Your body odor can tell you a lot about your health.
It can tell you if your personal hygiene is a bit off, if you’re
ingesting something you shouldn’t — and can even be a marker for certain
diseases. No need to panic, however. The best thing to do is to be
informed, and if you have a smell that is an indicator for something
iffy, get yourself to the doctor. Here are some of the most common body
odors and what they could mean about your health.
Consistent bad breath
Nobody wants halitosis. It’s embarrassing and people
spend lots of time worrying about it. They buy gum, mints, breath spray
and more to combat it. But if you have consistently bad breath, it could
be a sign of something more than just a bad breakfast choice. Research
says that in 90 percent of cases of people who have consistently bad
breath, the cause comes from the oral cavity.
This can be because of bacterial buildup on the tongue that cuts down
on the organic things found there that combat foul odor. Other times,
actual tooth decay can cause a bad smell, and when people have poor oral
hygiene or a propensity for it, they develop gingivitis and periodontitis.
To combat halitosis,
brush and floss regularly, avoid tobacco products and see a dentist
twice per year for cleanings and to check the health of your gums. If
none of that helps, the smell might be coming from sinus issues, or even
from gastrointestinal problems. Best to see your doctor.
If your breath is sweet, you could have a different
problem altogether. Fruity-smelling breath can be a sign of diabetic
ketoacidosis, a condition that occurs when the body is unable to break
down glucose as fuel because of a lack of insulin. The body uses fat as
fuel instead, which releases ketones into the bloodstream.
High levels of ketones are dangerous and life-threatening. Have your
doctor check your sugar and insulin levels to make sure you’re not
It’s worth noting that another sign of diabetes is sweet-smelling
sweat. Some people report a maple syrupy smell because there is actually
sugar that builds up on the skin. If your breath is sweet and kind of
musty, it’s a bad sign that you could have liver problems.
Doctors are now using breath analysis to try to detect liver problems.
If you have this symptom, schedule a liver test with your doctor to make
sure you’re OK.
Sour or rancid sweat
Medical News Today
says that “sweat itself is virtually odorless to humans; it is the
rapid multiplication of bacteria in the presence of sweat and what they
do (break sweat down into acids) that eventually causes the unpleasant
smell.” Our eccrine glands are all over our bodies. They are the glands
that regulate our body temperature — when we’re hot, they break out in
clear sweat that cools us down. Our apocrine glands are found in our
armpits, genital areas, ears and breasts. They are the body odor
culprits, because they don’t produce the high-salt sweat that the
eccrine glands do. The apocrine glands produce
fluid that contains proteins and other organic compounds. So, more
smell. That could be where our pheromones come from, and where our extra
stinkyness comes from.
If your body odor is worse than usual, you could be due for a change
in your diet, or your hormones might have something to do with it. Drink
plenty of water! See your doctor if you start having night sweats for
no reason (sign of infection or disease), start sweating way more than
normal with no clear reason (sign of hyperthyroidism) or if you smell
bleachy. That could mean you have a liver or kidney problem.
Stinky feet can be super embarrassing — especially if
you have to take your shoes off at someone’s house, at the doctor, or
even if you just want to kick your shoes off to watch TV. Our feet have
around 250,000 sweat glands each.
We know that our eccrine sweat glands produce odorless sweat, so the
stink on our feet comes from a combination of that neutral sweat and the
bacteria on our feet. That bacteria multiplies when we close our feet
into socks and shoes. Not wearing the same shoes every day, wearing
fresh socks and keeping your feet clean and dry can help. However, fungal infections can keep your feet smelling pretty bad, so if you have persistent stink, get thee to a foot doctor for treatment.
Foul urine odor
Urine usually has no scent, and when it does, it’s usually a bit ammonia-like.
If it has a stronger smell, the top culprit is dehydration. Drink lots
of water and it will clear right up. However, if your urine smells even
more like ammonia than usual, or it smells sort of sickly sweet, you
could be getting a UTI.
This will be accompanied by discomfort when you urinate, so get to a
doctor right away to get an antibiotic. And, just like with your sweat
or your breath, if your urine smells fruity, get your blood levels
checked for diabetes.
Unusually foul-smelling flatulence
Everybody has flatulence. It’s a normal part of digestion. In fact, most people pass gas 10 to 20 times every day.
They never smell great, but if they’re particularly foul, you could be
facing a digestive absorption issue, lactose intolerance or a bacteria
or virus in your gut. Gas becomes trapped in your body for a number of
reasons — because you’ve swallowed too much air by eating too fast,
because unabsorbed food is just hanging out in your colon, because
you’re constipated or because there have been changes in the delicate
balance of bacteria in your digestive tract. It’s worth visiting a
doctor if your smells are making you concerned.
Bad odor “down there”
Having some amount of discharge is normal, but when
it’s accompanied by a smell, it’s time to go to the doctor. Yeast
infections, STIs and infections like bacterial vaginosis
can cause smells “down there” and all require a doctor for treatment.
However, if one of those conditions isn’t your problem, your diet or
personal habits could have an impact on your smell. Your hormones, gym routine, clothes and more can cause odor. The most important thing you can do is not douche.
The vagina has a delicate balance of bacteria and chemicals just make
it worse in the long run. Try all-cotton underpants, bathing regularly
(but not excessively) and drinking lots of water.
If someone smells like fish all the time, it’s likely they have fish odor syndrome,
or trimethylaminuria. This is a genetic condition that makes people
smell like rotting fish. it doesn’t impact a lot of people, but the
people who have it suffer psychological and social problems, in addition
to the smell that emanates from their bodies and mouths.
It can be treated with certain acidic lotions and soaps to try to
neutralize the smell. In most cases, it’s present from birth, but can
sometimes develop as a result of the dormant gene becoming active in conjunction with the treatment
of certain diseases. Again, it’s very rare, but it causes devastating
psychological damage on sufferers and doctors are committed to helping
people cope both through active treatment and counseling.
Some body odor is normal
We can’t smell like fresh flowers or soap all the
time. Even healthy bodies can smell a little funky sometimes. Our
natural pheromones are part of what makes us who we are. However, if you
have body odors that concern you, it’s a good idea to see a doctor.
There’s a fine line between your natural “stink” and a health problem
that is displayed with a particular odor.