Body odor and bad breath can be caused by a variety of factors. Fortunately, there are medical and alternative treatment options.
Causes of Bad Breath
Halitosis, or bad breath, can be traced back to poor oral hygiene, certain foods, or underlying health issues. During digestion, food enters the bloodstream and eventually impacts the breath given off by the lungs. Garlic and onions are two strong-smelling foods that can still be detected even after mouthwash, flossing, and brushing. If a person doesn’t regularly clean their mouth properly, food will cause bacteria around the gums, tongue, and teeth. Dentures can harbor bacteria if they are not cleaned well. Tobacco and smoking stain teeth, irritate the gums, and cause bad breath. Gum disease could also have a symptom of bad breath. When plaque builds up on the teeth, toxins develop in the mouth, leading the gums to become irritated. Left untreated, gum disease can damage the jawbone. Cavities, dental appliances, and yeast infections also trigger bad breath. Saliva is critical to the mouth’s health. It washes away dead cells and neutralizes plaque’s acids; therefore, “dry mouth” is a condition that could also cause bad breath. Medications and salivary gland problems may cause dry mouth. Sometimes bad breath is caused by a serious underlying medical condition, such as bronchitis, pneumonia, sinus infections, diabetes, acid reflux, kidney problems, and liver problems.1 With gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), bad breath is another symptom that accompanies the chest pain. Avoiding coffee, alcohol, onions, garlic, citrus, tomato, chocolate, peppermint, and fried foods, while increasing fiber in the diet, can help relieve GERD and its associated bad breath. Drinking plenty of water is also important.2 Another cause of bad breath are tonsil stones (tonsilloliths). Bacteria, mucous, and dead cells can get trapped in the tonsils, and that debris can “become concentrated in white formations”. Tonsil stones may occur from chronic tonsillitis or from inflamed tonsils. A tonsillectomy might be recommended, in some cases.3
Causes of Body Odor
There are many causes of body odor. Even if a person showers regularly and uses deodorant, stress, food bacteria, not washing clothes and undergarments, certain foods (garlic, onion, cruciferous vegetables), and alcohol are common causes of body odor. There may also be underlying medical conditions. Diabetes, for example, can lead to diabetic ketoacidosis and the body breaking down fat in order to make fuel. Ketones build up, leading to a change in body odor. There is also a rare disorder, trimethylaminuria, which is genetic. If the body cannot break down a chemical (trimethylamine), then a “fishy smell” develops. This can be extremely depressing and could lead to social isolation.4
Treatments for Bad Breath and Body Odor
Wearing an antiperspirant at bedtime, keeping the underarms dry, washing workout clothes, and shaving the underarms can help prevent sweat and bacteria buildup. Dietary changes may also cut down on odors. If a medical condition, such as excessive sweating, is the problem, doctors can try aggressive treatments.5 For oral care, brushing, flossing, tongue scraping, avoiding certain foods, quitting smoking, gum chewing, and keeping the mouth moist could all help with bad breath. If it persists, seeing a professional about any underlying medical conditions is important.6 Because stress can bring on body odor, meditation, massage, and visualization could decrease anxiety and anger. Mixing 1 tsp. of 3% hydrogen peroxide and 1 cup of water and applying it to the affected area (groin, feet, underarms) could reduce bacteria. Other home antibacterial remedies are isopropyl alcohol (diluted), apple cider vinegar, witch hazel, and lemon juice. Soaking feet in salt water can also cut down on bacteria.7
Find out more about dental health and the body.