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What Your (Bad) Breath Reveals About Your Health

by Dr Harold Katz(more info)

listed in cellular chemistry, originally published in issue 235 - January 2017

Some of us have the unfortunate problem of sitting downwind from a co-worker whose breath brings tears to your eyes.  Our first question is “Don’t they realize that their breath is offensive?”  Well, one cannot really smell one’s own breath. Your brain and sense of smell become acclimated to your own odour, making it nearly impossible to comprehend why others near you are wincing as you speak.  This is just one of many misunderstandings about bad breath. 

Dr Harold Katz

Most cases of bad breath are caused by anaerobic Sulphur-producing bacteria breeding beneath the surface of the tongue, and/or in the throat and tonsils.  These bacteria, under certain conditions, such as a dry mouth, produce Volatile Sulphur Compounds, smelly chemicals, which include Hydrogen Sulfide, the rotten egg smell.  Proven therapies developed to treat bad breath (also known as halitosis) involves the introduction of oxygen releasing formulas, such as The Breath Company (available at BOOTS) that attack the anaerobic bacteria (oxygen-hating bugs).

However, a more serious misunderstanding is that bad breath is merely a sign of poor oral hygiene.  In some instances, thankfully rare, bad breath may be a sign of serious medical situations.

  • Upper Respiratory Tract Infections, such as pneumonia or bronchitis:  These active infections affect the odor of expelled air coming from your lungs.  Logically, every time you exhale you’re projecting the smell of infected lung tissue;
  • Diabetes:  If your diabetes isn’t being managed effectively, there isn’t enough functioning insulin to help deliver glucose to your body’s cells that need it. Deprived of glucose - its main fuel source - your body will launch into a backup plan: burning fat for energy. The breakdown products of the process, called ketones, can accumulate in your blood and eventually in your urine. One type of ketone, called acetone, has a telltale ‘fruity’ smell; if you’re making ketones, you’ll likely have fruity-smelling breath. (Since acetone is a key ingredient in nail polish remover, it might more accurately be called ‘nail polish remover breath.’);
  • Stomach Cancer: Routine screening for stomach cancer in the United States is uncommon, largely because the current method – endoscopy – is invasive. But that may change with the development of a new breath test technology called nanoarray analysis, which identifies the levels of certain compounds that are linked to the disease.
  • Researchers in Haifa, Israel, looked at breath samples of 484 people who had fasted for 12 hours and avoided smoking at for least three hours prior to the test. Ninety-nine of the participants had received stomach cancer diagnoses but had not yet begun treatment. The nanoarray analysis accurately distinguished between the different early stages of stomach cancer, which can help physicians identify patients at higher risk of developing the condition.
  • Although the study is small and preliminary, a larger trial is currently underway in Europe to determine if nanoarray analysis can be used as an effective screening method
  • Routine screening for stomach cancer in the United States is uncommon, largely because the current method – endoscopy – is invasive. But that may change with the development of a new breath test technology called nanoarray analysis, which identifies the levels of certain compounds that are linked to the disease.
  • Researchers in Haifa, Israel, looked at breath samples of 484 people who had fasted for 12 hours and avoided smoking at for least three hours prior to the test. Ninety-nine of the participants had received stomach cancer diagnoses but had not yet begun treatment. The nanoarray analysis accurately distinguished between the different early stages of stomach cancer, which can help physicians identify patients at higher risk of developing the condition.
  • Although the study is small and preliminary, a larger trial is currently underway in Europe to determine if nanoarray analysis can be used as an effective screening method
  • Routine screening for stomach cancer in the United States is uncommon, largely because the current method – endoscopy – is invasive. But that may change with the development of a new breath test technology called nanoarray analysis, which identifies the levels of certain compounds that are linked to the disease.
  • Researchers in Haifa, Israel, looked at breath samples of 484 people who had fasted for 12 hours and avoided smoking at for least three hours prior to the test. Ninety-nine of the participants had received stomach cancer diagnoses but had not yet begun treatment. The nanoarray analysis accurately distinguished between the different early stages of stomach cancer, which can help physicians identify patients at higher risk of developing the condition.
  • Although the study is small and preliminary, a larger trial is currently underway in Europe to determine if nanoarray analysis can be used as an effective screening method
  • Routine screening for stomach cancer in the United States is uncommon, largely because the current method – endoscopy – is invasive. But that may change with the development of a new breath test technology called nanoarray analysis, which identifies the levels of certain compounds that are linked to the disease.
  • Researchers in Haifa, Israel, looked at breath samples of 484 people who had fasted for 12 hours and avoided smoking at for least three hours prior to the test. Ninety-nine of the participants had received stomach cancer diagnoses but had not yet begun treatment. The nanoarray analysis accurately distinguished between the different early stages of stomach cancer, which can help physicians identify patients at higher risk of developing the condition.
  • Although the study is small and preliminary, a larger trial is currently underway in Europe to determine if nanoarray analysis can be used as an effective screening method
  • Stomach Cancer:  Routine screening for stomach cancer is uncommon, largely because the current method - endoscopy - is invasive. But that may change with the development of a new breath test technology called nanoarray analysis, which identifies the levels of certain compounds that are linked to the disease. Researchers in Haifa, Israel, looked at breath samples of 484 people who had fasted for 12 hours and avoided smoking at for least three hours prior to the test. Ninety-nine of the participants had received stomach cancer diagnoses but had not yet begun treatment. The nanoarray analysis accurately distinguished between the different early stages of stomach cancer, which can help physicians identify patients at higher risk of developing the condition. Although the study is small and preliminary, a larger trial is currently underway in Europe to determine if nanoarray analysis can be used as an effective screening method;
  • Lung Cancer:  Pathologists normally perform biopsies and ultrasound scans to diagnose lung cancer, but using breath tests may be a cheaper and non-invasive alternative, according to a 2013 study. Using a pre-programmed ‘electronic nose’, which detects different profiles of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in exhaled breath, researchers from the University of Latvia collected breath samples from 475 subjects, which included a mix of 252 lung cancer patients, 223 patients with different lung conditions and healthy volunteers, 265 smokers, and 210 non-smokers. They found that among the non-smokers, lung cancer was accurately identified in 128 subjects and misdiagnosed in only five. Among smokers, the electronic nose correctly identified 114 people as having lung cancer, misdiagnosing five;
  • Kidney Disease:  Fishy breath isn't always from seafood: A mouth that smells fishy, urine-like, or similar to ammonia may indicate kidney failure. The kidneys are responsible for removing toxic chemicals from the blood by creating urine. In kidney failure, also known as end-stage renal disease, the kidneys become so damaged that they are no longer able to filter waste products and toxic chemicals from the blood. When this happens, the dangerous toxins and waste not discharged from the body accumulate and affect nearly every part of the body. The fishy breath odour can occur when kidney failure affects the respiratory system and causes breathing problems.

On the other hand, traditional good-old Halitosis has a wide range of odours, based on the type of bacteria producing the stink and the type of material it is using to create the odour (various foods and/or deteriorating gum tissue).

Here is a list of chemicals found in bad breath with a comparison smell from Nature:

Mouth Compound, Produced by Oral Bacteria

Smells Like

Methyl Mercaptan (CH3SH)

Faeces

Hydrogen Sulphide (H2S)

Rotten Eggs

Dimethyl Sulphide (CH3SCH3)

Cabbage, Sulfur, Gasoline

Skatole (3-methyl-1H-indole)

Mothballs, Faeces, Skunk

Cadaverine C5H14N2

Corpses, Urine

Putrescine (NH2(CHH2)4NH2)

Decaying Flesh

Isovaleric acid

Sweat, Rancid Cheese, Sour Milk

The best advice, when it comes to bad breath, is to keep your mouth as clean as possible, with oral products that actually attack the source of the problem.  That’s why The Breath Co formulas (mouthwashes, toothpaste, lozenges, and gum) have become the #1 formula in the US and are now available at BOOTS, SuperDrug, and other chemists in the UK.

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About Dr Harold Katz

Dr Harold Katz is a dentist with an advanced degree in bacteriology and a lifelong advocate of good oral health. Dr Harold Katz is the founder of The California Breath Clinics and the developer of The Breath Company line of premium oral care products. He is an internationally recognized expert in the fields of bad breath, taste disorders, tonsil stones and dry mouth. Known as the 'Bad Breath Guru' due to his numerous television appearances on US shows like The View and the CBS Early Show, he has helped millions of people around the world eliminate their bad breath problems. Dr Katz is a graduate of the UCLA School of Dentistry and holder of a separate degree in Bacteriology, also from UCLA. In the 1970s he established a thriving dental practice in Beverly Hills, California, minutes from bustling 20th Century Fox Studios. There, he perfected his dental techniques while working with some of Hollywood's biggest stars. Dr Katz may be contacted via  drkatz@drkatz.com    www.thebreathco.com

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