Posted on: April 11, 2017 at 12:39 pm
Last updated: September 22, 2017 at 10:21 am

For thousands of years, doctors have used their noses as a way to diagnose patients but naturally, this science has fallen out of practice with more modern techniques. However, there’s still a purpose for these methods as they help us understand our bodies quickly and conveniently.

Identifying illnesses early and promptly can be the most significant step in defeating and treating disease. By looking out for these odors, you may protect yourself from diabetic ketoacidosis, chronic kidney failure, and rubella.

Have Bad Breath?

Smell your break for disease

Bad breath, or halitosis, can not only be socially unacceptable but a sign of underlying health concerns as well! Some diseases that produce odors on your breath are diabetic ketoacidosis, chronic kidney disease, and gingivitis. [i]

Fruity Smell or Sweet Smelling Breath

This could be a sign of a life-threatening condition called diabetic ketoacidosis. This disease is usually found in people with type 1 diabetes who leave their blood sugar uncontrolled. It occurs when the body uses fat for energy instead of glucose because it can’t break down sugar without insulin. Using fat for energy leads to the production of ketones which are poisonous in high doses.[xxi] [xxii] [xiii]

Ketone buildup if not monitored appropriately can lead to:[ii]

  • Brain swelling
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Diabetic coma
  • Death

What to do if you have sweet breath:

If you are diabetic the first thing to do is seek medical attention, as soon as you experience symptoms or believe you are at risk.  To detect ketones early, use ketone strips when your blood sugar is too high. Treatments may include rehydrating, to replace the significant amount of water you’ll lose. In addition to diluting the extra glucose in your blood. If you continue to have high levels of ketones, work with your doctor to find the best way to deal with them.

Fishy Smelling Breath

Fishy smelling breath could be a sign of chronic kidney disease, a silent illness. Being able to sniff this one out, might mean saving your kidneys. Months or years of damage can occur before detecting symptoms so look out for this fishy smell on your breath.[iii] Look for other symptoms here as well.

To stop kidney damage:

  • maintain blood pressure below 130/80 mm Hg,
  • do not smoke, eat meals low in fat and cholesterol,
  • get regular exercise,
  • keep your blood sugar low,
  • and talk to your kidney specialist about taking iron, calcium, and vitamin D supplements.[iv]

Bad Breath That Just Won’t Go Away

Gingivitis is a key contributor to these disgusting smells. It is the result of inflammation and infection of your gums, and periodontal ligaments due to poor dental hygiene. Leaving plaque and debris on your teeth for too long will allow bacteria to affect your gums.[v]

How to Avoid Gingivitis

Regular dentist check-ups are a must, followed by flossing and brushing your teeth regularly and eating anti-inflammatory foods. Also, try using coconut oil toothpaste, and oil pulling for a more natural cleanse of your teeth. [vi]

Smell of Your Sweat

The smell of your sweat also indicates health conditions such as Trimethylaminuria, and Rubella.


Breath Odor of Rotting Fish, Eggs, Garbage, or Urine

No this isn’t the smell of a dumpster, it’s the result of a genetic disorder known as trimethylaminuria. People who have this condition smell bad because they can’t break down the chemicals creating these odors. While this condition isn’t lethal, it is chronic and it can lead to depression and social isolation as it affects your social and work life.

Limit The Affects of Trimethylaminuria by:

There is no cure for this rare disease, but you can lessen the odor, avoid foods with choline, lecithin and trimethylamine N-oxide [vii].

These foods include:[viii]

  • Milk from wheat-fed cows
  • Eggs
  • Liver
  • Peas
  • Beans
  • Peanuts
  • Lecithin fish oil supplements

Ask your doctor before using more invasive solutions like laxatives, and antibiotics.

Smell your sweat for disease


Smells like Freshly Plucked Feathers

While most of us probably don’t know what this smells like, if you do, you might be able to detect whether you have the viral infection, rubella. This infection creates a red rash and has an effect like measles but not as severe. It is contagious and spreads through coughing and sneezing. The virus is pretty mild with fever like symptoms, and a rash, but can create a lot of complications in unborn babies inside mothers who have the disease.[x]

Babies have 90% likelihood of getting congenital rubella syndrome which leads to:[xi]

  • Deafness
  • Cataracts
  • Heart Defects
  • Learning problems

Limit The Effects of Rubella

If you have it, there’s no way to shorten its effect on your life, although it is a mild illness. However, avoid public places, as well as pregnant women. If you are pregnant and contract rubella, consult your doctor and get antibodies to fight the infection to avoid giving your child congenital rubella.[xii]

Urine Smells

A lot of toxins get disposed of through urine so it’s no surprise that it can indicate urinary tract infections (UTI’s), harmful genetic disorders, and even dehydration.

Ammonia Smell

If you smell ammonia in your urine, this might be a sign of dehydration or a bladder infection.

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Ammonia is in all urine. Therefore, the smell is prevalent when you’re dehydrated, because not as much water makes up your urine, leaving a greater concentration of ammonia. This is a sign that you aren’t drinking enough water.[xiii]

A urinary tract infection (UTI) can have a strong ammonia smell as well, indicating a severe infection.[xiv] This is caused from getting bacteria into the urethra. This can happen from improper hygiene, wipe improperly, and through sex.[xv] Look at the symptoms of a UTIs here.

How to Stop The Infection

Go to the doctor and give them a urine sample. You may be given antibiotics and instructed to drink lots of water. Use herbal remedies to soothe the pain.

Smell like Maple Syrup

Smell your sweat for disease


A rare genetic disease cleverly named Maple syrup urine disease is the result of being unable to digest certain amino acids because you lack the BCKDC enzyme, necessary for breaking down meat, eggs, and milk. When these are missing amino acids turn into keto acids, which build up and cause these symptoms.

Ways to Limit Complications

If your infant has this disease get medical treatment right away to avoid serious medical problems, by reducing the number of amino acids they can’t digest. This involves an invasive procedure to limit the amino acids causing the problem, but it will give your child the necessary proteins to survive. Your physician will also develop a long-term plan to get your baby the right nutrients.

Unfortunately, the disease is genetic which means there is no method to prevent it. Therefore, ask a genetic counselor how likely your baby is to get the disease to plan for a worst-case scenario.[xvi]


Smelly feet not only make you less desirable to be around but it can also indicate disorders and poor hygiene.

Cheesy Smell

This smell comes from our feet which are always sweating whether our body temperature is hot or not. The sweat enhances the bacteria on our feet to produce this scent, usually as a result of poor hygiene, wearing old shoes, hormones, stress, and a common disorder called hyperhidrosis.

Neurological, metabolic, and systemic diseases sometimes cause hyperhidrosis, but typically you sweat profusely regardless of health or your environment.[xvii]


Sniff out disease and conditions

Make Your Feet Smell Better

There are many invasive ways to limit the effects of sweating by using antiperspirants, prescription drugs, and other medications. However, Schisandra is an antibacterial, and antioxidant herbal remedy that stops spontaneous sweating.

Ways to prevent standard smelly feet are, not wearing the same shoes two days in a row, wash and dry feet regularly, and use these antibacterials on your feet to deal with the root of the problem.


Our mucus also shows signs of respiratory infections so we can handle them carefully as they start to develop.

Smelly Mucus

Sinusitis is one disease indicated by smelly mucus. When we are dealing with allergies or a cold, our nostrils close keeping phlegm in our respiratory tract. Our mucus gets an odor as it starts to absorb bacteria, and collects behind closed sinuses. This bacteria builds up and infects our sinuses, leading to cold symptoms as well as pressure on facial bones.[xviii]

To Treat it:

Go to your doctor; they may recommend a nasal spray if it is a simple infection. However, more severe cases might require antibiotics or surgery. Therefore, it is best to avoid the illness in the first place by not smoking, washing your hands often, and staying away from things that provoke your allergies.[xix]

Bronchitis is another respiratory illness which can be indicated by an unpleasant smell. This is a condition where the airways are widened due to prior damage from pneumonia or violent coughs. Mucus accumulates in this airways and collects bacteria affecting the bronchi. Bronchitis can also be developed because of allergies to fungi that cause the bronchi to be inflamed. When you get this illness, you may have a persistent cough and breathlessness. A grave and rare complication could be coughing blood, by bursting blood vessels in your lungs.[xx]

Manage The Symptoms

The damage to your lungs is permanent, but symptoms can be managed to stop the damage. Do exercises to get mucus out of your airways, and watch this video to treat bronchitis without antibiotics


Following your nose can be intuitive and easy. Don’t underestimate your ability to detect problems. We can’t do daily visits to the doctors, but we can check for these problems regularly to protect ourselves from significant harm.

[i] Diabetic ketoacidosis. MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. Accessed April 7, 2017.

[ii] Nall, RN, BSN, CCRN R. Checking Ketone Levels. Healthline. Published March 28, 2017. Accessed April 7, 2017.

[iii] Chronic kidney disease. MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. Accessed April 7, 2017.

[iv] IBID.


[v] Breath odor. MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. Accessed April 7, 2017.

[vi] IBID.

[vii] Learning About Trimethylaminuria. National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI). Published July 20, 2011. Accessed April 7, 2017.

[viii] IBID.

[ix] Heid M. You Asked: Why Does My Sweat Smell Like Ammonia? Time. Published October 21, 2015. Accessed April 7, 2017.

[x] Mayo Clinic Staff. Rubella. Mayo Clinic. Accessed April 7, 2017.

[xi] IBID.

[xii] IBID.

[xiii] Urine odor Causes. Mayo Clinic. Accessed April 7, 2017.

[xiv] Brinkley M. Causes of a Strong Urine Smell. LIVESTRONG.COM. Published February 14, 2017. Accessed April 7, 2017.

[xv] Your Guide to Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs). WebMD. Accessed April 7, 2017.

[xvi] Giorgi A. Maple Syrup Urine Disease (MSUD). Healthline. Published October 11, 2016. Accessed April 7, 2017.

[xvii] Smelly feet: What causes this and how can I prevent it? WebMD Boots. Accessed April 7, 2017.

[xviii] Leviticus J. Smelly Mucus in the Nose. LIVESTRONG.COM. Published August 16, 2013. Accessed April 7, 2017.

[xix] Sinusitis (Sinus Infection): Signs and Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment. WebMD. Accessed April 7, 2017.

[xx] Bronchiectasis. NHS Choices. Accessed April 7, 2017.

[xxi] Diabetic ketoacidosis. MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. Accessed April 7, 2017.

[xxii] Chronic kidney disease. MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. Accessed April 7, 2017.

[xxiii] Breath odor. MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. Accessed April 7, 2017.

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