What Does Body Odor Say About Your Health?

It may be telling you something important.

What Does Body Odor Say About Your Health?

Body odor can be downright embarrassing and it seems to always come out at the worst times. Whether it’s an important meeting, job interview, or you’re out with your special someone, smelling less than fresh and clean just isn’t an option. At the same time, the idea of wearing chemical-laden, strongly scented deodorant isn’t exactly appealing either. But how you smell may say more about you than just the fact that you forgot to put on deodorant.

What Exactly is Sweat?

Your body is the most efficient when its temperature is 98.6 degrees F. When you do something that raises your body temperature, whether it’s working out or chasing after a toddler, your hypothalamus sends a message to tell your body to sweat in order to cool the body down. Then your sweat glands start to produce sweat, which is made almost entirely of water with tiny amounts of other chemicals like ammonia, urea, salts, and sugar. Sweat itself does not smell until it mixes with the bacteria on your skin and causes body odor.

Body Odor Changes Based on Diet

What you eat really does impact the way you smell. Here are some of the foods that contribute to body odor:

Meat. Those that eat a lot of meat tend to have stronger and less desirable body odor compared to non-meat eaters. A study published in the October 2006 edition of Chemical Senses followed 17 male study participants placed on meat or non-meat diets for two weeks. They wore pads underneath their arms to assess odor and then the odor samples were assessed for their pleasantness, attractiveness, masculinity, and intensity by 30 women. Researchers found that the odor samples for the nonmeat-eaters were much more desirable.

Coffee. If you take in a lot of stimulants like coffee for example, it can also have an impact on your body odor. According to Dr. Weil, coffee and tea contribute to body odor by activating the apocrine sweat glands. Additionally, coffee is dehydrating and it makes sweat, which is made mostly of water, more intense. It’s often described as more acidic.

Alcohol. If you overdo it or have a big night out and feel a little hungover the next day, you might notice that you smell particularly potent. Alcohol is consumed in the liver and turned into acetic acid. Smaller portions of alcohol are released through the sweat and respiratory system. While you might have thought it was an old wives’ tale, when you drink too much, it comes out of your pores.

Stress Increases Sweat and Body Odor

Sweat is produced by two types of sweat glands: eccrine glands, which produce the sweat that covers the entire body after a good workout and apocrine glands, which are found in the armpit area and other parts of the body like the feet and genitals. This more potent, sulfur-like sweat occurs when you’re stressed. If you’re in a stressful meeting or dealing with excessive stress in your life, you might find that you tend to sweat more and that it smells.

What to Do About Body Odor

The idea of putting on chemical-laden deodorant is scary because the body fast absorbs it through the pores under your armpits. Not to worry, there are a number of steps that you can take to reduce body odor naturally before you even reach for that antiperspirant.

1. Bathe regularly.

This is an obvious one, but once you know the science behind it, bathing makes even more sense. It’s not the sweat that smells, but the bacteria that builds up on your skin when you don’t wash it off. But here’s the rub, bathing too often causes dry skin. However, as mentioned above, the majority of the smell comes from the parts of your body that contain apocrine glands. If dry skin is a problem, you can stick to removing the stinky bacteria from these parts of the body.

2. Relax.

Stress-caused body odor is sometimes unavoidable, but if stress is a constant in your world, consider making some changes. Try yoga and meditation and give up stimulants like coffee.

3. Do a plant-based cleanse.

Take a week or two to enjoy a plant-based diet loaded with fruits and vegetables and free of dense foods like red meat. See if that makes a difference. It could reduce the intensity of your body odor.

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