If your favorite foods include garlic bread, pesto, and shrimp scampi, there’s a good chance you’ve had garlic breath. Garlic breath is the price we pay for the extra flavor this member of the onion family adds. Garlic has been eaten for thousands of years. That means that for thousands of years people have been trying to cover or eliminate the smell that it leaves behind!
There’s a reason why this tiny vegetable makes such a big impact. The more you understand why garlic causes bad breath, the better you’ll know how to get rid of garlic breath fast.
Why Do We Get Garlic Breath?
You might think that your breath smells like garlic simply because after you eat it, it sticks to your teeth and gums. That’s only part of the story. As it turns out, there’s something about garlic’s chemical makeup that gives it its staying power.
When garlic is chopped up or chewed, it releases four volatile sulfur compounds. They are:
- Allyl Methyl Sulfide
- Allyl Methyl Disulfide
- Allyl Mercaptan
- Diallyl Disulfide
The good news is that all of these sulfides are really good for you. They have been shown to lower the risk of many different types of cancer, including breast cancer, colon cancer and skin cancer. Unfortunately, they come at a price – a bad smell on your breath.
These compounds are all strong, but the one that lasts longest is called “Allyl Methyl Sulfide.” When Allyl Methyl Sulfide is digested, it stays in the body for a long time and is absorbed in our bloodstream. It then travels through our lungs.
What’s really interesting about this process is that it happens whether we eat the garlic through food we chew and swallow or through food that enters our system in another way. Back in 1936 doctors ordered a patient fed through a feeding tube, and the food they were given was garlic soup. Even though the soup never touched the patient’s mouth, they ended up with garlic breath!
This story won’t come as a big surprise to anybody who has ever had a big garlicky dinner and then found that their sweat smelled of garlic the next day. The same compounds that invade our lungs also leak out through our pores.
How Long Does Garlic Breath Last?
If you’re trying to get rid of garlic breath and hoping it will just go away on its own, we have bad news for you. Garlic breath will last for as long as the Allyl Methyl Sulfide stays in your system, and that can be anywhere from a few hours to as long as two days. The compound is not only found in your lungs and sweat, but will also make its way into your urine because it passes through your kidneys.
In a Pinch? Quick Ways to Get Rid of Garlic Breath Fast
Because garlic breath is actually in your blood stream, getting rid of it can be a real challenge. There are really only two ways: masking the smell or neutralizing it. If you are in a rush and need to get rid of garlic breath fast, your only option is to mask it.
Many people try to mask garlic breath with mints, mouthwash, or other foods. They also try brushing their teeth. Though this works, the impact of masking only lasts for a few moments. Still, it can help to know which of these temporary solutions work. Here are the best ways to mask garlic breath:
- Brushing your teeth – The advantage of brushing your teeth is that it will remove any smelly bits of garlic that may be left in your mouth or on your tongue.
- Chewing gum – Gum helps in two ways. It can cover the smell of the garlic on your breath and replace it with the scent of the gum. It also gets your saliva flowing, and that helps to wash away any little bits of garlic that may be coating your tongue, your teeth or your gums.
- Mouthwash – Mouthwash will do the same thing that gum or brushing your teeth do. It covers the smell of your garlic breath for a short period of time, and replaces it with the smell of the mouthwash.
How to Neutralize Garlic Breath
The best way to get rid of the sulfides in your system – and on your breath – is to eat foods that neutralize them. Studies on several different foods have shown that the ones that are the most effective are the ones that contain phenolic compounds that destroy the sulfides. The sooner the sulfides are destroyed, the faster the garlic breath will go away.
So, what are the foods that work best at permanently getting rid of garlic breath?
- Apples – The very same thing that makes an apple turn brown when you cut it open will break down sulfides in your bloodstream. The apple has to be raw for it to get rid of garlic breath. Studies done on heated apple and apple juice did not produce the same effect.
- Mint leaves – Though chewing mint gum or swishing mint mouthwash only hides garlic breath, chewing on mint leaves gets rid of it entirely. That’s because the leaves contain phenolic acid.
- Salad greens – Spinach and iceberg lettuce, eaten raw, will both break down sulfur compounds.
For the best effect, all of these foods should be eaten within 25 minutes of eating the garlic.
The Best Way to Get Rid of Garlic Breath
Out of all of the foods that scientists have found get rid of garlic breath, it turns out that the best way is to drink a glass of milk. For the best effect, drink your milk before or during your garlic-filled meal, and make sure it’s whole milk rather than skim. It turns out it’s the combination of water and fat in the milk that does the trick. The water washes away the traces of garlic in your mouth, while the fat suppresses the sulfides in your bloodstream.