Skincare Skills

by Lydia

Skincare blogger

April 17, 2021

What Causes Body Odor

The thing about body odor and even sweating is that they’re okay if they occur during your workout sessions or when the weather is hot and humid. But sometimes this happens in your day-to-day life as well. And not just when stressed, anxious, or nervous.

Body odor is a very unpleasant smell that the body produces when sweat and bacteria come together. This means the sweat your body generates is not the culprit here. It’s actually the bacteria that live on your skin, which break down your sweat into certain acids to give rise to a horrid smell. And this causes body odor, at least in most cases.

Then there are other causes too that might shine some light on an underlying problem. Meaning it could be a health or medical condition too. So let’s find out all possible causes of body odor!

10 Most Common Causes of Body Odor - What It's Trying to Tell You

You think you’re stinking because sweat and bacteria have taken control? Probably! But there might be a completely different problem altogether lurking in your body.

1. Stress

Did you know that stress can actually make you sweat in a manner that increases body odor? Your body contains two different kinds of sweat glands. The first is eccrine and the other is apocrine. The former excretes sweat required for cooling down, which takes the form of water. As for the latter, it’s released only when you’re upset or stressed.

And it’s the apocrine sweat that bacteria on your skin breaks down to stink you up. No wonder when you’re nervous, anxious, or stressed, you end up smelling unpleasant.

2. Eating Certain Foods and Drinking Alcohol

There is quite a huge list of foods that contributes to body odor. And the list includes red meat, sulfurous foods such as broccoli, cruciferous vegetables like cabbage and cauliflower, and even alcohol. In the case of vegetables at least, you can minimize the unpleasant odor-causing effect simply by cooking them in water and some salt.

3. Bacteria and Sweat

Not just sweat but bacteria and sweat can also be a common cause of body odor. As I already discussed, your body has two sweat glands. In both cases, the sweat produced has no odor and evaporates with time.

But when the sweat generated by the apocrine sweat glands doesn’t dissipate quickly and keeps on building up, then bacteria present on your skin begin to multiply. And with that going on, the bacteria turn the sweat into certain acids, which cause body odor.

4. Diabetes, Kidney, or Liver Problems

Surprisingly, diabetes can affect the way you smell. And that’s only logical because the condition fails to break down your body glucose. This leads to glucose accumulation, which takes the form of an unpleasant, bad breath.

Even liver and kidney problems fall into a similar category since these conditions too hinder your body’s normal functioning. Kidney failure places urea into the sweat while diabetes puts acetone. As for liver failure, it elevates methyl mercaptan.

The odor caused by all of these conditions may not smell the same. But the common denominator is that it’s unpleasant and should be used as a diagnostic tool.

5. Metabolic Disorder

Maybe a rare genetic metabolic disorder is looming under the surface. This could be and has been an unexplained yet potential cause of body odor. Known as trimethylaminuria or the fishy-smelling syndrome, the condition fails to produce enough enzymes that break down the trimethylamine compound, thus causing it to keep accumulating in the body.

Then this compound build-up seeps out through your skin’s pores. Therefore, giving rise to the fishy smell.

6. Thyroid

It’s a little known fact that thyroid is lumped together with too much sweating. Grave’s disease, a particular thyroid-related issue, is the overactive-functioning of your thyroid gland. At such times, your thyroid, in order to compensate for the malfunctioning of the immune system, goes into overdrive mode.

So imagine your metabolism-regulating thyroid being overactive, thus contributing to poor sleep, rapid heartbeat, shakes, and even excessive sweating.

7. Athlete’s Foot

Can fungus really give rise to body odor? I don’t see why not if the skin on your feet is dry, scaly, or blister-covered. In that case, Athlete’s Foot is not ruled out.

Poor hygiene is often the cause of such fungus growing on your feet. And if you don’t treat the condition, which is easy to do with the help of OTC powders and sprays, it can cause dangerous bacterial infections.

8. Bromhidrosis

One of the most common causes of body odor, Bromhidrosis is a chronic condition that occurs during the post-pubescent lift stage. And it consists of the excessive emanation of unpleasant odor from your skin. Your sweat glands sometimes produce oily secretions that generate short-chain fatty acids and ammonia responsible for body odor.

9. Certain Medications

More sweating can also be an outcome of the side effect of certain medications. The list includes hormonal medications, heart-based drugs, SSRI antidepressants, and analgesic pain medications. So if you’re on any of these, then take the necessary steps to get rid of the bad odor listed as one of the side effects.

10. Hormonal Fluctuations

If your sweating has increased over time, then it’s probably because your body is dealing with sudden hormonal changes. A very good example is perimenopause; the time before menopause hits. And with such hormonal fluctuations comes body odor.

When your estrogen level drops at the time of menopause, the body construes this shift as overheating. And that, in turn, leads to too much sweating, which contributes to body odor.

This explains why pregnant women sweat excessively. After all, carrying a growing fetus and the huge hormonal commotion sparked during pregnancy are not easygoing tasks for the body to perform.

Other instances of hormonal fluctuations include night sweats and hot flashes.

Dealing with Body Odor

You don’t necessarily have to make drastic lifestyle changes in order to get rid of your body odor. Just make sure your daily hygiene routine consists of odor-fighting soaps and body washes. Along with a diet that doesn’t contain too many foods known to contribute to body odor.

Some people also go for effective home remedies like using antibacterial body washes infused with natural ingredients that are safe to use even on sensitive skin.

Other solutions include wearing clean clothes, applying antiperspirant, choosing antimicrobial fabrics, and the like.

The End

There’s no chance you or anyone can naturally smell fresh all day long. Irrespective of whether or not you have an underlying condition. Smelling like meadows and lilies naturally is just not possible.

Everybody sweats after all, right? So there’s nothing wrong with that. But you can certainly eliminate the unpleasant smell by first addressing the cause and then coming to a solution. I have listed the 10 most common causes of body odor. Some of these are actually pretty serious, so don’t dismiss them as unimportant. Especially if fighting body odor daily is a concern for you.

About the author 


My name is Lydia Adams and I have been a skincare blogger in one way or another for many, many years.

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