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Q: This is embarrassing to admit, but I have terrible breath. I recently started packing mouthwash in my purse to use throughout the day, but my breath actually seems to be getting worse. What’s going on?
A: Eight out of 10 people say they stress over having bad breath, so thank you for being brave enough to write in about this common problem. And you raise a good point: Though it may seem surprising, most mouthwash brands contain sugar and alcohol, which actually exacerbate bad breath. Alcohol dries out the mouth, making it a more hospitable environment to bad breath–causing bacteria, and those same bacteria feed on the sugars in mouthwash, causing their numbers to multiply. If your mouthwash contains either of these ingredients, consider switching to Tom’s of Maine Mouthwash (Walmart stores). I especially like this one because it contains zinc, which reduces bacteria’s output of the sulfur compounds that cause bad breath.
If your mouthwash isn’t the culprit, new research points to the plaque that builds up on the tongue as a major contributing factor in bad breath. Adding a tongue scraper, like Dr. Tung’s Tongue Cleaner (Amazon.com), to your morning and evening routine will help keep breath fresh all day. In fact, research shows that using a scraper daily can reduce levels of bad breath by 65% because it removes layers of sticky sulfur compounds that build up on the tongue.
If you’re concerned about your breath after meals or between brushings, consider chewing on cardamom seeds. The citrusy kitchen staple freshens breath instantly, and its plant compounds have been proven to inhibit the bacterial strains that cause odor, so it can help dial back bad breath long-term.
QI walk daily to keep my bones strong, but a friend told me this doesn’t protect my upper body. Is this true?
ACongratulations on your commitment to exercise! Research in The New England Journal of Medicine shows daily walks prevent bone loss and decrease the risk of hip fractures by 30%. But your friend is right: To keep the bones in your back and shoulders strong, you need to add more resistance to your activity. I suggest wearing an 8-pound weighted vest (like Empower Weighted Vest for Women, Amazon.com) during three walks a week. This stimulates bone and muscle mass while supporting the spine to reduce risk of injury.
Balance is also a key component in reducing bone loss, so I recommend integrating Tai Chi into your routine. Research shows that this low-impact exercise improves overall bone mass density by 6% in women. Search for “Tai Chi for beginners” on YouTube to try it out.