Here’s What Your Body Is Trying To Tell You If You Have Bad Breath After a Workout

Photo: Getty Images/Willie B. Thomas
So you just hit the gym, you're drenched in sweat and ready to call it a day. You grab your duffel, pop on your mask, and—whoa! Is that your breath? Has it smelled that bad the whole time? This is not an uncommon experience (perhaps many are just tuning into this due to the whole mask situation?!). Here’s the deal: You’re probably dehydrated.

“One of the effects of exercise can be dehydration, which can lead to a dry mouth,” says Sienna Palmer, DDS, of Palm Dentistry in Orange County, CA. “Halitosis—what we call bad breath—is enhanced by dry mouth and dehydration, so it’s likely that you could experience some post-exercise halitosis yourself if you’re not adequately hydrated.

Experts In This Article

Internist and Cure medical advisor Dana Cohen, MD corroborated this. “Dehydration can lead to dry mouth, also known as xerostomia, which is definitely a cause of halitosis.”

How you’re breathing during exercise matters, too. “Those who breathe through their mouths during a workout would have drier mouths,” says Dr. Cohen. Or it may even be bad breath from your throat, from tonsil issues. Another reason to breathe through your nose? You can create an additive effect wherein, you're exercising outside in dry air and you're dehydrated. Picture this: You're running dry winter weather...mouth breathing...and you're a little on the dehydrated side. It's the perfect storm of stinky breath.

Fortunately, the fix is simple, says Dr. Cohen. You need to rehydrate “Drinking water and electrolytes during your workout will help combat this,” she says. Water will totally cut it, but if you’re combatting some serious stench (and serious dehydration), you may want to step it up a notch, “You’ll want to replenish essential minerals like potassium and sodium in an oral rehydration solution formula; this type of formula pulls water directly into your cells and rehydrates your body as quickly as an IV.”

If you’ve done your hydrating, you took your electrolyte formula, and you’re still dealing with halitosis, it’s time to see your dentist, says Dr. Palmer. “Chronic halitosis may indicate something is wrong with your teeth or gums, so it’s important to get in for a checkup with your dentist if you fall into this category.”

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