Please note that Dr. Zollner is continuing to see patients in need of treatment during "shelter in place" due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

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Probiotics for Bad Breath

I can always tell when an idea or therapy coming from alternative medicine begins to hit the mainstream. It is when I start to see advertisements for it on TV. I recently saw an ad showing an attractive young woman walking happily down the street. Apparently, she was happy because she was taking probiotics.

The benefits of good bacteria, probiotics, are now becoming better known. Basically, research is demonstrating the connection between the types of bacteria in our digestive tract and our overall health. The largest part of our immune system is in our gut. For this reason the types of bacteria present, good or bad, can influence the amount of inflammation in our bodies and are connected to the development of autoimmune diseases. The types of bacteria in our guts even affect our mood and energy levels. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is produced in the gut. It is tied to our mood and energy levels. Antidepressants work by increasing the amount of serotonin in the brain. The amount of serotonin produced is influenced by the type of bacteria in our digestive system. In a nutshell, the type of bacteria we have in our gut will have a direct influence on our health.

Yet, for many people, this is not much of a motivation to address this issue. Being creatures of vanity, perhaps knowing that bad breath can be helped by taking probiotics creates more incentive to do something. Our mouth is the entrance of our digestive system. It has its own microcosm of bacteria that will help or harm oral health. Naturally, this is influenced by the foods we eat. Carbs and sugary foods tend to feed the bad bacteria. The good bacteria live off of the fiber that is found in fruits and vegetables. Nevertheless, supplementing with probiotics, the good bacteria, will help change the ecosystem in the mouth as well as the entire digestive system. This, in turn, can help the bad breath cause by bad bacteria.

The commercial I mentioned earlier was selling probiotic pills. These are often a very good source of beneficial bacteria. An even better source is to eat fermented foods. These include sauerkraut, yogurt and kefir. Fermented foods have two advantages over probiotic pills. The first is that a small serving of a fermented food will have trillions of colonies of the good bacteria versus a probiotic pill which has a few billion. The second advantage is that probiotic pills will have a few of the beneficial strains of bacteria while fermented foods will have a much wider variety of them.

One key point, any fermented food you eat has to have live cultures of the bacteria. Most sauerkraut and commercial yogurts and such do not contain live cultures. Look at the label make sure it specifically indicates it has live cultures. Any fermented food with live cultures will be found in the refrigerated section of the store and should be refrigerated at home.