3 Surprising Causes of Bad Body Odor (and here’s how to stop it)
We all have our own signature scent, and that’s totally natural! Even though it’s the norm to mask your aroma with deodorant and perfumes, body odour is a normal occurrence that is usually attributed to a mixture of bacteria, sweat, and the build up of environmental dirt that sticks to your skin - very au naturale.
As more bacteria and sweat builds up on the skin, they interact with each other, giving off body odour that becomes stronger over time. This isn’t harmful by any means, since healthy bacteria live symbiotically on our bodies.
But if you’ve suddenly got a case of bad body odour (think: when you catch a whiff of yourself and instinctively crinkle your nose), it could be due to some surprising causes.
Here are 3 surprising factors that may be impacting your natural scent…
Diet X Body Odour
When it comes to body odour, your diet is never a bad place to start, after all: you are what you eat.
It’s common to experience an increase in sweat production by eating cruciferous veggies. Sure, cruciferous vegetables are great for your gut health, but they may not be so pleasant when it comes to body odour. Foods like cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli are packed in sulphur-containing compounds that may increase the availability of sulphur to skin bacteria, contributing to sulphur-like body odour. It’s also worth noting that the sulphur odour can also escape through your breath and yep, gas. And if you have a food intolerance or sensitivity to the vegetables, it can cause extra gas and odour.
Allium vegetables, such as onions, garlic, leeks and scallions, are another group of veggies that are also high in sulphur-containing compounds that permeate through our skin pores.
Other body odour culprits include spices like cumin or curry, fish, red meat, coffee and alcohol.
How to fix it: If you’ve noticed that your odour smells extra sulphur-like after eating these foods, the odour should clear up on its own within a few days. A useful tip to remember when cooking with alliums is to par-boil them in a large pot of water with some added salt. This will help remove some of the sulphur compounds that contribute to body odour.
Stress X Body Odour
If it isn’t due to your diet, sudden, super-strong body odour could be due to stress.
The science behind why stress could be a trigger is mainly due to our sweat glands. We have two different types of sweat glands across the body. The first is known as eccrine glands, and these are located all over the body. They let out sweat when you need cooling off. The second gland is known as apocrine glands, and they are mainly located in your pits. It’s the apocrine gland that goes into hyper-drive when you’re feeling anxious or stressed. With the apocrine glands switched on, they produce a fatty, protein-rich kind of sweat that smells pretty pungent when it mixes with the bacteria on the skin.
How to fix it: Stress-related odour will generally disappear once you feel relaxed. Try to relax and take some deep breaths when you feel yourself begin to get stressed out. Ashwagandha may also help you keep calm and deal with stress. A growing body of research suggests that this powerful herb may be effective in supporting the adrenal glands to reduce stress - this is especially helpful if you find that stressful situations trigger excessive sweating.
Poor Digestion X Body Odour
When it comes to digestion, if your gut isn’t functioning at its best, you may notice a surge in body odour.
Poor digestion can contribute to an imbalance in your gut. This can cause the gut bacteria to work harder and produce more incomplete by products, which can eventually make their way through your skin pores.
How to fix it: Nourish your gut bacteria! To help your gut function at its best, a probiotic supplement is a good place to start. Probiotics help with the breakdown of food, decreasing the chances that undigested compounds will be pushed through the skin. Probiotics can also help promote regular bowel movements and beat constipation (another cause of body odour). That’s because it facilitates the excretion of toxins through bowel movements and not through skin pores.
Riya Lakhani ANutr is a registered nutritionist and health writer with a special interest in plant-based nutrition. She has completed a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Human Nutrition, and has developed a passion for writing about all things plant-based.