By David Blyweiss, M.D., Advanced Natural Wellness
October 23, 2017
- Why does your sweat stink?
- Women like the smell of men who eat these foods
- Certain health conditions may contribute to body odor
Down here in South Florida, it’s hard not to sweat. Patients come into my office with large patches of moisture at the underarms of their shirts, on their backs and ringing around their collars. And sometimes it smells pretty lousy.
The thing that most people don’t realize is that sweat doesn’t come out of the body smelling bad. It’s actually the interaction of the sweat with skin bacteria that produces the odor. Let me explain…
Your body has two types of sweat glands. Eccrine glands are found all over the body. But the sweat they produce doesn’t end up smelling. It’s mostly water and salt.
It’s the apocrine glands that are linked to body odor. These are the glands found in hairy areas, like your armpits and groin. They excrete waste products that your skin bacteria love to feast on. As the bacteria break the waste down, odors are released.
These glands tend to become overactive when you’re stressed – which explains why stress-sweat tends to smell so bad.
However, stinky sweat isn’t simply a case of stress. In most cases, it could be as simple as changing your eating habits.
Women Like the Smell of Men who eat These Foods
If you’re a man, you might attract more women if you change the way you eat.
It turns out that when men eat more fruits and vegetables, women find their odor much more pleasant smelling. This is true even if the men sweat intensely. At the same time, women report that men who eat a higher carbohydrate diet – foods like bread, pasta, sugars and white potatoes – have sweat that’s much less pleasant smelling. Men who eat a high meat diet don’t smell as good, either. In fact in some areas of the world where plant based diets are the norm, meat eaters can be distinguished by their meat smell.
This is likely due to the high amounts of chlorophyll found in plant-based foods. Chlorophyll acts as sort of an internal deodorant, which alkalizes your body and purifies your blood. Dark-green leafy vegetables are exceptionally high in chlorophyll.
The microbiota in your gut may also have an impact on your body odor. And, of course, the foods you eat play a role on the balance of friendly bacteria living in your digestive tract. This may be another reason that enzyme- and antioxidant-rich plant foods help reduce body odor.
Processed carbs and hard-to-digest meats, on the other hand, can increase the build-up of stinking waste and “bad” bacteria – both in your gut and on your skin. Taking antibiotics can also disrupt a healthy microbial balance and make you smell bad.
With this in mind, supplementing with a probiotic may be a good idea. This will increase the amount of good bacteria in both your body and on your skin – and keep you smelling good.
Look for one that contains multiple strains of lactobacillus and bifobacterium. It should also include a “prebiotic” to help the good bacteria survive the trip to the gut and intestines.
Drinking a lot of water can help, too. It helps your body eliminate toxic waste products. You can even boost the effects by adding a little lemon – a natural purifier and deodorizer.
The truth is, the vast majority of stinky sweat can be eased with good hygiene and some of the changes outlined above. But in some rare cases, certain health conditions may affect how pungent your day-to-day odor smells.
Is a Health Problem giving you B.O.?
Left untreated, diabetes can lead to a condition called ketoacidosis. This can produce a sweet, fruity odor on both your breath and skin that is quite distinctive. It’s also indicative of a medical emergency… and means it’s time to rush yourself to the doctor or hospital right away.
Another condition – one that affects about a third of all people with unmanageable body odor – is called trimethylaminuria, or TMAU. It’s basically caused by an inability to metabolize trimethylamine, which is produced naturally in many foods, especially ones high in choline. And it produces a fishy or “garbage-like” odor after you eat these foods.
If this sounds familiar, you can take part in choline challenge testing to find out if it’s the source of your problems. (Some foods high in choline include eggs, dairy, meats and organ meats, certain legumes and saltwater fish.) There is research now involving trimethylamine metabolism in the gut and liver increasing cardiovascular problems…but that’s a discussion for another time.
An additional source of body odor could be caused by liver or kidney problems. Kidney and liver issues affect your body’s ability to remove toxins. And when that toxic waste hits the skin, it can result in a pretty unpleasant scent. Simple blood tests can measure kidney and liver function when you visit the doctor for your annual check-up.
Keep in mind that, in the vast majority of cases, stinky sweat doesn’t signify a serious health problem. So before jumping to conclusions, make the effort to give dietary changes a try.
Zuniga A, et al. Diet quality and the attractiveness of male body odor. J Evol Hum Behav. 2016 Aug;38(1):136:143.
Havlicek J, et al. The effect of meat consumption on body odor attractiveness. Chem Senses. 2006 Oct;31(8):747-52.
Wise PM, et al. Individuals reporting idiopathic malodor production: demographics and incidence of trimethylaminuria. Am J Med. 2011 Nov;124(11):1058-63.