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12 Hidden Causes of Body Odor

Updated July 12, 2022
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12 Hidden Causes of Body Odor essay

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It is the rancid or sour smell given off when bacteria on the skin break down sweat into pungent acids. A lot of time and money is spent on products to ward off this unpleasant aroma. Deodorants, antiperspirants, and perfumes are all available to prevent or mask the smell. But some causes of body odor can be eliminated as easily as making changes in diet or in clothing. Others are symptoms of serious underlying medical conditions that need to be addressed by a doctor. Some causes of body odor may not be as obvious as others. Read on for 12 hidden causes of this unpleasant smell.

  1.  Ill-Timed Bathing Everyone knows that infrequent bathing or showering causes body odor. In fact, many adults shower daily. Surprisingly, the American Academy of Dermatology recommends bathing only two to three times a week unless you are dirty or sweaty. Showering only a few times each week may be good for preventing dry skin, but it may result in body odor. Additionally, if you shower in the evening and tend to sweat at night, you may be susceptible to bad body odor. You may want to spend three minutes each morning cleansing your arm pits, chest, and groin with warm soap and water, and drying them thoroughly with a towel.
  2. Musty Towels Drying off with a musty towel can negate the effects of an invigorating, cleansing, and refreshing shower. Bath towels can be used up to 3 times before laundering them in hot water. In between uses, be sure to hang your towel on a rack where air can circulate so it can fully dry out. Leaving a damp towel on the floor creates a moist environment where bacteria can grow. When you dry yourself with a dank-smelling towel, you are transferring the musty odor to your body, as well as any germs that may have begun to grow there.
  3. Prescription or Over-the-Counter Medications Certain prescription medications may cause chemical reactions in your body that increase your production of sweat and the accompanying body odor. Certain antidepressants may increase your body’s sweat production. Some people find that non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs also increase sweating. Other medications, such as antihistamines, decrease saliva production and dry out your mouth, causing bad breath. If you notice increased sweating due to new prescription medications, discuss this effect with your doctor.
  4. Certain Foods or Spices Spicy foods may cause body odor. This may be partly due to the body’s response to perceived heat which results in sweating. The University of California Berkeley reports that foods that are high in sulfur compounds can have a negative effect on body odor. Foods high in sulfur include broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, onions, and garlic. Some people may give off an unpleasant odor when eating red meat or fish. To help prevent body odor caused by foods, be sure to keep your body hydrated by drinking plenty of water.
  5. High Stress Levels The body’s flight or fight response to causes cortisol to be released. The eccrine glands release sweat when you become overheated, but the apocrine glands produce sweat in response to stress or anxiety. Sweat from the apocrine glands tends to be composed of different chemicals than the sweat from eccrine glands. Eccrine glands are located all over your skin, but the apocrine glands are concentrated in hairy areas such as the arm pits, crotch, and scalp. When this sweat mixes with bacteria in these areas, it can develop a rank odor. Keep a stick of deodorant on hand for high-stress moments.
  6.  Excessive Alcohol Consumption A night of excessive drinking can cause more than a headache. It can also cause body odor. As your body works to metabolize alcohol, it breaks it down into acetic acid and carbon dioxide which are released from the body through your sweat glands. The vasodilating effects of alcohol cause your blood vessels to be dilated and result in flushing. As your body tries to cool you down, you sweat more, releasing the odor of toxins and the byproducts of alcohol.
  7.  An Unwashed Bra Depending on your activity level and sweat production, you may need to wash your bra after wearing it two or three times. However, your bra is in close contact with your body, located near the sweat glands of your arm pits, and often comprised of less breathable materials. This means you should be sure to give your bra an airing between wearings to allow the material to fully dry out and to prevent a foul or musky odor. Purchase several of your favorite bra and rotate wearing them to keep the fresh. Choose bras made of cotton or other breathable fabrics that won’t trap sweat against your body.
  8.  Lack of Socks It may be tempting to slide your bare feet into a pair of tennis shoes sans socks. However, this traps sweat in your shoes and leads to foot odor. Wear socks with shoes to provide an extra layer of absorption between your feet and your shoes. Pull on a fresh pair of socks each day and rotate your shoes to give them a chance to dry out. If you wear heels to work, look for chances to slip them off to allow your feet to breathe. Many lightweight “no show” socks are available to wear with flats, boat shoes, and loafers.
  9.  Medical Conditions Sometimes body odor can be a symptom of an underlying medical conditions. If you notice a strong, foul odor coming from your skin, be sure to check with your physician. Athlete’s foot can cause your feet to become red, blistered, and give off a bad odor. Vaginal infections may result in a foul, fishy odor in the vaginal area. A vile body odor can indicate liver disease, kidney disease, or thyroid disease. Bad breath can be a symptom of sleep apnea, which dries out your mouth as well as leaving you at a risk for developing other diseases. Breath that smells fruity or like acetone may be a warning sign of diabetes.
  10.  Extreme Obesity Being severely overweight can also cause issues with body odor. As the body becomes larger and develops fat pockets, folds of skin and fat can trap sweat and bacteria, giving off a bad odor. In addition, the physical exertion required when carrying around extra weight can cause increased sweating. When carrying excess weight, it is helpful to pay extra attention to thoroughly patting the skin dry after bathing or showering. This is because warm, moist environments are prime conditions for harboring odor-causing bacteria.
  11.   Genetics Some families are predisposed to having stronger body odor than others. Additionally, the National Institutes of Health reports there is a gene responsible for breaking down a substance in the body known as trimethylamine. This substance has a strong odor, and in some families the gene required for breaking it down is absent, leading to a disease called trimethylaminuria. As trimethylamine builds up in the body, a foul odor escapes in the breath, sweat, and urine of affected individuals.
  12. Clothing Wearing clothing that is overly heavy or not properly ventilated can cause excess sweating and odor. To prevent body odor caused by restrictive clothing, wear items that are light and wick sweat from your body. Choose fabrics like cotton or linen that allow airflow. Avoid synthetic fabrics that don’t allow skin to breathe. Choose cotton underclothes rather than rayon, silks, or polyester. Additionally, dressing in layers allows you to remove layers when you become overly warm.
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12 Hidden Causes of Body Odor. (2022, Jul 08). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/12-hidden-causes-of-body-odor-body/

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