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Body Odor: Main Causes, Easy Prevention, and Best Treatment

Body Odor

Nothing is more embarrassing when other people notice your body odor. You should’ve been the first to notice it. But how come it took you so long?

It’s because your nose receptors tend to get USED to your own smell. But did you know that body odor is sometimes linked to a medical condition? Yes – it’s true!

As we’ll discuss later in this article, body odor isn’t a linear explanation. So don’t feel so bad if you stink. We’ve got you covered!

Table of Contents

What Causes Body Odor?

Sweat Glands

There are 2 types of sweat glandsapocrine glands and eccrine glands. These two are ACTUALLY the ones responsible for causing sweat which also brings body odor when bacteria are present.

#1 Eccrine Glands

Eccrine glands are typically found in ALMOST all your skin.

What it mainly does is control your body temperature. Eccrine glands release WATER and SALT to the skin surface when your body temperature rises to a certain point.  As a reaction, your body cools down.

So basically, eccrine glands are the ones that produce sweat. It’s what you normally get ALL OVER YOUR BODY after getting home doing a 1-hour jog.

#2 Apocrine Glands

Apocrine glands, on the other hand, are mostly found in skin with hair follicles such as…

  • Scalp
  • Armpits
  • Breasts
  • Belly button
  • Groin
  • Genitals
  • Feet

Both the glands secrete fluid. However, the type of fluid that apocrine glands produce is MORE STICKY and it’s mostly STUFFED with proteins and fats.

It’s usually odorless… But it RELEASES body odor once bacteria on your skin feed on this nutrient-packed apocrine sweat.

A normal body odor produced by apocrine glands usually SMELLS like a mixture of:

  • Onion
  • Cheese
  • Garlic
  • And more acidic foods

Though in the end, it still differs from person to person. There’s a LOT of factors that affect one’s sweat after all.

When Do People Start to Smell?

When Do People Start to Smell

Apocrine glands don’t activate until a child becomes randomly emotional.

Weird, right?

In simpler words, body odor doesn’t start UNTIL puberty, as medically reviewed by Dr. Kathryn Shaus. It can start as early as…

  • 7 years of age for girls
  • 9 years of age for boys

For younger people, we recommend they use a body wash for sensitive skin to combat any foul odors that arise. That way, their skin won’t be exposed to too much chemicals as they deodorize.

But if somehow, you started to secrete smelly sweat before the usual age, you might have an UNDERLYING medical condition.

Such a condition may be due to genetics.

There are some metabolic conditions like Trimethylaminuria — mainly known as Fish Odor Syndrome, to cause people to release such horrible stinky sweat at a young age.

But it’s been said to be a rare disease. So as long as your 6-year-old-and-below child (if you have one) doesn’t smell fishy, he/she is still safe and sound.

Factors That Contribute to Body Odor

Factors

Certain things provoke body odor. We’ve listed down all the most common reasons why some people have malodorous sweat.

1. Nervousness

Adrenaline is said to INCREASE the ratio of sweat produced by apocrine to eccrine glands.

Basically, you are going to have a worse body odor when you get nervous, with additionally attracting more bacteria.

Particularly speaking, these are the emotions that affect the sweat secretion rate:

  • Sexual arousal
  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Fear

So expect that your sweat might SMELL BAD if you are feeling stressed about your date! Not to mention you still haven’t even taken a shower yet…

Make sure NOT to scare away your partner with an EFFECTIVE antiperspirant/deodorant before heading out. You can also opt for a body wash formulated for oily and sweaty skin.

2. Excessive Sweating

Obviously, the MORE sweat produced by your sweat glands, the MORE likely you are going to reek.

Too much sweat means extra food for bacteria.

They especially hang out in areas with hair follicles as nutrients are mostly cramped there. You are generally spoon-feeding them to produce an even hellish body odor.

The only way to get rid of the bacteria breaking down your sweat is to USE antibacterial body wash and soap.

3. Extra Fats

People with MORE fats sweat a lot.

Skin folds often occur to these people as their skin tends to rub their other skin, especially with areas that contain more fats such as the armpits, belly, and under breasts. When this happens, it kicks off…

  • Friction
  • Moisture
  • Lack of airflow

And all these CONTRIBUTE to body odor. How?

There’s a more common name for this type of syndrome — intertriginous dermatitis. Hoard of bacteria and fungal infection feast on the mentioned body areas as rashes build up on your skin.

And as you’ve just learned, bacteria RESULTS in an ill-smelling sweat. Furthermore, having more fat also triggers excessive sweat, which also brings body odor to life.

If you’re using soap to shower, then just be sure you know how to use your bar soap correctly. Proper application goes a long way in fighting bad smells.

4. Certain Foods and Beverages

How you also MANAGE your diet also affects your overall natural body scent.

Foods high in sulfur like spicy foods, push your apocrine glands to release sweat 100x MORE than usual. It provokes your body odors to come out.

And you can’t be safe EVEN with some veggies either. SOME herbs naturally stink as they contain sulfur too. Some herbs are…

  • Broccoli
  • Asparagus
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Brussels sprouts

SO CHOOSE YOUR GREENS WISELY!

Also…

Meat is BIG NO-NO too! Especially the red ones. They end up rotting in your intestines as they take time to digest.

As a result, amino acids come into life. They produce foul sweat once they meet the bacteria loitering around the hair on your armpits.

In the end, sweat glands catalyze abnormal perspiration.

Of course, you CAN’T get away with alcohol too. Alcohol seeps out through your pores. And this prompts your sweat to stink.

5. Antidepressants and Other Medications

Believe it or not, EVEN medications stimulate body odor.

It’s common sense that taking a handful of antidepressants at the same time gives NOTHING but bad consequences.

It generates a LOT of sweat that everyone will think you just got out of the shower when they see you.

And that’s not even the worst of it. Ultimately, you are going to put your health at risk by OVERDOSING.

So just because some drugs are considered over-the-counter products DOESN’T mean it’s totally okay to hoard them!

Some antidepressants are capable of inducing a GAZILLION amount of sweat all over your body. And these are…

  • Bupropion hydrochloride (Zyban)
  • Clomipramine hydrochloride (Anafranil)
  • Duloxetine hydrochloride (Cymbalta)
  • Escitalopram oxalate (Lexapro)

Some people also experience loads of sweat in their bodies when taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). They experience it specifically from Ketoprofen and Naproxen as side effects.

But this is claimed to be an uncommon phenomenon. So we guess it depends on the person ingesting them as everyone has a different body reaction.

Some peer-reviewed studies have also said that some medications have a link to body odor. These medicines are:

  • Omega-3-acid ethyl esters (Lovaza)
  • Leuprolide acetate (Lupron)
  • Topiramate (Topamax)

Sign of Medical Conditions

Sign of Medical Conditions

It’s not just the apocrine glands that contribute to an off-putting body odor. Some medical conditions that affect metabolism are also one BIG source of having smelly sweat.

We’ve compiled all the relevant conditions that might give you a sign of could-be-serious-if-not-treated health conditions.

Hyperhidrosis

Exaggerated sweating gives a sign of Hyperhidrosis. This usually happens to people who are…

  • Active in physical activities
  • Often present in a hot environment
  • Under stress

Eccrine and apocrine glands usually produce sweat in areas such as hands, groin, and armpits.

It normally LASTS for several days up to 2 weeks… But some people report they can’t get rid of it NO MATTER what they do. Sometimes, the sweating even gets WORSE over time.

We know it’s NOT great news. So if you are experiencing an enormous amount of sweat for more than 2 weeks, you might need to get a Botox treatment.

Diabetes

Just as everyone says… you smell what you eat. And this isn’t technically wrong.

Having a sweet-smelling sweat might sound amazing. But it’s NOT COOL at all! This could be a sign of Diabetes because as we all know, sugar is associated with sweets.

More specifically, Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA) is what you MIGHT develop. As medically reviewed by Robert Gabbay, M.D., Ph.D., this happens when insulin doesn’t do its job and your blood sugar rises.

Consuming a LARGE amount of sugar doesn’t give you any plus no matter how you look at it from any angle. Sugar affects your skin, breath, urine, and overall, your body.

  • When pH balance is disrupted, it causes bad breath
  • Sugar builds up on the skin, resulting in a fruity body odor
  • Too much sugar promotes ketones build-up in blood and urine

And these ketones give symptoms of:

  • Stress in the chest when breathing
  • Nauseousness
  • Abdominal pain

Some diabetic patients also tend to have delicate skin as a result of the illness. We recommend soaking in a bubble bath made for sensitive skin to help detoxify any odor.

Prevention and Treatment

Prevention and Treatment

So what can you do about body odor?

Surprisingly, there are a LOT of preventive measures and treatments present in today’s age. There are home remedies and specifically-made products for body odor treatment.

You are free to choose any method you like. If you want, you can even COMBINE the two methods to get rid of the bacteria and ultimately, body odor much faster!

Home Remedies

Here is the list of what you can do about the hint of feet and armpit odor.

  • Take a shower and use antibacterial soap daily. A cool shower EVERY DAY is what you’ll need, especially if you are in a hot environment! Wash everything — hair, armpits, groin, and ALL your delicate areas. Using an antibacterial soap is your best choice to reduce bacteria from your skin.
  • Apply antiperspirants and deodorants. Antiperspirants are intended to block sweat glands. Deodorants generally mask body odor. The best time to apply them is during NIGHTTIME after a quick shower.
  • Wear clothes appropriately. Switch to garments with natural fibers such as cotton, linen, and wool. AVOID polyester and spandex fabrics as much as possible as they are often housed by bacteria!
  • Wash your clothes regularly. Don’t wait for your clothes to rot on the laundry hamper! Go wash them AS SOON AS YOU CAN to prevent the army of bacteria from taking over your whole garms!
  • Manage your diet.  Don’t take the bait! Resist the temptation and AVOID those unsafe foods we mentioned earlier. You don’t want to end up taking a whole more expensive treatment AT ALL!
  • Try shaving your armpit hair. A study actually PROVES that shaving hair lessens body odor. Be sure to exfoliate with a Salicylic Acid body wash before doing this as well.
  • And anyhow, JUST relax. Yes, this is a REAL treatment. Tell your eccrine and apocrine glands to calm down. And by that, we actually mean YOU. Don’t be nervous. Be drowned in your hobbies — it calms you down. You’ll experience less sweat if you are composed.

Conclusion

Conclusion

Having a body odor is a normal part of life. But once the smell OVERPLAYS you, it becomes a thing to worry about.

We know how much it is maddening to carry something that HINDERS your daily activity. Every time you go out, you always have to worry if you are reeking of spoiled onions.

That’s why we hope that we’ve managed to help you get to know all the causes and treatments for body odor.

Remember: BACTERIA is your real enemy here! Your glands are innocent —  they are odorless. So do EVERYTHING you can do to stop all the bacteria from crawling through your skin!

Suffering from annoyingly dry chicken skin? We recommend you check out good body washes for Keratosis Pilaris.

Paola Diaz
Paola Diaz

Hi, I'm Paola! A skin care enthusiast and nature lover. Creating content that promotes proper skin treatment and keeping a healthy glow is my way of sharing with the world how healthy skin can go a long way. I’m a firm believer of natural beauty that radiates inside all of us. All we need is the right kind of nourishment that inspires our wellness from inside out. So it’s really not about physical beauty alone – it’s the beautiful life we can create for ourselves when we connect with our own nature and see there is beauty that shines from every one of us.