Phew! What’s That Awful Smell?

By: Marlene Affeld ~

allergy-18656__180It is no surprise that humans emit body odor. In fact, all mammals smell. The odors extruded by animals help them to identify each other and choose a healthy mate. For humans, scent first comes into play in newborns when they use scent to identify their mothers. Research studies indicate that tests with new babies found that for fussy little ones, the scent of their mother brought the most comfort.

Every single person on earth has their own “signature body odor”, as unique as our fingerprints. Our particular signature odor is determined by overall general health, genetics, and most importantly, personal hygiene.

Dr. Debra Jaliman, a dermatologist, spokesperson for the American Academy of Dermatology and author of Skin Rules: Trade Secrets From a Top Dermatologist explains body odor, noting, “The fermentation of your perspiration by naturally occurring bacteria on your skin produces the distinctive scent we less generously call body odor. We each have a distinct combination of bacteria — about 1,000 types live in human sweat glands — and, therefore, our own unique smell.”

Do You Present An Offensive Body Odor?

Did you know that most people cannot smell their own body odor? The human nose adjusts to consistent odors in order to reduce the impact these scents may have on recognizing future scents. This is the reason if you own dogs; you may smell like a dog and be entirely unaware that your entire home reeks of dog smell.

Presenting an unpleasant body odor is social suicide, and no one wants to offend. If you practice good hygiene, but find you have an off-putting body odor, or other people have commented you may want to consider if you have an undiagnosed underlying medical problem or if the foods in your diet are the culprits.

Medical Issues That May Cause Body Odor

Cancers or tumors may cause odor at the site of the tumor. Tumors of the mouth or stomach may be responsible for a persistent bad breath or cancers of the uterus or cervix can cause an odorous discharge from the vagina.

Certain health problems such as gastrointestinal disorders, diabetes, an overactive thyroid, athlete’s foot, urinary tract infection, kidney disease, menopause, liver failure, and certain medications can cause body odor.

Before tackling a serious body odor issue, consult with your doctor to determine if there is an underlining serious medical condition causing the body odor problem. The cause may be obvious from a complete medical history and through medical examination. If the cause is not readily evident, further testing may be required, dependent on the suspected cause.


As we age, body chemistry changes. While scientists have yet to pin down the underlying cause or mechanism, they believe our body bacteria changes, affecting natural odor.

Foods That Affects Body Odor

When research scientists attempt to conduct studies on body odor, they advise test subjects to avoid certain foods that can affect body odor and the outcome of their tests unreliable. If you experience excessive perspiration, diet may be to blame. Manufactured foods, lacking in fiber and loaded with sugar and refined flours, hydrogenated oils, and other highly processed foods, are big offenders. Fried foods are also big offenders. Oil contained in fried foods exhibit a tendency to become rancid quite quickly causing poor digestion and body odor.

Eliminating processed foods from the diet and changing to a diet rich in leafy greens, raw nuts, seeds and healthy oil will quickly reverse the problem.


As beneficial as, they are to our health, many plants such as cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, cabbage, garlic, also onions alter body odor because they contain sulfur compounds. To understand how powerful these pungent properties can be, rub a clove of crushed garlic on the bottom of your foot. In 15 to 20 minutes, you will taste garlic in your mouth. Not to worry! Don’t stop eating these nutrient-rich vegetables; just follow with a glass of milk to neutralize the sulfur scent.

Not released through sweat glands, the odor generated by eating asparagus is released through the urine. There is no reason to stop eating asparagus. This odor is short-lived and only present in urination, so others are unlikely to notice the distinctive smell.

Meat, Chicken, And Fish

One of the benefits of going meatless is its effect on body odor. Although there are no definitive medical research studies that prove the olfactory benefits of a meatless diet, several studies seem to indicate that body odor is less intense in men that avoided meat, fish, and poultry.

An Inherited Metabolic Disorder

If you have body and can’t understand why, it may be the result of the interaction of your genes, diet and body odor. Persons with an inherited metabolic disorder known as trimethylaminuria, manifest a “fishy” odor when they consume fish or other high protein foods. This is due to an inability to break down a food-derived compound (trimethylamine), which then accumulates in the body and is slowly released into the breath, sweat, and urine. Though the disorder is relatively rare, the authors of a 2007 paper in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences discover that a great many people with unexplained body odor tested positive for it.

Consuming too many sweets can also be a cause of body odor. Refined sugars promote yeast growth, thereby converting sugars to offensively odorous alcohol. The by-product of excess yeast production, stomach gas, presents a whole other spectrum of odor problems.

Alcohol And Spirits

Don’t think you can consume alcohol and no one will be the wiser. Alcohol is metabolized in the liver into acetic acid, which is released through the respiratory system as well as through the pores. When you over-indulge, it’s noticeable to up to 48 hours after consumption. Wine and vodka are the least detectable while scotch, whiskey, rum, and beer are the biggest body odor-causing alcoholic beverages.

Spices And Herbs

A diverse array of foods, herbs, and spices affect body odor. When a mother’s pre-natal diet regularly includes flavorings and foods such as mint, vanilla, garlic, curry, oregano, basil, thyme, cumin, fenugreek or other pungent ingredients, the odor of the newborn baby reflects these ingredients in the mother’s diet.

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