Bad breath is a common problem that most people will experience at some point during their lifetime. If you suffer from chronic bad breath, not only are you torturing those around you when you talk, but you also may be putting yourself in danger. But, many times, bad breath is the warning sign for many other illnesses you could have!
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. Heart Failure
This might sound panicking and overestimating, but researchers have found a way to identify heart failure with a simple breath test. The study and the test that goes along with it was published in 2013 by the Journal of American College of Cardiology. For the purpose of the study, the scientists collected breath samples from 41 patients. Out of those 41, 25 were diagnosed with acute decompensated heart failure. And the rest of the patients had other cardiovascular conditions, but none showed signs of heart failure. With a specific technology, the scientists were able to identify exactly which patient had a heart failure, using only his/hers breath sample.
Poorly managed diabetes can make you more susceptible to gum disease and dry mouth. When blood sugar levels aren’t stabilized, the weakened body isn’t able to fight bacteria that can cause infections that harm the gums. These same infections can cause bad breath.
But a fruity breath odor, or an odor similar to acetone (commonly used in nail polish remover) can also point to a serious complication in diabetic patients called ketoacidosis. When the body doesn’t have enough insulin, it instead uses fatty acids for energy, which produces acidic ketones, byproducts of fat metabolism. These acids, which include acetone, hydroxybutyrate, and acetoacetate, can accumulate in the blood and lead to a diabetic coma or death.
5. Kidney Failure
Now, we are not talking about standard bad breath here. Instead, we are talking about fishy breath, one that you normally obtain after consuming seafood and fish. Your mouth smells urine-like, fishy, or something that is very similar to ammonia. What you might not understand and know is that these symptoms can actually point to kidney failure. If you haven’t consumed seafood for a while, and you have a fishy breath, make sure to check your kidneys. When your kidneys are not working properly, toxic chemicals stay in your body. Your kidneys are responsible for removing those toxins from your blood and body by creating urine. When they are damaged, they can no longer filter toxic chemicals from your blood. And since the toxins are not flushed out, they accumulate in several parts of your body, including your mouth.
6. Respiratory Infections
Respiratory tract infections such as the flu, bronchitis, and sinusitis can be the root cause of bad breath. When respiratory tract infections break down or inflame the tissues in the respiratory system, this can trigger the production of bacteria-feeding cells and mucus.
Allergies and postnasal drip may also cause bad breath because these conditions tend to clog the nose. This nasal congestion may force you to breathe through your mouth, which can lead to dryness and the growth of bacteria that causes foul breath.
7. Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease
Known shortly as GERD, Gastroesophageal reflux disease is another illness that can be detected by bad breath. Acid reflux is another digestive condition that results with bad breath. What happens when you have one of these two digestive conditions is that the food processing process in your stomach is delayed, or sometimes even prevented. And since the food you consume is not moving and is not being processed through your digestive system, it starts to decay.
8. Sleep Apnea
Morning breath may seem normal after a night of sleeping. Saliva production decreases during sleep, which gives odor-producing bacteria an opportunity to multiply and grow.
But the slowed production of saliva during sleep can sometimes be caused by leaving your mouth open for long periods of time. People with sleep disorders such as sleep apnea and snoring may have trouble breathing through the nose, and are more likely to breathe through their mouths, which increases bad breath.