health. Basically this means that breath odors originate not just inside the mouth but also from your digestive tract. The culprit in both cases is largely bacteria. Doctors will tell you that if you have bad breath, you should first make sure you are eating right (getting a balanced diet of protein, carbs, lots of fruits and veggies and plenty of fluids to keep the GI tract healthy) and brushing and flossing after every meal. But that still doesn't mean you might not be offending your friends and co-workers after lunch at the new Italian place. Here are some things you can ingest (or chew) that can help.
1. Chew on this. Move over parsley, there are some new halitosis-fighting herbs in town. "Coriander, spearmint, tarragon, eucalyptus, rosemary and cardamom are all good for fighting bad breath," says Dr. Christine Gerbstadt, who has lectured on oral health. You can chew on fresh herbs or make tonics by steeping them in hot water (as a tea). These herbs make an excellent digestive as well-doubling the benefits of ending a meal this way.
2. Get some active culture. No, not Cirque du Soleil, but yogurt. A recent study found that a serving of yogurt each day reduces the level of odor-causing hydrogen sulfide in the mouth. Apparently it also cuts back on bacteria in the mouth-plaque and gum disease were reduced in the study's yogurt eaters as well. Plus, the American Dietetic Association (ADA) recommends getting enough vitamin D from yogurt, cheese and milk if you're worried about halitosis because this vitamin creates an inhospitable environment for bacteria growth. Be sure to get the kind of yogurt with active cultures-not overly processed or sugar-added varieties.
3. Crunchy types. Apples, carrots, celery-basically any fiber-rich fruit or vegetable is your friend when it comes to fighting halitosis. "Inside your mouth, plaque build-up causes odors," explains Cynthia Sass, ADA spokeswoman and registered dietician. "Eating foods that increase saliva production keep the mouth moist-and rinsed out. Also, many carbs and proteins can get stuck in your teeth-even healthy foods like whole grain cereal or chicken breast." So follow a meal with a Granny Smith (feel the saliva kick in at the mention of it?) to cleanse the mouth.
4. Masking techniques. Sugarless gum shouldn't replace brushing your teeth after a meal, but in a pinch it can freshen breath (masking odors) and is another way to increase saliva production to rinse away plaque and bacteria. Mints can mask as well, but only briefly-and go for sugarless. Sugar creates plaque, and no one wants a mint that makes breath worse.
5. High C's. Eating berries, citrus fruits, melons and other vitamin C-rich foods create an inhospitable environment for bacteria growth. A diet rich in vitamin C is also is important for preventing gum disease and gingivitis-both major causes of halitosis. Get your C in foods, not supplements, which can cause gastrointestinal upset in some, according to Sass, and exacerbate bad breath.