Acid reflux and bad breath usually go hand-in-hand, but that doesn’t mean you have to live with bad breath forever. In this article, we discuss the cause of acid reflux, as well as some immediate remedies you can apply right now to improve your breath.
So, how do you treat bad breath from acid reflux? Medicinal intervention is usually applied to more advanced cases, but making lifestyle changes are great for getting long-term results. Quitting smoking, limiting alcohol and caffeine consumption, and taking antacids are all great ways to alleviate acid reflux and prevent bad breath.
What Is Acid Reflux
Acid reflux, also known as heartburn, is a common condition characterized by pain in the lower chest. This usually happens when stomach acids bubble up to the esophagus, the tube moving food from the mouth down to the stomach.
A muscle called the gastroesophageal sphincter is responsible for keeping stomach acid right where it belongs. However, certain triggers can cause the “valve” to malfunction, and the acid is brought back up to the esophagus. Other contents including bile and undigested food particles can also make their way to the esophagus.
Read more: Does Working out Make Acid Reflux Worse?
Although common, acid reflux can develop into a chronic condition. Persistent acid reflux symptoms that manifest more than twice a week will be characterized as GERD or gastroesophageal reflux disease. At this point, physicians may recommend medical intervention to manage the disease.
Can acid reflux give you bad breath?
Aside from heartburn, the most common complaint of patients experiencing acid reflux is bad breath. Stomach contents may regurgitate back to the esophagus, including any stomach acids, bile, and undigested food that will linger in your esophagus and creep up your pharynx, causing bad breath.
Can acid reflux cause you to smell your own bad breath?
Acids attaching to the walls of your esophagus can be smelled by other people. This is because gas particles can also attach to the tongue, which can aggravate the bad smell. Patients with acid reflux often report burping, which can also intensify the smell of the stomach acid.
On the other hand, acid reflux breath may also be smelled by the patient. In some cases, patients report smelling their own breath even without opening their mouth. Bile wafts from the stomach up to the nose, which produces a pungent, often acidic smell.
What does acid reflux breath smell like?
Acid reflux on its own smells like bile. Anything sulfuric, pungent, strong, and acidic can be characterized as acid reflux smell. Patients also report different smells based on the medicine they are taking to manage GERD.
Any sort of smell present in the mouth can be symptomatic of ulcers and other gastrointestinal problems. We recommend getting checked by a gastroenterologist to rule out acid reflux and other possible diseases.
Signs Your Bad Breath Is Caused by Acid Reflux
Bad breath is typically managed by flossing, brushing the teeth, and using mouthwash. However, more persistent cases of bad breath could point to problems that don’t have anything to do with the mouth.
Here are some signs that bad breath is being caused by acid reflux:
1. It’s related to food. When bad breath seems to follow any eating pattern, it may be because of gastrointestinal problems. Whether it’s eating too much or too little, eating spicy or sour food, the point is that the bad breath is triggered by a feeding pattern.
When you observe that the bad breath comes after drinking coffee, it could be that the acid in the coffee is triggering stomach acids, leading to bad reflux. Test out your breath after eating certain foods and see if any feeding habits trigger bad breath.
2. It coincides with other digestive symptoms. Constipation, bloating, burping, and pain can all be signs of acid reflux. This is especially true when digestive symptoms come right after a feeding pattern.
After drinking coffee, do you experience cramps in your lower abdomen? Do you start burping and experience a strong metallic taste in your mouth? Paying attention to your body’s physical reactions to food is an effective way of ruling out the cause of bad breath.
3. Your breath smells sour or acidic. Bile is commonly described as sourness accompanied by a burning sensation. Stomach acid backflow into the esophagus usually comes in the form of bile, which is a distinct sign of acid reflux and indigestion.
4. It gets worse with caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco use. Acid reflux is caused by the gastroesophageal sphincter weakening, leading to regurgitation of stomach contents back to the esophagus.
Ingredients in caffeinated and alcoholic products are known to weaken the gastroesophageal sphincter. Other foods such as chocolate, foods high in fat and acid, as well as mint, onions, and garlic may produce the same reaction.
5. You feel discomfort in your throat. Acid backflow is usually accompanied with a strong acidic sensation in the throat, precisely because the acid is not meant to occur outside the stomach.
If your throat feels scratchy, itchy, or tingly after burping, these are clear signs of acid reflux. A burning sensation in the throat accompanied by bad smell is a telling sign you have stomach problems.
6. Your tonsils are affected. Some patients may instinctively visit their dentist for a consultation after discovering that they have bad breath. Dentists can provide a preliminary diagnosis by ruling out the cause of bad breath.
Inflammation around the throat, together with acid erosion on the teeth, are signs to watch out for. Your dentist may recommend a visit to a physician after the dental exam once signs of irritation are found.
The Causes of Bad Breath from Acid Reflux
Acid reflux itself isn’t the reason behind bad breath. There are two ways this situation could aggravate the smelly symptoms, and cause longer episodes of foul oral breath:
1. Tooth Decay: The stomach may be exposed to these strong acids, but it is also lined with a protective barrier that keeps the acid from “burning” the stomach. However, other parts of the body don’t have this lining and will be susceptible to acid damage, given prolonged exposure.
Over time, acid wafting up through the esophagus and to the mouth can cause teeth to slowly erode and rot. The build-up of decaying matter around the teeth could contribute to the bad smell, especially after the teeth rots. Maintain proper oral hygiene to prevent plaque and bacteria accumulation on and between your teeth.
2. Bacteria In Mouth and Throat: The esophagus is designed to be a highway for the food from the mouth to the stomach. With acid reflux, there is a backward flow or particles that are not meant to stay in the esophagus.
When left untreated, bacteria can grow on the walls of the esophagus, leading to bad breath. Irritation, itchiness, and a tingling sensation are signs of bacteria presence in the throat.
Home Remedies for Acid Reflux Breath
- Observe good oral hygiene
- Drink pineapple juice
- Consume a lot of water
- Have some healthy yogurt to promote good bacteria growth
- Drink milk to counteract bad breath
- Eat a slice of orange or lemon after meals
- Use products with zinc to keep bad breath at bay
- Drink green tea
- Snack with apples
- Make a homemade mouthwash with vinegar or baking soda
Treating Bad Breath from Acid Reflux
One definitive way to treat bad breath is to treat the cause of acid reflux. Triggers can be anything from simple lifestyle choices to treatable gastrointestinal problems. Common causes include:
- Being obese or overweight
- Putting pressure on the stomach valve by eating too much food at once
- Lying down immediately after meals
- Snacking close to bedtime
- Eating foods that are highly acidic
- Consuming large amounts of fatty, fried, or spicy foods
- Patients with hiatal hernia are known to experience acid reflux. This occurs when the upper part of the stomach bulges and moves above the diaphragm.
- Pregnant women commonly experience acid reflux during pregnancy. Symptoms worsen over the course of the third trimester, but immediately go away after delivery
- Taking medication such as ibuprofen, muscle relaxers, and blood pressure regulators
Treating Acid Reflux: When Will It Go Away?
Acid reflux usually goes away on its own. On the other hand, those with chronic acid reflux or GERD may be prescribed with medication to help with acid reflux. Not all GERD medication are compatible with one patient, so it may take a while to find the right treatment.
Bad breath can go away in as little as a week up to three weeks, depending on your treatment plan.
The best way to get rid of bad breath caused by acid reflux is to treat acid reflux itself. On the other hand, knowing some quick fixes can help you get through an entire day without having to worry about acid reflux breath:
- Stay hydrated. Always have a glass of water next to you. Dilute the stomach acid as much as possible by drinking large amounts of water.
- Consider mint and parsley. Both are known to help with bad breath so keep an eye out for these garnishes when dining with people.
- Use raw lemon. Lemon is said to help keep the gastroesophageal sphincter close. A slice or two is fine; consuming acid more than necessary may worsen acid reflux.
- Use antacids to neutralize stomach acidity. Some antacids are best used 20-30 minutes before or after a meal. Follow clear instructions to make the most out of the medicine.
- Take some deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL) chews. DGL chews are known to increase mucus production, which helps protect the esophagus and stomach from acid exposure. These are also typically prescribed to help with ulcer, although not to the extent that they replace antacids.
- Don’t drink coffee on an empty stomach. Make sure to grab something to eat before consuming anything caffeinated or carbonated.
- Refrain from overeating. Similarly, eating too much can put a lot of load on the gastroesophageal sphincter, which can worsen acid reflux. Eat moderately and stay away from spicy and acidic food until symptoms improve.
Do you think your bad breath is a sign of a stomach problem? Book a consultation with Gastro Center NJ today to get a proper diagnosis on your stomach health.