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Surprising Reasons You May Smell Bad

Doctor explains seven possible causes of sudden change in body odor.
FACT CHECKED BY Alek Korab

Everyone has a unique body odor, but when the scent turns unpleasant it's time to look into the underlying cause. Body odor happens, "when your sweat comes in contact with the bacteria on your skin. Sweat itself doesn't smell, but when the bacteria on your skin mix with your sweat, it causes an odor," according to the Cleveland Clinic. And believe it or not, "Your body odor can say a lot about your health. Sudden changes in body odor can be caused by various factors," Dr. Tomi Mitchell, a Board-Certified Family Physician with Holistic Wellness Strategies tells Eat This, Not That! Health. Dr. Mitchell tells us seven ways your body odor can change and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.

1

Pay Attention to What You Eat

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According to Dr. Mitchell, "What you eat can affect the way you smell. When your digestive system breaks down the food you eat, it releases compounds absorbed into your bloodstream and eventually excreted through your skin. Certain foods, such as garlic and onions, contain sulfur-containing compounds that can make your sweat smell terrible. Other foods, such as curry and cumin, contain spices that can also contribute to body odor. In some cases, a sudden change in diet can cause a temporary change in body odor. For example, if you eat many garlic-rich foods, you may notice that your sweat smells like garlic for a few days. This is because it takes time for the sulfur-containing compounds to be eliminated from your body. Once they are gone, your body odor will return to normal."

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2

Certain Medications Can Change Your Body Odor

 

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Dr. Mitchell says, "Body odor is a complex process that can be affected by many different factors, including diet, stress, and medical conditions. Medications can also have an impact on body odor.  For example, anticholinergics, which are used to treat conditions like urinary incontinence and Parkinson's disease, can cause dryness of the skin and decreased sweating, leading to an increase in body odor. Hormone replacement therapy and birth control pills can also cause changes in body odor. In some cases, medications can cause a sudden and noticeable change in how a person smells. This side effect is most commonly associated with drugs that affect the nervous system, such as antipsychotics and anti-anxiety medications.  While most changes in body odor are not harmful, they can be unwelcome and embarrassing. If you are concerned about how your body smells after starting a new medication, talk to your doctor about alternative options."

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3

Underlying Medical Conditions

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"Conditions that affect the way our body processes food can also lead to changes in body odor," Dr. Mitchell reveals. "For example, people with diabetes or liver disease may develop a sweet or musty smell because of high levels of ketones in their sweat. Kidney failure can cause a build-up of urea and other toxins in the body, which may be excreted through the skin and give off an ammonia-like smell. And certain genetic disorders can cause problems with how we break down and metabolize fats, resulting in a fishy body odor. While these changes in body odor can be alarming, they are usually not indicative of a severe health problem. However, if you notice a sudden or drastic change in your body odor, it's best to see your doctor rule out any underlying medical conditions."

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4

Poor Oral Hygiene

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"Good oral hygiene is essential for many reasons," Dr. Mitchell states. "Not only does it help to prevent tooth decay and gum disease, but it also reduces the risk of foul body odor. When food particles and bacteria accumulate in the mouth, they can cause an unpleasant smell. In addition, poor oral hygiene can lead to a build-up of plaque on the tongue, contributing to bad breath. Fortunately, a few simple steps can be taken to minimize the risk of foul body odor. For example, brushing the teeth twice a day and flossing regularly will help to remove food particles and bacteria from the mouth. In addition, brushing the tongue can also help eliminate bad breath by removing plaque and bacteria. By taking these simple steps, you can help to keep your mouth healthy and reduce the risk of body odor."

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5

Pregnancy

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Dr. Mitchell explains, "Being pregnant can cause a sudden change in body odor. This is because the body is going through hormonal changes, affecting perspiration. Additionally, pregnancy can cause an increase in blood flow, which can also lead to more sweating. To help combat this, it is essential to stay hydrated and wear loose, breathable clothing. Additionally, some women find that using a mild soap and avoiding strong fragrances helps to minimize body odor. If you are concerned about body odor during pregnancy, it is best to speak with your OB-GYN. They can provide additional tips and resources to help you manage this common side effect of pregnancy."

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6

High Fiber Diet

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Dr. Mitchell shares, "A high-fiber diet is often lauded as healthy and beneficial, and for a good reason. Fiber helps to regulate digestion, prevent constipation, and lower cholesterol levels. However, there is a downside to overeating fiber: body odor. When fiber is not fully broken down in the digestive system, it can start to ferment. This process produces gases like methane and hydrogen sulfide, expelled through the skin. In addition, a high-fiber diet can also cause sweat glands to become blocked, leading to an accumulation of sweat and bacteria on the skin. While body odor is not a severe health concern, it can be unpleasant and embarrassing. For this reason, it is important to moderate your intake of fiber-rich foods if you are concerned about body odor."

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7

Infections In the Pubic Area

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"Body odor is caused by various factors, including diet, stress, and hygiene," Dr. Mitchell says. "However, one of the most common causes of body odor is an infection in the pubic area. This type of infection can occur in both men and women, and it is often the result of poor hygiene or an underlying medical condition. The bacteria that cause these infections can lead to an unpleasant odor and cause irritation and itching. If you suspect that you have a disease in your pubic area, it is crucial to see a doctor to receive treatment. In most cases, body odor caused by a condition can be effectively treated with antibiotics or other medications. However, if the infection is left untreated, it can become severe and serious health complications."

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Heather Newgen
Heather Newgen has two decades of experience reporting and writing about health, fitness, entertainment and travel. Heather currently freelances for several publications. Read more
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