The Top Things To Know About Body Odour

. 4 min read

Body odour can lead to many awkward situations. Read on to learn more about why it occurs and what you can do to keep it under control.

In medical terms, body odour is the unpleasant fragrance caused by secretions from apocrine sweat glands and the action of skin flora. It is mostly physiological, and arises in the “axillary” or armpit region, feet, hair, areola, groin, navel, and other body surface areas. Having hair in the axillary region also diffuses the odours through hair follicles.

Causes of body odour:

  1. Poor personal hygiene:
    Lacking good personal hygiene is the most common cause of foul body odours. Taking regular showers and cleaning the body washes away sweat and odour-causing bacteria. Sweat is odourless, but upon mixing with the natural flora present on the skin, it produces odour. Neglecting your personal hygiene promotes the growth of bacteria and diseases, which further leads to body odour.
  2. Stress: When you are stressed, sweat is secreted from apocrine glands, which are present in the armpit region and the groin. A milky fluid is released, which is odourless, until it combines with the skin flora. In a healthy, non-stressed individual, sweat is released by eccrine glands present on the surface of skin, and it evaporates into water and electrolytes, without producing any stink.
  3. Diet: Consuming a diet rich in sulfur, which is commonly found in broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, sprouts, garlic, and onion, can lead you to have body odour. These foods are broken down to malodorous compounds that circulate in the blood stream and are excreted via your sweat, urine and breath.
    4.Genetic influence: Genes are known to affect your body odour. In certain individuals, the ability to break down trimethylamine (TMA) is altered. These individuals suffer from a disorder called trimethylaminuria (TMAU) and have a fishy smell. An excess of TMA – which is found in choline-rich foods like eggs, beans, wheat germ, certain meats, and legumes – leads to body odour.
  4. Alcohol consumption: Alcohol is eliminated through the body via skin pores and breath, producing its characteristic odour. Excessive consumption of alcohol and its metabolism, leads to alcoholic ketoacidosis by over production of ketone bodies which causes you to have body odour.
  5. Diabetes and starvation: Untreated diabetes leads to diabetic ketoacidosis. Similarly, starvation causes starvation ketoacidosis. In both the conditions, there is an excess of ketone bodies in the bloodstream, which produces body odour.

How to prevent body odour:

  1. Having excellent personal hygiene: Taking a shower once or twice a day washes away sweat and odour causing bacteria. Your body must be cleaned thoroughly but gently, without loofahs or washcloths that cause friction to the areas prone to sweat, like the axillary region. Anti-bacterial soaps must be used in the folds and sweat forming areas, as they wash away all the odour causing bacteria. After the shower, your skin must be pat dried. Odour causing bacteria colonises less on dry skin. The axillary region and groin area must be kept clean and hair in this area must be trimmed, to prevent accumulation of bacteria.
  2. Antiperspirants: Antiperspirants containing compounds like aluminium chloride reduce the production of sweat and also have a fragrance, contrary to deodorants and perfumes, which just have a fragrance to mask the odour. They must be used twice a day, to keep your perspiration in check. Always use alcohol-free antiperspirants to prevent any skin reactions.
  3. A clean wardrobe: Wearing clean, fresh smelling clothes prevents body odour, since they are not laden with sweat and odorous bacteria. If you have foot odour, clean socks must be worn at all times and anti-fungal foot powder can be used to control perspiration. Wearing natural fabrics, like cotton, provides more breathability to your skin, preventing sweat and growth of odorous bacteria.
  4. Diet: A diet rich in sulphur compounds, such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, garlic and onion, which are known to release odorous compounds must be avoided. Spicy foods such as chillies and hot peppers, which contribute to sweating must also be avoided. Caffeine also causes sweating, so make sure you consume it in moderation. A proper balanced diet must be consumed because undernourishment and starvation leads to starvation ketoacidosis and causes odour.
  5. Alcohol withdrawal: Alcohol must be avoided, because it is eliminated through the skin and mouth giving a lot of odour. Also, excess alcohol leads to ketoacidosis, which produces stench due to accumulation of ketone bodies.
  6. Treatment of underlying cause or disease: If your body odour is caused by an underlying disease, then that must be determined and treated. In diabetic patients, diabetes must be kept in control to prevent diabetic ketoacidosis. Diabetic ketoacidosis is an emergency situation, and a physician must be consulted in that case. A healthy, nutritious and balanced diet must be taken, to keep diabetes in check and also to avoid malnutrition. If there is any underlying cause of starvation or malnutrition, like anorexia or bulimia, a physician or counsellor must be consulted. In case of hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating) or TMAU (trimethylaminuria), make sure to visit a doctor.
  7. A healthy, stress-free lifestyle: Eradication of stress and anxiety reduces the amount of emotional sweating by the apocrine glands, which is responsible for the odour. Yoga, meditation, and exercising help in eliminating stress!

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