What can I do about onion breath?
October 1, 2009 10:36 AM   Subscribe

What can I do about onion breath?

I like to eat raw onions in salads. My eastern european genes are thoroughly convinced that this is a good idea and won't stop. You know the rest. The standard remedies of brushing, tongue scraping, and various flavors of listerine have no discernible effect on the resulting breath of fire.

Do you you have a remedy that works?
posted by Caviar to Food & Drink (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Take MintAsure pills. They are parsley oil, and kill the odors that are coming up from your stomach.
posted by amro at 10:37 AM on October 1, 2009

I'm thinking drink/eat a milk product.
posted by bunny hugger at 10:50 AM on October 1, 2009

Don't forget to floss -- lots of nastiness hides between your teeth and along your gumline.
posted by transporter accident amy at 10:56 AM on October 1, 2009

I'm with amro. I think this is mostly a problem rooted in the lower parts of the GI tract -- though making sure your mouth is clean is always good practice.

You might also consider sauteeing the onions first. I know it's not the same, but I have this same problem, and eating cooked onions over raw seems to eliminate it.

Some people chew (and then swallow) fennel seeds to help with this. Worth a try.
posted by Ouisch at 11:07 AM on October 1, 2009

Sorry, I meant anise seeds.
posted by Ouisch at 11:08 AM on October 1, 2009

One more idea, then I'll shut up: perhaps try eating yogurt (or other similar product) containing active bacterial cultures, before or after your onions.
posted by Ouisch at 11:11 AM on October 1, 2009

Parsley. (see bottom of link under remedies. At the Burger Heaven they give out parsley for just such an issue.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 11:30 AM on October 1, 2009

It's not your stomach; the smell is coming from your lungs. Eating onion or garlic results in your body having extra sulphur compounds to eliminate. They are eliminated by breathing. That's where the odour comes from.

Cooking mitigates this somewhat; onion moreso than garlic.
posted by reflecked at 11:59 AM on October 1, 2009

Response by poster: Cooking is not an option. Parsley doesn't seem to help - I neglected to mention that I've tried that also.

Fennel and anise are the kinds of seeds I hate second and third most (caraway is #1 - I gather that they're all related), but I'd be interested to know if that works.
posted by Caviar at 2:16 PM on October 1, 2009

Response by poster: Anyone have a reputable source that can answer the "where does the smell actually come from" question?
posted by Caviar at 2:17 PM on October 1, 2009

Fennel seeds do work, if only by masking the odor with a stronger and more pleasant one. They're also meant to be good for your digestion — but if you're just looking to hide the onion stink, you don't care about that.
posted by nebulawindphone at 2:48 PM on October 1, 2009

I hear you. I like onions but I hate tasting them 12 hours later, or even longer. The things I have tried can be divided starkly into two categories: this stuff and everything else. Nothing else even comes close. A deep gargle and a 20-30 second swish and you're set, or throw in the toothpaste too if you're at home. The mouthwash is not alcohol based like all the Listerines and others. It's like OxyClean for the mouth - same principle anyway.

You can now find this stuff in most drug stores and I think Wal-Mart and Target, but the page I've linked you to is the travel-size bottles, which I've never seen in stores. If you're at work or out with friends or something, you're not likely to haul around a big bottle of mouthwash. But this size was made to get around the stupid fluid volume limits for carry on luggage on planes, so they're little. Easy to pocket or keep in your glove compartment or whatever (put in a ziploc if in the car in case high heat makes it leak a bit).

You can also check out the toothpastes and other products. Word of warning, I haven't found the gum, lozenges or strips to be anywhere near as effective as the toothpastes and mouthwashes. Points for trying, and maybe they work a little bit, but not a lot. If you're interested in the science behind it, he's got loads of research and explanation on there. He's all about bacteria and volatile sulfur compounds.

The site and branding makes the product look like one of those dubious as-seen-on-tv products ("regrow your natural hair in just weeks!") but I've been using it for years and it's a lifesaver. A normal mouthwash might help for a few minutes until its scent wears off, but this stuff does long term work. It's not even very fragrant, because it's not the fragrance that's doing the work. Extra onions, please, waiter!
posted by kookoobirdz at 6:46 PM on October 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

Anyone have a reputable source that can answer the "where does the smell actually come from" question?

hmmm... I answered above, and I feel pretty darn reputable. I know this because of my education and above general nursing knowledge about these things, I've worked with several gastroenterologists.

Many foods you eat can cause bad breath. Some of the most common culprits are onions, garlic, and cabbage, which contain high amounts of sulphur compounds.

On digestion, these sulphur compounds are absorbed into the blood stream and carried forward to the lungs. These odorous compounds are then exhaled through your mouth. That's what happens, and that's why none of the things you put in your mouth or stomach have any effect.

Breathe more.
posted by reflecked at 7:47 PM on October 1, 2009

An article from The Times (UK) on bad breath which mentions the odour of onions etc going from bloodstream to lungs
posted by Ness at 7:17 AM on October 2, 2009

My personal issue with onions is that they give me gas, which I then burp up. From my stomach.

I don't doubt that sulfur compounds are released by the lungs, and that's actually really useful and interesting information -- but it also doesn't entirely rule out stomach/GI stuff.
posted by Ouisch at 5:53 PM on October 2, 2009

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