8 Key Facts about Body Odour and Sweat

8 Key Facts about Body Odour and Sweat

1. What is body odour?

It is what you smell when sweat (which actually does not smell) comes in contact with the bacteria on your skin. Just like the uniqueness of a fingerprint, everyone has a distinct odour. This is referred to a person’s odourprint. One’s odour print is partly determined by their individual genetic make-up. Your odourprint is how dogs can track runaways and why one perfume can smell slightly different when it is worn by different people. 

2. What is sweat?

It is the fluid that’s secreted by the sweat glands onto your skin’s surface. There are two types of sweat glands: eccrine and apocrine.

Eccrine glands cover most of your body, including palms and soles. Eccrine glands secrete sweat directly to the surface of your skin. This sweat evaporates and helps to regulate your body temperature as it cools. There is no smell produced from sweat that comes from eccrine glands.

Apocrine glands open up into your hair follicles. Apocrine glands are found in the groin and armpits. The sweat produced from these glands can smell when it comes in contact with bacteria in your hair and on your skin. Apocrine glands start working at puberty, which is why you don’t smell body odour in young children.

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3. Do men or women smell more?

Men have more issues with body odour because they have more hair (thus more apocrine glands). So..men are more smelly!

4. What factors can influence body odour?

Diet, hormones, medications, mental health (anxiety and stress), exercise, hot weather, being overweight and genetics can all contribute to the fluctuation, varying degrees and even lack of body odour. 

5. How do hormonal changes affect body odour?

Hormonal changes can cause increased sweat and body odours. Fluctuation of hormones during puberty (male and female), menopause, pregnancy and menstruation can be triggers. Also, many pregnant women have heightened sensitivity to smells, so they be pick up more odours than usual.

6. Are there medical conditions and diseases that can change a person’s body odour? 

Yes, there are several: diabetes, gout, menopause, overactive thyroid, liver disease, kidney disease and infectious diseases.

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7. Can certain foods cause body odour?

There’s a saying that goes: “You are what you eat”. And truly, this is reflected in the odours you release. 

If you eat sulfur-rich foods, you may develop body odour. When sulfur is secreted through your sweat, it can release an unpleasant smell which some equate to that of rotten eggs.

Examples of sulfur-rich foods are:

  • Red meat
  • Allium vegetables such as onions, garlic, leek and chives.
  • Cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage, brussels sprout, cauliflower and broccoli.  

Other common dietary triggers of body odour are:

  • Monosodium glutamate (MSG).
  • Caffeine.
  • Spices like fenugreek, coriander and cumin,
  • Alcohol.

8. How to reduce body odours?

  • Hair removal through shaving, waxing, epilating, sugaring and laser treatments of your underarms are all beneficial. By removing your hair, temporarily or permanently, you can reduce and prevent heat-build-up which leads to excessive sweating. Furthermore, you reduce the amount of space for bacteria proliferation. 

  • A 2015 experiment on American men found that wet blade shaving or waxing followed by washing with soap and water, resulted in a significant reduction in odour when compared with soap washing alone or hair removal with scissors. Even after two or three days, the effects were noticeable

  • General hygiene by way of daily washing (showers, baths and targeted cleansing) and regular change of clothes. 

  • Wear natural fabrics such as cotton, linen and silk. Natural fibres are breathable and healthier for your skin. 

  • Reduce intake of red meat and strong smelling foods.

  • Cut down/out coffee and alcohol.

  • Exercise is good for getting your blood moving and for your sweat out toxins, which can be a source of stink. 

  • Detox your armpits with natural clay masks made of Fuller’s Earth or Bentonite.

  • Use deodorants!

You should contact a medical profession if you are alarmed by sudden changes in body odour and sweating patterns, such as: excessive night sweats (without it being hot), sudden cold sweats, or your sweating is impacting your daily life.

Also contact your doctor if you notice the following: 

  • A fruity smell: this can indicate diabetes due to having high levels of ketones in the bloodstream,
  • Bleach or ammonia-like smell: this can indicate liver or kidney disease due to a build-up of toxins in the body. 
  • Fish-like odour: this may indicate a rare genetic disorder called trimethylaminuria.









Disclaimer: This article is provided for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute providing medical advice or professional services. The information provided should not be used for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, and those seeking personal medical advice should consult with a licensed physician. Always seek the advice of your doctor or other qualified health provider regarding a medical condition.

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