Posted on: September 29, 2017 at 11:52 am

While we might not like to admit it, but sometimes we smell. In fact, sometimes we smell really bad. Whether you just finished a workout, or decided to wear a flannel button up on the hottest day of the year, it happens. But if it’s particularly pungent, or if it happens on a daily basis, it could be caused by something more serious.

What Causes Body Odor

Not many people know this, but your sweat doesn’t actually smell. That smell is created by bacteria on the skin breaking down the acids in sweat – this is called bromhidrosis [1].


Anyone who has reached puberty can produce body odor because this is when the apocrine sweat glands develop, which produce the sweat that bacteria break down. Men are more likely to have body odor, because they tend to sweat more than women.

A few things that can make your body odor worse are [1]:

  • Being overweight
  • Consuming rich or spicy food and items like garlic, spices and alcohol
  • Certain medications like antidepressants

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Most of the time, body odour just means that your body is hot so it decided to sweat and the bacteria on your skin are breaking it down. But other times, body odour can be the first sign of something a greater health problem.

Trimethylaminuria (TMAU)


This is a metabolic condition that is characterized by the body’s inability to properly metabolize trimethylamine, a byproduct of gut metabolism. As a result, individuals with TMAU develop an excess of trimethylamine within their body, causing them to give off a strange odor similar to rotting fish or garbage. TMAU is typically diagnosed in young people, and unusual body odor is the primary outward symptom of the disease.


This is one of the more common causes of body odor. When someone with diabetes fails to monitor and take care of their blood sugar, they can develop a condition called ketoacidosis. Ketoacidosis causes bad breath that is described as having a fruity smell, but it also causes pungent body odor. Ketoacidosis is a serious issue and needs to be addressed by a doctor immediately [3].

Overactive thyroid gland


The thyroid gland causes us to sweat and when it’s overactive, as with hyperthyroidism, the body excretes an excessive amount of sweat even with little or no exertion. Hyperthyroidism is treatable and if you notice an unnatural amount of sweat and the smell that comes with it, you should see a doctor [3].

Liver or Kidney Dysfunction

The kidneys and the liver help to remove toxins from our system through waste products. When they aren’t working properly, toxins can build up in the blood and digestive tract, which in turn creates an odor. This could be a result of either liver or kidney disease. A simple blood test can tell if there is a problem with either of these two vital organs [3].

Ways To Prevent Body Odor

If you do not fall into one of the categories above, there’s a few simple solutions that can help minimize your body odour naturally [4]:

  • Keep your underarms dry. Bacteria have a hard time breeding in dry areas of the body.
  • Use a solution of hydrogen peroxide and water to fight body odor. Use 1 teaspoon of peroxide (3%) to 1 cup (8 ounces) of water. Wipe this on affected areas (underarm, feet, groin) with a washcloth. This may help destroy some of the bacteria that creates odor.
  • If sweat from working out is the cause of your body odor, wash your workout clothes often. Sweaty gym clothes are a bacteria-breeding ground.
  • Change your diet. Sometimes, fatty foods, oils, or strong-smelling foods such as garlic, curry, and onions, can seep through your pores and cause body odor
  • Shaving your underarm regularly will help prevent the accumulation of bacteria and can reduce sweat and odor.
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