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January 1, 2017

By Susan Callahan, Associate Editor and Featured Columnist

Bad breath odor is nothing out of the ordinary. Bad breath,
also known as halitosis or fetor oris, afflicts more than 25
percent of people in the world according to the UK’s National
Health Service.

Bad breath is generally causes by poor oral hygiene and is not
normally something to worry about aside from the social
implications, And of course, simple bad breath can be remedied.


But some more unusual types of breath odor – nail polish odor,
for example, or the odor of feces – signal a more dangerous
condition. Did you know that unusual breath odor could tell
you when you’re suffering from obstructed bowel, diabetes, or
even cancer?

Here’s what you need to know about the breath smells that
could be your clues to dangerous health problem.

What Types of Odor Can Be Smelled on the Breath?

The specific breath odor depends on the underlying cause of
the problem. It is not unusual to smell a rotten food stench,
which can be the result of a build-up of food on the teeth or
the tongue.

Other odors include the smell of nail polish, the smell of feces,
and the smell of acid or ammonia.

Bad breath is not a new problem of course and since ancient
times we humans have sought ways to freshen up our mouths.

For over 4,000 years, people have been using herbs, cloves
and other breath-freshening agents.  In ancient Greece, people
chewed mint leaves to sweeten their breath. Breath fresheners
were sold in ancient Rome, and in Jewish scripture it was
stated that a temple leader was forbidden to perform weddings
and other temple duties if his breath was bad. And in ancient
times you could annul a marriage if you found out on your
wedding night that your bride had bad breath.

It can be hard to know when your breath smells unusual or
bad. Experts suggest a test where you lick your wrist and let it
dry, then smell your wrist. If there’s a bad smell, chances are
your breath is also smelly. But you could also get your
smartphone to tell you – a leading mobile phone company in
Japan, NTT DOCOMO, is developing a smartphone that contains
sensors which tell you when you have bad breath.

What Are the Causes of Unusual Breath Odor?

Shall we round up the usual suspects? Some common causes of
typical bad breath include smoking, food stuck in the teeth that
is being broken down, a
dry mouth, lack of effective tooth
brushing and crash diets --- where fats are being broken down
that give off ketones, compounds that have a strong smell.

Other causes include certain drugs and medications, conditions
affecting the mouth, nose, and throat, a foreign body lodged in
the nasal cavity, and some diseases.

Certain diseases can cause your breath to smell unusual, or
bad. The conditions that may be detected on the breath include
some cancers, gastroesophageal reflux disease, liver failure,
diabetes, bowel obstruction, bronchiectasis, and aspiration
pneumonia.

We looked at recent scientific research to see how certain
health conditions can be detected on the breath, and what you
should do if you smell any of these unusual odors.





























1.
Unusual Breath Odors Can Be a Sign of Stomach Illness

Bad breath could be a sign of stomach cancer or ulcers.  The
bacteria that cause stomach ulcers and gastric cancer may live
in the mouth of a person suffering from these diseases, giving
off a bad smell that can alert physicians to the disease even
when there are no other signs.

A 2008 study from Fukuoka Dental College in Fukuoka, Japan
looked at how gastrointestinal diseases can cause unpleasant
mouth odors, and these can be used to signal the presence of a
stomach illness.

2.
Unusual Breath Odors Can Signal Early-Stage Liver Disease

In a 2015 study from the University of Birmingham in the UK,
experts identified a biomarker that could help scientists
perform a breath test for detecting liver disease. Specifically,
high levels of the compound limonene in the breath could
signify early-stage liver disease. The researchers looked at
breath samples from 31 patients with liver cirrhosis and 30
healthy controls. They also looked at breath samples taken
before and after liver transplants. In the first stage, the levels
of limonene in the breath of those with liver cirrhosis were
much higher than those in the control group. And levels of
limonene dropped as the transplant patients received a new
organ. The breath of patients with liver disease is known to
smell bad, and this new research provides the possibility of
using a non-invasive test to monitor whether liver disease is
definitely present.

3.
Diabetes Can Make Your Breath Smell Bad

Many people with diabetes develop an unusual breath smell like
the odor of nail polish, due to the condition diabetic
ketoacidosis which occurs when a lack of insulin makes the
body break down fat for energy and this leads to a build-up of
smelly ketones.

A 2014 study from the University of Oxford in the UK
demonstrates how a chemical marker for diabetes can be
detected in the breath of children, and experts hope to develop
a breath test for early diagnosis of type 1 diabetes.

You are probably familiar with one ketone --acetone, the smell
of nail polish.

Acetone can be an early indicator of the build-up of ketones in
the blood as a result of diabetic ketoacidosis. The researchers
looked at breath samples from 113 children who had been
diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.

4.
Overweight People Are More Likely to Have Bad Breath Odor

If you needed another reason to drop a few pounds, the fact
that unusual breath odor is linked with obesity could be just
the one.

A 2007 study from Tel Aviv University demonstrates a direct
link between obesity and bad breath.

And the more overweight you are, the worse your breath will
smell. The study looked at 88 adults in Israel whose breath
odors and weight were measured.

Overweight patients were more likely to have foul-smelling
breath. Experts are still unsure why but believe it could be due
to a diet that promotes a dry mouth, or a link between obese
people being less in tune with their bodies and taking care of
their oral hygiene. (Read more about
weight loss strategies
that work, according to science
.)

5.
Detect Lung Diseases through Unusual Breath Smells

Lung disease sufferers have bad breath, according to a 2003
study from the University of Virginia.

Experts claim that people who suffer from asthma and cystic
fibrosis have breath that smells highly acidic. And the more
serious the condition, the worse the smell.

In fact, simple breath tests could be an easy way to diagnose
these lung diseases accurately. The researchers took breath
samples from 100 people, four times a day for seven days. PH
levels in the breath stayed relatively the same, which contrasts
with the levels of people with lung disease which remain acidic
overall.

6.
Unusual Breath Odor Can Be a Sign of Kidney Disease and
Chronic Kidney Failure


According to the National Kidney Center, one of the symptoms
of
chronic kidney failure is a breath odor that resembles
ammonia or urine.

This is because waste products that should be removed by the
kidneys are allowed to build up in the blood. (Read more about
how to improve your kidney function, even if you have kidney
disease
.)

7.
Breath Smells Like Feces? There’s a Problem

And if your breath smells like feces there is a good chance that
you have been suffering from a period of vomiting.  Or, it can
mean that you have a bowel obstruction.





















































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Breath that smells like nail polish can
be a sign of diabetes.