Body odor is an unpleasant smell that emanates from our body; it occurs when bacteria on our skin break down certain molecules in our sweat, this releases sulphur containing organic compounds that are foul smelling.
What are the Causes of Body Odor?
We have 2 types of sweat glands, Eccrine and Apocrine glands. Eccrine glands are located on most parts of our body while Apocrine glands are concentrated in areas where we have hair such as the groin and armpits.
These glands secrete sweat which doesn’t smell by itself as the odor is caused by bacteria’s action on its molecules. Body odor is more prominent in areas that tend to trap sweat such as the feet, armpits, groin, belly button, genitals, pubic hairs, anus, behind the ears, and other hairy regions.
There are some factors that increase the risk of body odor, they include;
- Consumption of strong smelling or spicy food
- Excessive alcohol or coffee consumption
- Environmental factors such as exercise and hot weather
- Certain hormonal changes
- Certain medications including some antidepressants
- Chronic illnesses like diabetes, chronic kidney disease or liver disease.
- Poor hygiene
Other causes of body odor are as follow:
- Trimethylaminuria: This is a rare metabolic condition in which the body cannot break down trimethylamine, a chemical compound that gives off a pungent smell. Trimethylamine is a protein present in our food that tends to generate smells mimicking that of rotten fish, rotten eggs, garbage, or urine. The inability of the body to breakdown trimethylamine causes its accumulation in the body. As this compound builds up in the body, it causes affected people to give off a strong odor in their sweat, urine, and breath. The intensity of the odor varies over time.
- Bacterial vaginosis: Here is a condition that causes inflammation of the vaginal due to the overgrowth of normal bacteria in the vagina. This inflammation upsets the natural balance and thus gives off the strong fishy odor smell. If you notice a prominent fishy smell from the vagina, you might need to talk to your doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment.
- Urinary tract infection in children: Normal urine is sterile and contains fluids, salts, and waste products. It is free of bacteria, viruses, and fungi. Urinary tract infection occurs when microorganisms infest the urethra causing the child to excrete foul-smelling urine.
- Cervical cancer: It is a malignant tumor of the cervix – the lower part of the uterus that connects to the vagina. It is caused by certain strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted infection. The cancerous region cab be secondarily infected and cause a significant odor.
- Kidney or liver disease: Because the liver is the major organ of detoxification, its failure can lead to the accumulation of toxins in your body and, ultimately, result in the emission of odor. Also, the kidney is the main organ of excretion. A faulty kidney contributes to the accumulation of waste significantly. And the outcome is also body odor.
- Bleaching: This is the use of harmful chemicals to rip off the topmost melanin layer, thereby exposing the dermis to opportunistic bacteria that cause body odor.
How to Prevent Body Odors
- Wash armpits, groin and feet frequently with soap and water and dry properly.
- Shave pubic area and armpits regularly
- Utilize deodorants and antiperspirants
- Wear clean clothes
- Wash your clothes preferably with perfumed detergents.
- Shower at least twice daily
- Use foot powders if you have sweaty feet
- Wear shoes with a leather lining as opposed to a plastic lining as it is better for sweat evaporation.
- Wear clean socks every day, preferably wool or cotton, materials that allow sweat to evaporate.
Consult your doctor for a proper diagnosis regarding the cause of your body odor.
Available treatment options include; Injections in your underarms to reduce the amount of sweat, procedures to remove your sweat glands.
Olajumoke Adeyemo is a Pharmacy student of the University of Ibadan. She is a passionate copy & content writer, nature lover and a public health enthusiast. She is a Christian.
Her hobbies are reading, music, writing and traveling.