Body odour is an unpleasant smell that is associated with an individual; it is caused by the bacteria on the skin, they produce odour when they break down proteins in the sweat into amino acids.
This medical term for this condition is Bromhidrosis; it can happen to anyone especially those who have reached puberty; because the apocrine sweat glands develop during puberty and the main aim of these glands is to produce sweat which is broken down by these bacteria.
Men are more prone to body odour than women and reason is because they sweat more than women; men are also more prone to hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating) and this increases the risk of developing body odour.
This is an unpleasant condition that can affect a person’s self-esteem and confidence. The main way to get overcome this condition is to get rid of the excess skin bacteria which is responsible for this and this is mainly done by keeping the affected area (usually the armpit) clean and dry.
The armpits are usually the most affected area but other places body odour is most likely to occur are the feet, groin, genitals, pubic hair and other hair, behind the ears, anus and the rest of the skin to a lesser extent.
Most of the apocrine glands in the skin are located in the armpits, groin and around the nipples; these glands are also found in the breast where they secrete fat droplets into the breast milk, in the ear where they help form earwax, and they are in the skin and eyelids where they produce sweat.
These glands are responsible for body odour because they produce sweat high in protein which is broken down by the bacteria.
Causes of body odour
Hyperhidrosis: This is a medical condition characterized by excess sweating; the sweat produced is more than that needed by the body to regulate temperature, this condition can cause body odour and in most cases smelly feet.
Medications: Some medications like antidepressants, morphine and fever reducing drugs makes one sweat; using a deodorant while on these medications can help the problem.
Alcohol: As the body breaks down alcohol, some come out of the bloodstream through the sweat and breath; alcohol is toxic to the body, so the body quickly breaks it down and looks for ways to eliminate it as quickly as possible.
In the case of chronic drinkers, who drink more than the liver can handle or whose liver have been damage; alcohol is mostly excreted through the skin (as sweat) and breath and this will lead to a foul body odour. If you can’t avoid alcohol totally; then reduce your intake and make sure you always drink lots of water and shower after a heavy drinking.
Regular intake of spicy foods: Heavy spiced foods release sulfur containing gases when broken down by the body; these gases which are smelly are released through the pores of the skin and this leads to body odour. Drinking plenty of water and showering after meal can help you manage this; deodorants can also be used.
Other foods that can cause body odour are red meat, fish, cruciferous vegetables, asparagus and coffee; these foods produce body odour when taken in excess.
Medical conditions: There are some medical conditions that can cause body odour and they include diabetes, urinary tract infection, thyroid problems, kidney and liver dysfunction and genetic disorders and mutations.
Genetic disorders and mutation can affect body odour; an example of genetic disorder is Trimethylaminuria, it is characterized by the inability to break down the chemical compound Trimethylamine which is the compound responsible for the characteristic smell of fish. When an individual with this disorder eats fish, this compound builds up in the body and is released in the sweat, breath and urine.
Genetics also affects how a person smells; people of East Asia have few apocrine sweat glands in their bodies, these make them less prone to body odour because the rate of sweat production is reduced.
They also have dry ear wax, especially the Japanese, Chinese and Koreans; this reduces their ability to have body odour because wet ear wax can contribute to auxiliary body odour.
High levels of stress: Sweat is a natural response to stress and the smelliest sweat happens when one is stressed out; reduce stress and use deodorants made with natural products. Body odour and heavy perspiration can also occur when one is anxious or nervous.
Hormonal changes: Puberty and menopause can cause hormonal changes which can lead to increased perspiration which can also lead to body odour because as more sweat is produced, the bacteria on the skin breaks down the proteins and the sweat and this releases odour.
Hormonal changes in males can occur in hypogonadism which is a health challenge that is characterized by abnormally low levels of testosterone; this can result in hot flashes like the in the case of menopause in women, this leads to increased perspiration and body odour.
Other causes of body odour are unwashed under wears like bras and even pants; the bra is more prone to sweat because it touches all the areas prone to sweat and they are made with fabrics that hold moisture for a long time. This moisture can even aid the overgrowth of fungus and bacteria; this can cause bad odour and rashes.
Buy enough bras so that you can easily change and wash the other after a single use; also buy bras made with cotton, sheer mesh or lightweight lace and avoid synthetic fibers like spandex which traps sweat and don’t wear the same bra two days in a row. Hot weather, manual labour and hard exercises can lead to heavy perspiration which can lead to body odour.
Risk factors for body odour
Things that increase the risk of developing body odour or make it worse in those who already have are:
- High intake of alcohol
- Consumption of over spicy foods and drinks
- Some medications can case this as a side effect; example of such medication are antidepressants
- Certain medical conditions like diabetes, kidney disease and liver disease can cause body odour. Diabetes can give off a fruity smell while liver or kidney disease can give off a bleach-like smell.
Symptoms of body odour
- Sudden sweat which can be more or less than usual
- A change in body odour is noticed
- Night sweats are experienced for no apparent reasons
- Heavy sweating which can disrupt ones daily routine.
How to manage this condition
Keep your armpits clean and dry: The armpits contain large number of apocrine glands which produces sweat and this sweat is responsible for the body odour; keeping your armpit clean and dry will keep this condition under control. When bathing, wash your armpit thoroughly, you can use an anti-bacterial soap to kill off the excess bacteria on the skin.
You should also regularly shave your armpit; this will allow for the quick evaporation of sweat and less time will be available for the bacteria to break down the sweat.
Take a warm bath every day: A warm bath or shower kills the bacteria on the skin and you can have a warm bath twice a day on a hot day or after a busy day; this will help you manage the condition.
Wear clean clothes: Make sure the clothes you wear are clean and regularly wash your clothes; the clothes you wear should also be made of natural fibers like wool, silk and cotton, they will allow much air into the skin and this will also allow the skin to breathe, sweat will even evaporate quicker.
Limit the amount of spicy foods eaten: Spices like curry, garlic can make the sweat smell; there is also evidence that eating lots of red meat can make body odour worse.
You can make use of deodorants and antiperspirants: This is a good way to manage this condition but make sure the products you patronize are made of only natural things to prevent the risk of cancer and other deadly illnesses. Applying a deodorant after bathing or showering will help manage this condition.
Deodorants mask body odour by using perfume while antiperspirants reduces the amount of sweat produced by the body; its active ingredient aluminium chloride is responsible for this. Use of antiperspirants is not healthy.
Home remedies for body odour
There are natural remedies for this condition that can solve this problem and boosts ones confidence and self-esteem; below are some of the proven effective home remedies for body odour.
Apple cider vinegar: The acidic nature of this powerful liquid kills the bacteria responsible for this and prevents their formation and accumulation; it is good alternative for all those chemical deodorants, mix it with water and apply it to the part affected or dip a cotton ball in it and apply it directly to your underarms and other affected parts.
Neem leaves: These leaves have antibacterial, anti-fungal and antiseptic properties; these eliminates odour from the bod by killing the bacteria responsible, it also flushes out all toxins from the body which is the root cause of body odour in most cases.
Grind neem leaves into a fine paste and apply it to sweat prone areas; let it dry then wash it off with warm water, you can also boil some leaves in water, strain it and add the liquid to your bathing water.
Epsom salt: This is a powerful antioxidant that can detoxify the body; it helps the body in producing serotonin which aids the body in relaxation; this in turn decrease the production of sweat which will decrease the occurrence of body odour.
Pour 3 cups of this salt in a bathtub and soak in it; you can add it to hot water and use it to bath. Do this three times every week for best results.
Parsley: This leaves have been used to fight body odour for ages; their rich content of chlorophyll eliminates body odour and bad breath internally. Add parsley leaves to water and boil for 5 minutes; strain it and drink the water; drink this regularly till you see results.
Fenugreek tea: Fenugreek is a powerful antioxidant that flushes out all toxins from the body; it also has antibacterial properties that can inhibit the spread of bacteria, it fights body odour naturally by treating its root cause. Boil fenugreek seeds in water till the quantity of the water reduces to half; drink this every morning on an empty stomach.
Cornstarch: It has antibacterial properties that help keep the growth of bacteria in check; it keeps the skin dry and decreases the production of sweat. Dust some cornstarch on your underarm and other sweaty areas of your body and leave it on for the rest of the day.
Fennel seeds: These seeds are stimulants; they promote the secretion of digestive and gastric juices in the stomach and they act as laxatives; all these can prevent body odour. Boil 1 teaspoon of crushed fennel seeds in a cup of water, strain the mixture, allow it to cool and add honey for taste before taking it. Take this every morning till you see the desired result.
Hydrate: Taking lots of water every day will help the body flush out all toxins; toxins are the root cause of body odour and they are gotten through the food we eat, drugs and alcohol.
Make sure you make it a lifestyle to drink lots of water every day; even when not thirsty, remind yourself to drink water by setting alarms or carrying a water bottle with you. Apart from treating body odour it will replace the fluid lost through excess sweat and thereby prevent dehydration.
Green tea: This tea is rich in antioxidants and tannic acids that can fight body odour from within, daily intake of this tea flush out toxins from the body; it can also be applied externally to keep the skin dry and also prevent the growth of bacteria.
Boil enough water in a teapot and add green tea leaves to it; allow it to cool, strain it and drink the liquid while you apply the extract to the sweat prone areas. Take this tea on an empty stomach in the morning to deal with foul odour.
Rosemary: This herb has powerful antifungal and antibacterial properties; it kills the bacteria that cause body odour and at the same time leaves a pleasant fragrance on the skin. You can use it topically to fight body odour.
Boil half cup of dried rosemary leaves in 4 cup of water; strain it and add this mixture to your bath water, you can also use the powder on your body to help fight body odour.
Tea bags: They are rich in tannins which prevent the formation of sweat and keep the skin dry. Boil 2L of water and four tea bags to it; pour this in your regular bath and soak in it for 20 minutes, repeat this at least three times every week.
Wheatgrass juice: It kills body odour due to its rich content of chlorophyll; add 2 tablespoons of wheatgrass juice to 1 cup of water and take it on an empty stomach in the morning.
First time users should start with a small amount because it has a strong taste that can cause nausea if you are not use to it. It should be taken on an empty stomach to avoid over reaction.
Baking soda: It helps in absorbing moisture and hence prevents the formation of sweat; it alkalizes the body and kills bacteria on the skin and also neutralizes the pungent odour that the body gives off. Take powdered baking soda and brush it o all sweat prone areas of your body; dust the extra powder off and you can go about your normal duties.
You can even make a paste by mixing baking soda with few drops of water then apply this mixture to your underarms and other sweat prone areas; leave it for 15 minutes then you wash it off with lukewarm water and pat it dry.
Turnip juice: It is used in Ayurvedic medicine to eliminate the bacteria causing body and it is also a rich source of vitamin C. Cut the turnip into pieces and crush them to make a paste out of it, sieve the paste to get the juice and apply this juice to your underarms and groin areas and other prone areas. Let it dry off; this will keep body odour in check for at least 10 hours.
Lemon juice: The acidic nature of this liquid makes it hard for bacterial to survive on the skin by lowering the pH of the body. Cut a lemon in halve and rub it directly on your underarm; let it dry completely then you wash it off with lukewarm water, you can dilute the juice with water before applying if you have a sensitive skin.
Alcohol: This is effective in removing underarm body odour; it closes the skin pores and reduces perspiration, gently rub alcohol under your armpit or you can add little alcohol in a mug of water and use it to rinse your armpit.
Tomato juice: The juice of this plant is acidic which helps in killing the bacteria on the skin; it is also an astringent that helps in closing the skin pores to reduce the production of sweat. Fill a bathtub with warm water and add tomato juice to it and soak in it for 20 to 30 minutes; you can repeat this 3 or 4 times weekly.
Hydrogen peroxide: Apply this solution (1 teaspoon of hydrogen peroxide in a cup of water) under your arm for sometimes; this will kill the bacteria responsible for body odour and prevent further infection. It can also be applied directly under the arms to get rid of dirty odour.
Milk of magnesia: This is magnesium hydroxide that has been suspended in water; it is an antacid that prevents the production of acid and this combats body odour. From its first application, it leaves the skin dry and odour free.
Dab some milk of magnesia directly on your underarms morning and evening; you can also mix it with any essential oil of your choice and store it in a spray bottle to be used anytime it is required.
Rose water: This is also an astringent which reduces the size of pores present on the skin; it reduces the production of sweat and leave behind a pleasant floral fragrance. Mix rose water with apple cider vinegar; store this mixture in a bottle and spray your underarms and other body parts when required.
Witch hazel: This herb has astringent properties that minimize the size of the pores on the skin; it reduces the production of sweat to a great extent and its acidic nature lowers the pH of the skin, this makes it difficult for those bacteria to survive. Dip a cotton ball in witch hazel and dap it on your underarms and other prone areas; use it daily.
Some oils are also very effective in combating body odour and they include:
Coconut oil: This oil is rich in lauric acid; this acid helps in eliminating the bacteria that cause body odour. You can apply coconut oil directly in your armpits or in other sweat prone areas of your body and this should be done daily; for foul odour, mix citric acid with water and use it to rinse your armpit or the sweat prone areas before stepping out of the shower, then dry the areas and apply coconut oil.
Tea tree oil: This is a natural antiseptic and it is well known for its powerful antibacterial properties; it wards off the bacteria and fungus on the skin and this can prevent the occurrence of body odour. Dilute tea tree oil with water and dap the mixture in your armpit and in other sweat prone areas.
Lavender oil: This essential oil is effective in inhibiting the growth of odour causing bacteria; it also scents nice which gives it an added benefits. It can also be mixed with cornstarch and baking soda which helps in keeping the skin dry and prevent the accumulation of bacteria.
Mix lavender oil with cornstarch and baking soda; store this mixture in a dark place for a couple of days and apply when needed.
Peppermint oil: This essential oil is loaded with antibacterial properties; it should be mixed with coconut oil or water because it can cause irritations on sensitive skin, mix a few drops of peppermint oil with water and spray in your armpits.
To keep your armpits dry; mix this essential oil with coconut oil or jojoba oil, cornstarch and baking soda, refrigerate this mixture and use when needed.
Tamanu oil: This oil has strong antibacterial, antifungal, antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties and it also has a deep scent to make it more effective; you can apply few drops of this oil to the affected area or mix it with any essential oil of your choice.
Sage oil: Its antibacterial properties makes it effective in combating the bacteria that causes body odour and it has a pleasant fragrance which it leaves on the skin. You can mix this essential oil with water and apply on the sweat prone areas; you can also soak dry sage in hot water and use this water to bath or apply to the affected body parts.