Garlic is notorious for causing garlic breath. You don’t even have to eat the stuff – just get it on your fingers and it will be absorbed through the skin and appear on your breath in moments. Though widely admired for flavor and healthful properties, garlic is no friend to take on a date. (If you do eat it, try to make sure your companions are eating it too. You will cancel each other out.)
Garlic bad breath is basically caused by the same thing that causes the other common type of halitosis: sulfur. Molecules in the garlic combine to create sulfur molecules, which have an unpleasant odor detectable in the breath. In common halitosis, the sulfur compounds are produced by bacteria in the mouth, and this only makes the breath smell bad. Garlic breath, in contrast, usually goes along with an unpleasant odor in perspiration as well.
Of course, garlic bad breath is easy to avoid – just don’t eat garlic. Many of us, however, enjoy garlic so much that we don’t want to give it up. Spaghetti without garlic bread just isn’t the same. So we need an antidote for garlic breath. The best antidote is time. In a day or two, usually less than twenty-four hours, the sulfur compounds will be cleared from the body and the odor will go away until next time. This is a pleasant contrast with halitosis caused by bacteria in the mouth, which are very difficult to get rid of.
Other approaches to dealing with garlic bad breath include masking the odor with perfume, deodorants, breath mints, and other scents. You can also chew on a clove or cardamom seed to cover the smell of garlic. Many people recommend chewing on a sprig of fresh parsley, or adding chopped fresh parsley to a dish at the end of cooking (so that the parsley doesn’t cook). If you are taking garlic for health reasons, you can buy capsules that are odor free: they will not give you garlic breath.
When you have just enjoyed a meal full of delicious garlic, you may tend to keep your distance from family members and co-workers. You may be afraid to exhale, not being able to gauge the extent of your garlic bad breath. You may warn people not to come near. Remember though, that most people like garlic. Most people suffer from garlic breath from time to time. They understand, and they’ll forgive you for your garlic breath.