Even people with otherwise faultless breath and dental hygiene may experience issues when they are hungry. So-called “hunger breath” can be the result of not eating for periods of time.
Hunger breath tends to be most commonly experienced among those fasting or partaking in an ultra-low calorie diet. However even the rest of us can sometimes experience unpleasant breath when we’ve missed a meal, or haven’t eaten for a considerable period of time.
Fortunately, the experience of hunger breath is unlikely to be linked to serious oral health issues. Instead, it is a side-issue caused by lack of food. As such, there are a number of effective solutions to the problem.
What Causes “Hunger Breath”?
It is believed that missing meals or generally being hungry can impact the breath in two different ways(1). These often work together, making the overall effect more potent, and leading to the issue often referred to as hunger breath.
Lack of Food
After consuming food our body breaks down our meal into basic glucose molecules. These energy molecules are then distributed around the body in the bloodstream in order to fuel your daily activities.
But what happens when we don’t eat? What does the body use for fuel then?
Most commonly we then fall back to our energy reserves – the fat that our bodies store for times of famine.
As many low-calorie dieters have discovered, the process of breaking down fats releases so-called ketone bodies(2). These ketones can smell quite unpleasant when they are breathed out, leading to what some experts call “ketosis breath”.
In essence, when we’re hungry, the body moves to a different fuel source, and a side-effect of that is the production of unpleasant scents, which are frequently removed from the body on the breath.
The saliva in your mouth can have seemingly magical properties for controlling the breath. Both the fluid consistency and the pH of saliva can help to wash away food particles from the mouth and inhibit bacterial growth. Combined, your saliva helps to keep volatile sulphur compounds (VSCs) under control, therefore acting as a natural remedy to malodorous breath(3).
That said, it should come as no surprise that the volume of saliva we produce is far from consistent throughout the day. At night, for example, salivary flow reduces, often leading to “morning breath”.
In the same vein, the mouth typically produces additional saliva in the presence of food (hence the phrase “mouth-watering food”). Between meals, however, the flow of saliva declines.
What this means is that the longer one goes without food, the lower your salivary flow is likely to be, and the more likely it is that you will experience bad breath.
How to Get Rid of Hunger Breath
As you can see, hunger breath can be a result of one or either of these problems, though the most potent cases can combine both impacts.
Fortunately, there are a number of strategies that can help to combat it effectively.
Eat More Regularly
The most obvious way to eliminate hunger breath is getting rid of your hunger!
Going for hours on end without food doesn’t just cause bad breath but can also have a range of other impacts on your metabolism.
If you find that you regularly suffer from hunger breath, try to keep some snacks to hand so you can nibble when necessary and never let your body go into ketosis. Also, be certain to avoid missing breakfast, as so many of us do, or you will put yourself at adverse risk of hunger breath when you arrive at work in the morning.
A second method for controlling hunger breath is to address the low salivary flow. Chewing gum can be a great way to increase the flow of saliva, helping to address bad breath.
Selecting a sugar-free version is not only best for your teeth, but also won’t damage your diet if you’re experiencing hunger breath as a result of a calorie-controlled weight loss plan.
Just as food can increase the flow of saliva, so too can drinking fluids. Keeping a bottle of water on hand, and drinking it throughout the day, can be a beneficial tool in the fight against bad breath. It can also help to keep your stomach full for longer, preventing any embarrassing stomach rumbles.
Use an Effective Oral Rinse
Each of our mouths has a population of bacteria which proliferate in times of low salivary flow. This is one key reason why many people suffer from socially-unacceptable breath upon waking in the morning.
As a supplement to the previous points, therefore, taking action on reducing the bacteria which cause bad breath can also be highly beneficial. It makes perfect sense that the fewer odour-producing bacteria in your mouth, the less likely it is that you will suffer from bad breath.
Here there are a range of solutions, with varying levels of effectiveness. In reality many popular brands of mouth wash merely mask any VSCs, rather than actually addressing the causal issue; the bacteria themselves. Additionally, many well-known mouth washes contain alcohol which can dry out the palette, worsening the impact.
Our daily oral rinse uses clinically-proven technology to eliminate bad breath instantly by killing harmful bacteria, and offers 12 hours of fresh breath confidence.
Clean Your Mouth Properly
An effective oral hygiene routine can go a long way towards combatting bad breath emanating from the mouth. According to National Smile Month(4) a quarter of us admit to brushing less than twice a day and a similar number never use dental floss.
Lastly, be sure to scrape your tongue, as this is where most odour-causing bacteria tend to be found in the mouth.
Maintain Dental Check-Ups
The previous steps should all help you to eliminate hunger breath – or indeed other types of halitosis. However if you find that you are suffering from bad breath on a regular basis, rather than on occasion, this may be a symptom of rather more serious problems.
With 25% of us visiting the dentist only when we have a problem, it is important to appreciate that your dentist is a highly-qualified professional offering guidance on maintaining a healthy mouth. Visiting your dentist at least every six months is recommended for adults, especially in the case of halitosis sufferers.
Mask with Breath Spray
Lastly if despite your best efforts to resolve the root causes of your hunger breath fail, you can also consider keeping a fresh breath spray subtly in your pocket or bag as a short-term solution.
- (1) Johnson, B. 1992. Halitosis, or the meaning of bad breath. Journal of General Internal Medicine 7(6), pp649-656. Available at: http://link.springer.com/
- (2) Ketones. Available at: http://www.ketogenic-diet-resource.com/ketones.html
- (3) Bosy, A et al. 1994. Relationship of oral malodor to periodontitis: evidence of independence in discrete subpopulations. Journal of Periodontology 65(1), pp 37-46. Available at: http://www.joponline.org/
- (4) National Smile Month – Facts and Figures. Available at: http://www.nationalsmilemonth.org/facts-figures/