Not long ago I met with a business professional who I will not describe other than to say he had the worst bad breath that I’ve endured in a long time. It brought me back to a science teacher from my junior high school days, Mr. Y. His formidable breath was suffered so widely that it earned him the nickname Scope. In fact, many students didn’t even know his real name, rather, they would just say, “Hey, I’ve got Scope for seventh period biology.”
Beyond the cruelty of junior high school students, I see two problems with really awful smelling breath (also known as halitosis). The first is not knowing that you have it, which you can blame on all the polite, well-meaning people around you who won’t tell you your breath reeks. The second problem is figuring out where that foul smell is coming from. The bad news is that you’re on your own with friends and co-workers who won’t clue you in to your bad breath. The good news is that Chinese medicine can help you figure out why it stinks.
In Chinese medicine, smelling is considered an important part of a physical examination that also includes looking at the patient, listening to them, and feeling their pulse. Most people don’t have any remarkable smell, but some do, and that’s a clue that something’s up. Generally, bad breath is coming from one of four places: your stomach, your sinuses, your lungs, or your mouth. And in most cases, there is heat and stagnation involved.
Let’s start with your stomach. The food that you eat is meant to be broken down and converted into nutrients and energy. However, if your digestion is funky, that food can sit in your stomach and…well, rot. And that smells bad. In addition, the food that’s stagnating is getting warmer from your body heat, which contributes to the odor–warm stuff smells; cold stuff does not. Think about it–your garbage doesn’t stink outdoors in the winter.
Your sinuses are also a popular source of bad breath, especially if you’re prone to sinus infections. Again, heat and stagnation are players here, and if you think that your sinuses are infected, it’s likely that your breath is broadcasting that fact to the people around you. Similarly, you can have a lung infection that will also affect your breath, especially after a bad chest cold, bronchitis, or pneumonia.
Not taking care of your mouth can also cause you to have bad breath. Not brushing and flossing as frequently as you should and tooth decay can contribute to the problem.
If you’ve been told that you have bad breath or you suspect that you do, here are a few things you can do to remedy the situation:
-Make sure that your mouth is immaculate. Brush your teeth after meals, floss once a day, and get to the dentist regularly, especially if you have any cavities. In addition, if you have a thick tongue coating, scraping it regularly with your tooth brush or a tongue scraper can freshen things up.
-If your sinuses are bothering you, get a Neti pot and use it. A Neti pot is used for nasal irrigation, which cleans and moistens your sinuses. You can find them at most drug stores, and they will come with instructions for use.
-If you think allergies are the source of your sinus problems, get them under control. If your allergies are seasonal, shower and change your clothes after you’ve been outdoors, keep your windows closed on windy days, and wash your hands after petting animals that have been outside. Also, get some acupuncture, which can help minimize the effects of seasonal allergies.
-If your digestion is less than stellar, visit a practitioner of Chinese medicine. They can perform acupuncture, prescribe herbs, and suggest foods–all designed for getting your digestion back on track.
Bad breath is not something that you just have to suffer through. Chinese medicine can help you pin down the source of the problem and then treat it effectively. And nobody will be talking about your breath behind your back.