B.O. or body odor is every time the proverbial elephant in a room. It can’t be ignored but nobody likes to discuss about it either. If there is a change in your body odor, it could imply multiple things. Though, you may feel embarrassing about it; however, it’s important to pay attention to your personal hygiene. Read this article for everything you wanted to learn about body odor but felt afraid to enquire.
What Causes Change in Body Odor?
Body odor is related to sweat and urine. There are two types of sweat glands present in your body: Eccrine glands are present in the majority of the body areas and they secrete watery sweat; apocrine glands are present in the hairy areas of the body such as the groin and the armpits and they secrete a fatty and thicker sweat.
Despite a bad reputation, production of sweat is actually good; it helps in cooling your body while your body is hot. Moreover, the actual smell of sweat is not bad. The bad or foul smell is produced by the bacteria, which resides on your skin, by breaking the sweat produced by your sweat glands. Bacteria like sweat produced by eccrine glands (particularly when it accumulates in shoes and socks), but it really enjoys the sweat produced from apocrine glands that is fatty and smells very bad when broken by the bacteria.
Certain drinks and foods can produce a change in body odor. Garlic, curry and pungent or strong spices can affect B.O. as certain chemicals are present in these foods that may be excreted on the skin via sweat glands. Coffee and alcohol can also change the odor of your sweat. If you feel that the change in the odor of your body is due to diet, avoid these drinks and foods for one week and see whether things return back to normal.
By drinking water you help your kidneys to flush out toxins via urine. A small quantity of these toxins is also excreted in your sweat. If you don’t drink enough water, particularly, if you are sweating, it makes your urine dark in color and concentrated with smell of ammonia. To avoid this from happening, drink lots of water especially when you are exercising.
Medicines and Medical Illnesses
Certain medicines and supplements may change urine odor, but these changes are usually temporary and harmless. Urine odor changes produced by certain medical illnesses are more serious. For instance, diabetes produces sweet smelling urine, whereas bacterial vaginosis or urinary tract infection (UTI) may produce foul-smelling, cloudy urine. If your symptoms are not reduced by increasing water intake for a couple of days, you should visit a physician.
Certain body parts including the genitals and the armpits tend to produce more body odor as sweat glands present in these areas produce oily substances and proteins on which the bacteria feed. Hence, you should wear loose-fitting cotton clothes to allow the sweat to escape and not remain on the skin. If you wear tight clothes made of synthetic material, your skin does not get access to fresh air. Hence, the sweat is trapped on the skin, making it a breeding ground for bacteria and a bad odor is created. Wash your clothes and body regularly.
For majority of the middle-aged females, the primary cause of change in body odor is fluctuations in hormonal levels. The main hormone causing this change is estrogen that regulates the hypothalamus. Hypothalamus is a structure of the brain that maintains temperature of the body.
When the levels of estrogen drop, which commonly occurs during menopause, the body sends a false message to the hypothalamus, indicating that it is overheated. This results in increased production of sweat and changes in body odor.
Unfortunately, symptoms of Grave’s disease mimic a lot of menopausal symptoms, which often results in misdiagnosis. The symptoms of anxiety, increased sweating, irritability, sleeping problems, fatigue, irregular heartbeat and irregular periods are common to both the diseases. Grave’s disease patients can also suffer from bulging eyes, vision problems and enlarged thyroid gland. If you feel that your symptom of increased sweating indicates Grave’s disease, get yourself checked with a physician.
Other Medical Illnesses That Can Result in Body Odor
- Kidney or liver disease
- Hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating)
- Skin conditions
- Side effects of medicines
- Lung disease
- Anxiety disorders
- Substance abuse
In certain rare cases, body odor can be associated with a life-threatening illnes:
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Loss of vision
- Loss of consciousness or sudden confusion
(Immediate evaluation by a physician is required if any of the symptom mentioned above occur.)
What Can You Do About the Change in Body Odor?
Make Changes in Lifestyle
Make certain lifestyle changes and it will also benefit your whole body in general.
- Change your diet: Eat foods rich in magnesium and zinc (such as shellfish, oysters, pecans, tofu, cashews and broccoli). You can also add wheat grass in your diet as it is rich in chlorophyll and acts as a natural deodorant. Reduce your intake of white flour, red meat, caffeine, deep-fried foods and sugars to decrease toxins that may contribute to body odor.
- Reduce your stress levels: Reduce stress and you will sweat less due to anxiety that has stronger odor. Do yoga and meditation to calm your mind. You can also go for a walk in the park to relieve anxiety.
- Be prepared for symptoms of menopause: If you sweat more due to hot flashes or you have strong B.O, you can carry wipes to reduce B.O. whenever you have the need for it. Make sure to use gentle soap for frequent use, particularly on any intimate areas.
You can control your B.O. by adding certain supplements to your diet. Changes in body odor can be controlled with phytoestrogens including soy, dong quai and black cohosh; however, you should be careful while using them as they can interact and interfere with other medicines. Other non-estrogenic supplements that you can try to reduce body odor are Macafem. Always, consult your physician before starting any new supplement.
Your physician can prescribe deodorants that contain more quantity of aluminum chloride. You can also try Botox treatment in which sweat glands are paralyzed to decrease excessive sweating. However, repeat sessions are needed at an interval of couple of months.