When you have acid reflux, your stomach contents flow backward into your throat. This can cause bad breath, but there are several treatment strategies that can help.

The regurgitation of stomach contents can cause acid reflux and a bitter or sour taste in your mouth. What’s more, you’re also likely to experience bad breath as a result of your symptoms.

Chronic acid reflux can be caused by gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), which is a common medical condition.

Read on to learn how acid reflux can lead to bad breath and what you can do to reduce it.

Acid reflux is the backward flow of stomach contents into your esophagus, including undigested food, regurgitated bile, and stomach acids. This can lead to acid-like bad breath, also called halitosis.

Acid reflux can be caused by gastrointestinal issues like GERD. When you have GERD, you usually have a faulty or relaxed lower esophageal sphincter (LES).

The LES is a valve-like muscle (like a thick rubber band) that forms a barrier between your esophagus and your stomach.

When the LES works properly, it opens when you swallow to let food enter the stomach and then closes tightly. A faulty LES remains open, allowing acids to flow back into your throat.

Several types of over-the-counter and prescription-strength medications can treat GERD, including:

Some chewable antacids include breath-freshening ingredients and will relieve both symptoms at once.

Note that some GERD medications can lead to dry mouth, which occurs when your salivary glands don’t produce enough saliva.

This can be uncomfortable, and it can also contribute to bad breath. Ask your doctor about solutions for dry mouth and the potential side effects of all the drugs you take.

Learn more: GERD symptoms and treatments.

Lifestyle changes can help prevent reflux, which can help your breath stay fresh.

First, try to quit smoking if you’re currently a smoker. Smoking causes bad breath by itself. Plus, nicotine products cause your LES to relax, allowing acid reflux into your esophagus. Smoking also increases your chance of cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, stomach, pancreas, liver, and colon.

Other adjustments to counter GERD symptoms include:

  • waiting at least 2 to 3 hours to lie down after you eat
  • putting a six-inch board or wedge pillow under the head of your bed to raise your torso and reduce pressure on your LES
  • eating smaller meals throughout the day rather than three large meals
  • reaching and maintaining a healthy weight to help reduce pressure on the LES
  • using chewing gum to freshen breath and decrease reflux

Learn more: 14 ways to prevent heartburn and acid reflux (GERD)


To reduce GERD symptoms and bad breath, try changing your diet by avoiding or limiting foods that can trigger acid reflux and cause bad breath.

These include foods and beverages such as alcohol, caffeine, onions, garlic, citrus fruits, tomatoes, peppermint, spicy foods, chocolate, and fried/fatty foods.

Incorporating fiber-rich foods into your diet can help your digestion and help you maintain a healthy weight. Drinking water throughout the day can freshen your breath and prevent stomach upset. Choose still water over sparkling to avoid worsening heartburn.

Learn more: Foods to eat and avoid with acid reflux.

Bad breath can be caused by many factors, and only one of them is acid reflux or GERD. Some causes are more common than others. They include:

  • diabetes
  • viral or bacterial infection
  • dehydration
  • Internal bleeding
  • liver or kidney failure
  • tuberculosis

See your doctor if you have chronic bad breath, even if you don’t have GERD. Your doctor is going to examine you and look for other symptoms to try to identify the cause.

Learn more: Types of bad breath smells and what they mean.

Bad breath is a symptom associated with GERD.

In many cases, it’s easily remedied. Talk with your doctor about lifestyle changes and medications that can minimize your acid reflux and the resulting bad breath.