Why Does Your Breath Smell Like Poop?

man smelling his bad breath

Think your breath smells like poop? What if your child’s breath smells like poop? No, it’s not a joke. There are actual, real medical conditions that can make a person’s breath smell like feces.

Thankfully, it’s not a common condition. But on the other hand, that can mean it’s even more embarrassing to talk to your dentist about it and harder to find answers to cure your super-sensitive issue! Understanding all of the possible causes can help you know how to treat it and if you need to see a medical doctor.

What Could It Be? Common Causes

1) Poor Oral Hygiene

Inadequate oral hygiene could be the be the culprit here. Brushing and flossing your teeth daily is important for overall oral health.[1]

Treatment

Consider adding a tongue scraper to your brushing and flossing routine. Also, use an alcohol-free mouthwash to rinse and gargle. It’s also a good idea to schedule regular professional cleanings. Learn more about proper brushing and flossing here!

2) Diet 

It’s no secret that some foods can be stinky, either while you’re eating them or hours later. Even if nobody is around, we know you’re burping at some point. But when your breath smells like poop or your child’s breath smells like poop, that little silent blast of gas can hover in the room and cause some serious social consequences.

Symptoms

Foul odor immediately or up to several hours after eating.

Treatment

Everyone reacts to foods differently. If eggs, Brussels sprouts, or asparagus are known for having some odorous after-effects, then time when you eat them to be when you’re not going to be around other people. Or just don’t eat them at all. Get your greens and your proteins some other way!

3) Bowel Obstruction 

This very real and very serious medical condition occurs when your intestines become blocked.[2] As a result, digested food (feces) can’t follow the natural path out of your body. Bowel blockage can be caused by anything from tumors to Crohn’s disease.

Symptoms

Abdominal pain or bloating, vomiting, and being unable to pass gas. In rare situations, people have been known to vomit feces. Since fecal mater gets blocked inside of your body, the odor can, well, make its way up and out of your mouth (making your breath smell like poo.)

Treatment

Depending on the severity of your bowel blockage, your doctor may have to perform surgery. Usually they’ll order some type of diagnostic scan to see how bad it is first.

4) Nasal Congestion Or Sinusitis 

Having a post-nasal drip caused by sinus infections or allergies can lead to pretty pungent breath. Even if you’re taking great care of your mouth, the odor could be coming from the back of your throat!

Symptoms

Runny nose, drainage or mucous in the back of your throat, sneezing, watery eyes, bad breath/halitosis, and similar hay fever symptoms.[3]

Treatment

Decongestants, antihistamines, allergy medications (over-the-counter) or working with your doctor to determine if prescription drugs are necessary.

5) Vomiting  

Bad bouts of nausea and vomiting can cause a serious stench. Between the partially digested food and stomach bile that you’re throwing up, it’s likely to smell like rotten eggs and make your breath smell like poop. Stomach acids can also do a number to your tooth enamel, causing erosion and weaker teeth. If your child’s breath smells like poop well after vomiting, there are steps that can help.

Symptoms

This one is pretty self-explanatory. You’re not just nauseous; you’re actively throwing up. It could be from something you ate, a stomach virus, or even due to morning sickness.

Treatment

This is super important. Do NOT brush your teeth immediately after throwing up. When you do, it rubs all of those stomach acids across your teeth and can erode your enamel over time. Instead, the best thing to do is rinse your mouth out really good with water and – if you can stomach it – a fluoride mouthwash afterwards.

6) Abscessed Tooth 

Abscessed teeth can cause a foul, pungent odor in your mouth each time the fistula (the swollen, pimple-like sore) starts to drain. When that happens, you might feel like it makes your breath smell like poop.

Symptoms

Abscessed tooth symptoms can come and go, depending on the person. Usually you’ll see and taste some type of drainage coming from the tooth, with a fistula on the gums just next to it. Pain and swelling are common.

Treatment

Most abscessed teeth require endodontic treatment (aka “root canal therapy”). But if the tooth is so badly infected or eroded that it’s not possible to repair, your dentist will recommend having it extracted.

7) Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) 

Any time someone is experiencing kidney disease, it alters levels of ammonia and other toxins inside of their body. As a result, they can experience weird odors such as making their breath stink. Basically, it boils down to your body’s inability to filter out toxins and waste products.

Symptoms

Common symptoms of CKD[4] include nausea, a loss of appetite, vomiting, fatigue, swelling, muscle cramps, and changes in how often you have to urinate.

Treatment

Somebody that’s in the most aggressive/end stages of kidney disease will usually have to undergo dialysis, which is where the blood is artificially filtered. A kidney transplant might also be necessary.

8) Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) 

Reflux disease or “GERD” can be severely life-altering while other people may never even realize that they have it! If your breath smells like poop, pay attention to GI symptoms to determine if acid reflux disease is the source. If your child’s breath smells like poop but they’re not able to explain their other symptoms to you, ask their pediatrician about ruling out GERD as the factor.

Symptoms

Acid erosion on your tooth enamel, heartburn (which is usually worse at night because you’re laying down to sleep), pain in your chest, feeling like there’s something in your throat, vurping (“I just threw up a little in my mouth”,) and regurgitating food. Some people even experience laryngitis or chronic coughing.[5]

Treatment

Dietary changes such as eating smaller meals, avoiding certain types of foods, and over-the-counter or prescription medication for acid reflux.

9) Ketoacidosis 

This condition is what happens when someone has an electrolyte, insulin, or protein imbalance caused by their diet or liver condition. For instance, someone who eats a keto diet might find that too much protein changes their body’s metabolism so that they’re putting off too much ammonia, which in turn gives their breath a weird odor. Usually, ketoacidosis affects people with diabetes because of insulin and blood sugar irregularities.

Symptoms

Confusion, frequent urination, excess thirst, elevated blood glucose levels, high ketones in urine tests, a “Juicy Fruit” scent to your breath, dry mouth, and abdominal pain.

Treatment

Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) requires emergency medical treatment. Go to the nearest emergency room. Without care, DKA could result in coma or death.[6]

10) Liver Failure  

Just like your body needs your kidneys to filter out toxins, it needs your liver to do the same. Someone with liver disease may not realize there’s a problem until it’s more advanced in stage. Knowing the warning signs is important because of how hard it can be to diagnose.

Symptoms

Nausea, vomiting, fatigue, diarrhea, loss of appetite, abdominal swelling, confusion, fatigue, jaundice, and bleeding easily.[7]

Treatment

Once someone goes into liver failure, you’ll need to see a hepatologist (liver specialist) to determine the best method of treatment. Usually this entails serious lifestyle changes and IV fluid.[8]

How To Treat Bad Breath At Home

Let’s consider for a minute that your breath smells like poop and it’s not from a medical issue like bowel obstruction or reflux disease. Or maybe your child’s breath smells like poop because they just threw up and you really need to do something so that you’re not gagging either. Now that all of those disclaimers are out of the way here are some DIY steps to take to help get rid of that poo/feces scent.

Overcoming Smelly Breath

Think your or someone else’s breath smells like poop? That’s not normal. If your child’s breath smells like poop or there’s some type of a fecal odor coming from someone’s mouth, it usually means there’s a serious medical issue going on (ranging from an obstructed bowel/bowel blockage to reflux disease.)

Occasionally, it’s something like the food you ate or throwing up partially digested food, but usually a feces-like smell coming from your mouth means that you need to see a doctor!