Body odor is a normal phenomenon, and it isnt really much of a problem under normal circumstances. Excessive or unpleasant body odor can also be extremely common however and this can be a source of great discomfort to others and Body odor refers to strong, unpleasant odors that emanate from the body. This mostly occurs when the sweat glands are overactive. It may also be caused by metabolic changes. Body odor develops when the sweat combines with the bacteria on the skin. The body produces sweat in certain circumstances such as in hot weather, during physical activity or in response to anger or fear. This helps to cool down the body and regulate its temperature. Overactive sweat glands are medically known as hyperhidrosis. The condition can be classified as primary or focal hyperhidrosis and secondary hyperhidrosis. In primary hyperhidrosis, there is excessive sweating in the armpits, hands and feet. In secondary hyperhidrosis, there is excessive sweating in the entire body or in one particular area besides the armpits, hands and feet. Secondary hyperhidrosis may arise due to underlying conditions such as diabetes, lung diseases, high blood pressure, anxiety disorders and tuberculosis. Overactive sweat glands rarely constitute a serious condition. However if you are troubled by strong or persistent body odor, it is advisable that you consult your doctor.
Symptoms of Body Odor
The primary symptom of body odor is an unusual, pungent smell arising from the body. This odor may be stronger during warm weather. The odor also tends to linger on clothing. In many cases body odor occurs along with other underlying conditions. Depending on the type of condition, the symptoms may vary. In some cases body odor occurs along with conditions that affect the endocrine system and includes the following symptoms:
- Unexplained, excessive sweating
- Weight loss
- Night sweats
- Cold hands
In very rare cases, body odor may occur along with more serious symptoms. In such cases, immediate medical care is essential. Such symptoms include:
- Chest pain
- Feeling of pressure in the chest
- Disturbances in vision
- Shortness of breath
- Loss of consciousness
Causes of Body Odor
Body odor occurs when you sweat excessively. However it is not sweat that causes body odor. The unpleasant odor occurs when sweat mixes with bacteria. The bacteria grow quickly in a warm, moist environment. There are two types of glands in the body that produce sweat - the eccrine glands and the apocrine glands.
- The eccrine glands produce a watery liquid that cools down the body. These glands are present all across the body.
- The apocrine glands are present in the underarm and groin region. They secrete a milky liquid that is decomposed by bacteria. This leads to body odor. The bacteria which are mainly responsible for decomposing the sweat are anaerobic bacteria such as micrococci and corynebacteria.
The body odor that emanates from the armpits and groin region is different from that which occurs in other areas of the body. The secretion from the sweat glands in the armpits and genitals consists of an oily substance which the bacteria feed on. The sweat produced in other parts of the body consists mainly of salt and water and thus does not enable bacteria to thrive.
Remedies for Body Odor
Excessive sweating and body odor may be treated through over-the-counter antiperspirants. These contain aluminum compounds that reduce sweating by blocking the sweat pores. You can also use deodorants that help to mask body odor. You can even speak to your doctor who may prescribe certain antiperspirants that can be applied to the affected areas at night. However, these may be strong and can lead to side effects such as itching and redness.
Natural remedies can also be used in body odor treatment, although there is little evidence to support most such claims. Here are some popular home remedies for body odor.
- Wheatgrass contains chlorophyll which helps to reduce body odor. You can have about 500 mg of wheat grass every morning along with a glass of water.
- Baking soda helps to absorb moisture from the skin. You can apply some baking soda to your armpits to reduce sweating.
- Apply a solution of white vinegar and water to your armpits while bathing.
- If you do not wish to use deodorants, you can apply a solution of apple cider vinegar and water to the underarm area. This regulates the pH balance of the skin and also gets rid of odor.
- Most people sweat excessively during summers. Therefore it is important to bathe at least twice or thrice a day during this time.
- Sprinkle talcum powder or baby powder on the underarm region instead of using deodorants. This will soak up excess sweat and keep the skin cool and dry.
- Use an antibacterial soap when bathing and make sure to cleanse the underarm and groin areas.
- Cotton is a natural fiber and it helps absorb moisture, allowing your skin to breathe, restricting a buildup of moisture. Therefore opt for cotton clothing and avoid synthetic fabrics. Also wear cotton undergarments.
- Avoid wearing clothes that are too tight or body hugging. Also change your clothes daily as body odor can leave behind traces.
- Many people face the problem of sweaty feet and the resulting bad odor. To combat this problem, wear comfortable footwear that allows circulation of air between the toes.
- Excessive sweating can sometimes be triggered by the intake of certain medications such as oral contraceptives and steroids. Speak to your doctor if you are currently on any such medications. Your doctor may adjust your dosage or prescribe specially formulated applications to treat overactive sweat glands.
Diet for Body Odor
Dietary changes may help to reduce the problem of excessive sweating and body odor. Here are a few healthy dietary tips.
- It is important to consume a nutritious and balanced diet. Your meals should include all the food groups such as protein, whole grains, fish or lean poultry, pulses, healthy fats, fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Drink plenty of water daily as it helps to flush out toxins and waste products from the body.
- Restrict your red meat consumption. Red meat is often difficult to digest and tends to stagnate in the digestive tract. As a result toxins may be released in the bloodstream.
- Avoid eating processed foods that are high in white flour, sugars and fats.
- Make sure you get enough soluble fiber through your diet. Fiber helps to regulate bowel movements and prevents constipation, which can sometimes lead to body odor.
- Reduce your intake of foods such as fish, legumes and eggs. Some people are not able to process these foods properly and this can contribute to body odor.
- Avoid intake of spicy foods and those which contain a lot of garlic and onion.
- Lower your intake of caffeinated beverages and alcohol.
- Avoid eating baked and deep fried foods that contain rancid oils.
Suggestions for Body Odor
Some people experience excessive sweating due to anxiety and nervousness. To tackle this problem it is necessary to address the root cause. Stress and nervous tension can be alleviated through relaxation techniques. You can choose from a number of ways to relax such as yoga, deep breathing, meditation, aromatherapy, massage therapy and acupressure.
- Havlicek J, Lenochova P. The effect of meat consumption on body odor attractiveness. Chem Senses. 2006 Oct;31(8):747-52. Epub 2006 Aug 4. PubMed PMID: 16891352.
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