Chronic Halitosis: Why Do Onions Linger on Your Breath, and What Can You Do about It?

If you eat lots of onions for good health but suffer from chronic halitosis (bad breath), you may wonder if you should give onions up to keep your breath from smelling bad. Halitosis can develop from having too much bacteria in your mouth, decaying food particles stuck between your teeth, and a host of other issues. Bad breath can also develop from eating onions. Onions contain unique sulfur compounds that enhance the vegetable's flavoring and scent. However, the sulfur compounds in onions can linger on your breath well after you digest them and brush and floss your teeth. You can still enjoy the health benefits of onions without experiencing the odorous side effects they cause. Here are things to know about the sulfur compounds in onions and tips to keep your breath from smelling bad when you eat them.

Why Does the Sulfur in Onions Linger?

Your body already contains sulfur, including your hair and nails. In most cases, you obtain all the sulfur your body needs from beans, eggs, fish, and many other food sources. However, some food sources contain very strong sulfur compounds that create foul odors after you ingest them, including onions.

Although onions offer numerous nutritional benefits, such as vitamin B6, protein, fiber, and antioxidants, the vegetables also contain high amounts of sulfur compounds. Onions typically absorb their sulfur compounds from the soil as they grow. However, the sulfur compounds found in onions aren't easily broken down by your digestive system. Instead, the compounds turn to a byproduct called allyl methyl sulfide, which absorbs into your lungs and bloodstream. You release the odors in gas form when you exhale. In many cases, the odors can linger on your breath for several days.

Because onions are good sources of nutrition for you, you may not want to give them up. Instead, make a few changes in how you eat onions to reduce the effects of bad breath.

How Can You Keep Your Breath Fresh after Eating Onions?

One of the things you might do to control your halitosis is drink at least two liters of water per day. Water not only hydrates the body, it helps your mouth maintain sufficient saliva. Saliva helps control smelly mouth bacteria by coating and washing the organisms away. 

Also, snack on carrot or celery sticks instead of onion-flavored snacks. These types of vegetables contain numerous vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that help protect your body against inflammation. In addition, celery and carrots help stimulate the saliva in your mouth and remove plaque from between your teeth when you chew them.

Finally, consume beverages or desserts that help cleanse your palate after you eat onion-flavored dishes. For instance, lemon sorbet is one tasty treat that may wash away food odors from your mouth by cleansing your palate. Lemon contains citric acids that increase the saliva content in your mouth.

If you don't have access to lemon sorbet, you can make a light lemonade to sip on during meals. Here's what you do:

  1. Purchase two or three fresh lemons from a produce market.
  2. Allow the lemons to ripen at room temperature for at least three days. Ripe lemons may produce better flavor for your lemonade.
  3. Wash the lemons and slice them into small pieces, then place the pieces in a large container or water pitcher.
  4. Fill the container completely full, then add 4 or 5 teaspoons of honey to the water and lemon pieces. 
  5. Stir the contents until dissolved and well mixed.
  6. Cover the container with a lid, then place it in the refrigerator to chill.
  7. Serve the lemonade with several ice cubes during every meal to cleanse your palate.

You can add more honey to your lemonade if it's not sweet enough for your taste.

If you still have bad breath after following the tips above, see a professional from an establishment like Image Dentistry for care. You may have a deeper problem.