8 Conditions Your Breath May Be Trying to Tell You

Let’s talk about health conditions your breath can reveal!

Bad breath is embarrassing. But health experts warn that a quick breath check can actually save you from more than just an uncomfortable social situation—it could even save your life. According to recent studies, breath-test technology can now detect stomach cancer in its earliest stages. Pretty cool, isn’t it?

But there are many other conditions your breath can reveal. It’s important to keep in mind that many factors can lead to bad breath odors, and most of them aren’t necessarily related to a health issue. Some of the most common ones are smoking, traces of certain foods that break down in the mouth, poor dental habits, or a dry mouth.

But today we’ll talk about how bad breath can sometimes indicate an underlying medical condition. Health experts point out that you don’t have to give off an odor, as even the freshest breath can be tested for various health problems.

This being said, here are nine conditions your breath can reveal!

conditions your breath can reveal
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1. Heart failure may be diagnosed with breath samples

Scientists at the Cleveland Clinic used a simple breath screening test to identify patients suffering from heart failure. They collected breath samples from 41 patients in a hospital—25 were there due to severe heart failure, while the rest were due to other heart-related issues.

Using the breath samples, the experts were able to detect two volatile compounds, pentane, and acetone, that were present in high amounts in heart failure patients.

As one of the conditions your breath can reveal, heart failure is one of the main causes of death in America, and the medical advancements in this regard seem to be promising. Research goes on to evolve in this area.

A more recent study found that heart failure patients with higher levels of pentane and acetone were more likely to experience adverse outcomes and die, compared to heart failure patients with lower levels.

2. A breath test may diagnose lung cancer

Lung cancer comes next on the list of conditions your breath can reveal. Pathologists usually perform ultrasound scans and biopsies to diagnose this type of cancer, but using breath tests may be a noninvasive and more affordable alternative, according to a study.

Experts used a preprogrammed “electronic nose,” which can detect different profiles of volatile organic compounds in exhaled breath, and examined breath samples from 475 people. The group included a mix of 223 subjects with different lung conditions and healthy volunteers, 252 lung cancer patients, 265 smokers, and 210 nonsmokers.

They saw that among the nonsmokers, the electronic nose correctly detected lung cancer in 128 participants and was misdiagnosed in only 5. Among smokers, the electronic nose accurately identified 114 subjects as having lung cancer, misdiagnosing 5.

Furthermore, thanks to the use of more specific volatile organic compounds, the accuracy of breath screenings to detect lung cancer continues to improve.

3. Fishy breath may be a sign of kidney failure

Add kidney failure to the list of conditions your breath can reveal. Fish-breath odor isn’t always from seafood. A mouth that smells fishy, similar to ammonia, may indicate kidney failure, according to new findings.

The kidneys remove toxins from the blood by creating urine. In kidney failure or end-stage renal disease in medical terms, the kidneys become so impaired that they’re no longer able to filter toxic chemicals and waste products from the blood. When this occurs, the dangerous waste and toxins not discharged from your system accumulate and affect nearly every organ.

According to some recent studies, kidney failure affects the respiratory system, which is why it’s one of the conditions your breath can reveal.

health issues
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4. Fruity or acetone breath may indicate diabetes complications

If you don’t manage your diabetes properly, you increase your risk of developing certain conditions, like gum disease and dry mouth. The good news is that diabetes complications are now among the conditions your breath can reveal.

When your blood glucose levels aren’t stable, your weakened system isn’t able to fight bacteria that harm the gums and cause infections, which can in turn cause bad breath.

An odor similar to acetone (commonly found in nail polish remover) or a fruity breath odor can also point to a serious complication in people with diabetes called ketoacidosis. When the body doesn’t have enough insulin, it relies on fatty acids for energy, which produce acidic ketones. These same acids can accumulate in your blood and cause a diabetic coma or even death.

Read on to discover other conditions your breath can reveal!

5. GERD may be a cause of bad breath

Gastrointestinal conditions such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and acid reflux are bad-breath causes. Both conditions can prevent or delay food from processing properly in the stomach. When the food doesn’t make it to its final destination, it can start to decay.

Small traces of undigested foods may then regurgitate and cause bad breath. Dentists may also be able to detect GERD in patients when they notice acid erosion in the teeth and an inflamed red throat.

But GERD isn’t the only digestive health problem that can affect your breath. According to one study, H. pylori bacteria, which is known to cause stomach ulcers, is also one of the conditions your breath can reveal because it tends to change its odor.

6. Sleep apnea can cause morning breath

Morning breath may seem like a normal thing after a night of sleeping. The body produces less saliva during sleep, which gives odor-producing bacteria an environment to grow and multiply.

But the lower amount of saliva produced during sleep can sometimes be caused by sleeping with your mouth open for long periods. People with sleep disorders such as snoring and sleep apnea may have trouble breathing through the nose, which means they’re more likely to breathe through their mouths. This can lead to a bad breath, experts point out.

While it’s important to treat the conditions your breath can reveal, it’s also recommended (for the sake of those surrounding you) to eliminate any bad odors. Here’s a great product you should try for this!

stomach cancer
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7. Stomach cancer is a serious case of bad breath

Stomach cancer is next on the list of conditions your breath can reveal. Routine screening for this type of cancer in the US is uncommon, and the main reason for that is the current method used: endoscopy.

This is an invasive procedure during which a long, thin tube with a small camera inside is passed through your mouth so the doctor can visually examine your upper digestive system. This sounds pretty uncomfortable, so most people don’t take this test.

But that may change with the development of a modern breath-test technology called nanoarray analysis, which detects the levels of certain compounds that are associated with stomach cancer.

In a study of 225, the breath test detected cancer from benign diseases with 85% accuracy.

8. Allergies and postnasal drip may lead to foul breath

Last but not least on the list of conditions your breath can reveal are allergies and postnasal drip. These both tend to clog your nose, which can cause foul breath. This is because nasal congestion may force you to breathe through your mouth, which can result in dryness and the growth of bacteria that cause bad breath.

Respiratory tract infections such as sinusitis, bronchitis, and flu may also be what cause bad breath. When respiratory tract infections break down or cause inflammation of the tissues in the respiratory system, it can trigger the production of mucus and bacteria-feeding cells.

If you liked our article on conditions your breath can reveal, you may also want to read Got the Flu? Here Are 10 Tips for a Speedy Recovery.


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