Body odor and cancer

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.

Related on Organic Authority
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5 Ways to Smell Good, Without Deodorant

You were likely taught from a young age to mask your natural scent (so instead, you literally smelled like Teen Spirit), but it’s high time you paid more attention to what’s wafting from you armpits. Why, you ask? Your body odor can raise red flags about your lifestyle and the state of your overall health.

But first things first. Along with erasing your body’s natural aroma, non-natural deodorants and antiperspirants can eliminate bacteria that are actually doing your body good. “While the gut microbiome is getting a lot of attention lately, few people are thinking about the billions of bacteria living on the body,” says Parsley Health nutritionist Adrienne Dowd, RD.

The most common cause of a change in body odor is an imbalance in its microbiome caused by the classic perspirant and deodorant combo you use day after day.

Mother Dirt founder Jasmina Aganovic agrees: The most common cause of a change in body odor is an imbalance in its microbiome caused by the classic perspirant and deodorant combo you use day after day. “If you think about current approaches to controlling body odor in that area, they fall into two buckets: antiperspirants that stop sweat so that there is no food for the odor-causing bacteria and deodorant that kills the bacteria,” she explains. “This is very much a scorched earth approach, and not in line with our natural biology.” To remedy this, Mother Dirt products actually add bacteria to the body—yep, like probiotics for your pits. “With balance, comes fewer issues, like body odor,” Aganovic says.

Whether you give a bacterial product like Mother Dirt a shot, switch to a non-toxic deodorant, or brave going au naturel, getting reacquainted with your personal perfume is the first step. Once you know what your natural scent smells like, if you suddenly start noticing that your natural body odor is off from its norm or seems to be consistently pungent, you should evaluate your lifestyle. Diet, alcohol, and stress can all cause your B.O. to change.

For example, if you feel like your odor is more intense than is standard, check in with what you’re eating on a regular basis. “While some healthy foods can cause body odors—such as garlic, onion, cruciferous veggies—a diet high in processed foods can have a much more dramatic effect on your scent,” says Dowd. “Processed foods are high in chemicals your body must process and excrete.”

“While some healthy foods can cause body odors, a diet high in processed foods can have a much more dramatic effect on your scent.”

Down also recommends making some overall healthy swaps to help troubleshoot your B.O. issues. Along with eating a diet rich in organic, plant-based foods with good quality proteins, drink plenty of clean filtered water (at least half your body weight in ounces). Also, sweat it out (literally!) with regular exercise and infrared saunas. Sweating is so good for your body and the aim here is to improve the bacteria and sweat your body creates (and therefore by default, how it smells), not eliminate it altogether.

Next up is booze. (Ugh, sorry.) If you’re indulging in happy hour too often, your body will tell you so (in more ways than one, probably). “Our liver and skin are our natural detoxifiers and when you drink too much alcohol, it’s excreted through your pores,” Dowd says. This one has an obvious fix, and luckily, sober socializing is on the rise (think zero-alcohol dance parties!) to better enable the change.

“Sweat produced when you are stressed, anxious, or scared has a different scent than when you are happy.”

Your oh-so-smart sweat can also point to issues beyond your body and into your mind. “Sweat produced when you are stressed, anxious, or scared has a different scent than when you are happy,” says Dowd. “And you guessed it, it smells worse.” To manage stress sweat—which causes bad odor because it doesn’t evaporate as quickly as do other types of sweat—it’s best to cut it off at it’s source. So book a spin class, pop your earbuds in for some QT with your Headspace app, phone a friend—do whatever you need to do to find your personal Zen.

While bad B.O. is most often a sign of one of the above issues and can all remedied via lifestyle changes, Chris Callewaert (a.k.a. Dr. Armpit) cautions that it can occasionally signify something more serious about your health. “Several genetic and acquired disorders of carbohydrate, amino acid, and fatty acid metabolism are characterized by distinctive body odors,” he says. (These include diabetic ketoacidosis, a severe form of the disease, as well as isovaleric acidemia, a protein-processing disorder commonly referred to as sweaty feet syndrome.) “In addition, several dermatological diseases can lead to an overgrowth of bacteria on the skin, which can lead to malodors,” notes Callewaert. (Like ulcerating skin cancers or bacteria-causing pitted keratolysis.)

A doctor’s visit can provide peace of mind, he advises, for anyone worried that their odor is seriously funky.

Your body has a lot to say. To decode its many messages, find out what the color of your period blood means and get tips for spotting the health issues potentially lurking beneath your manicure.


Courtesy of Original article can be viewed here.

Despite the attempts of deodorant ads everywhere to convince us otherwise, people do not naturally smell like lilies and meadows. (If you do, get yourself genetically sampled and market that sh*t.) We all sweat, and we all smell to varying degrees in response to our perspiration. Ain’t nothing wrong or weird about it. But unusual body odor from sweat can be a sign of various underlying bodily conditions, choices, and life stages — not just an indicator that you need to go and take a shower. Some of them are actually quite serious, too, so that stink that’s bothering your roommate could be a cause for genuine concern.

Here’s the basic way body odor works: in many cases, it’s not actually something stinky being exuded from the pores in sweat form. “Many of my patients think that it’s sweat that smells — but sweat itself is actually odorless,” Dr. Christopher Dietz,DO, Area Medical Director of MedExpress, a system of urgent care centers, tells Bustle. “However, it can indirectly cause body odor. That’s because one type of sweat that our bodies produce is rich in fat. Bacteria that is naturally found on our skin breaks down this fat-rich sweat and produces the range of smells we associate with body odor.”

In other cases, it’s the result of certain substances emerging from the pores and causing a stink on their own terms, but that tends to be associated with either diet or certain medical conditions. No, it’s not a punishment from any deity for not doing the dishes that one time, and it doesn’t come from nowhere. But it can indicate certain things if you know how to read it properly.

Here are seven things that your body odor could be trying to tell you. Though to diagnose it, you may have to get up close and personal with some of your sweaty clothes, or at least ask your GP to do it for you. Get prepared to get stinky.

1. You’re Under Stress

The Mayo Clinic has a good explanation for why stress does actually make us sweat in a specific way that can increase body odor. It turns out that we actually have two different types of sweat glands, the ecrrine and the apocrine. Eccrine glands excrete the sweat we use to cool down, which is mostly water. Apocrine sweat, on the other hand, is released when we’re stressed or upset, and is very conducive to bacteria throwing a sweat-based pool party. So if you’re finding yourself smelling strange after long, anguished meetings, you’re not cracking up; your body’s reacting to the heightened stress levels.

2. You’re Eating Certain Foods & Drinking Booze

The Berkeley Wellness Center has a list of foods that may be contributing to body odor, from sulfurous foods like broccoli to red meat and alcohol (the famous “booze sweat” during a hangover). The cruciferous veggies of the broccoli family, which also include cauliflower and cabbage, create sulfur build-up that’s then excreted from the body in sweat form, but scientists recommend that you can actually reduce the odor after-effects by cooking them in water with salt.

3. You May Have Diabetes, Or Liver Or Kidney Problems

“Some metabolic disorders, like diabetes, can certainly affect how a person smells,” says Dr. Dietz. “For example, people with diabetes have trouble breaking down glucose in the body, so you may notice that diabetics’ breath often smells sweet because of a build-up of glucose.”

These are all classed in the same category because they all place unfamiliar substances into your sweat because of a failure in the body’s normal processes. Kidney failure puts urea into your sweat excretions, diabetes puts in acetone (yes,the stuff in nail polish remover), and liver failure means an uptick in methyl mercaptan. All of these things smell faintly different, which means they can be used as diagnostic tools, and, as you can guess, they’re all medical issues, so if you detect any of those smells, it’s important to talk to your doctor ASAP.

“If you’re worried about body odor, or notice sudden changes in body odor, it’s always a good idea to talk to a healthcare professional,” says Dr. Dietz.

4. You Might Have A Metabolic Disorder

A 2011 study found that up to a third of people with unexplained body odor might have a rare genetic disorder that fiddles with your metabolism, and is known as trimethylaminuria, or, charmingly enough, “the fishy-smelling syndrome”. The basic problem for people with this condition is that they lack the enzyme that breaks down a compound called trimethyamine, and so it builds up and comes out through the pores. The smell? You guessed it: fishy.

5. You Could Have A Thyroid Problem

One of the unfortunate things that holds true about body odor is that if you’re prone to sweating more, you’re also likely to smell more. It’s just the nature of the beast. And one particular thyroid issue, Grave’s disease, is associated with excessive sweating. Grave’s disease is basically a case of an overactive thyroid, where the thyroid reacts to an immune system malfunction by going into overdrive. Thyroids are responsible for regulating the metabolism, so one going the speed of a race car can contribute to shakes, rapid heartbeat, poor sleep, and, yep, buckets of sweat. Thyroid-related sweating often tends to happen at night, which, incidentally, is also associated with serious infections, located most commonly in the heart valves or bones.

6. You’re On Medications That Cause Sweating

The equation of more sweat making more odor is, unfortunately, pretty foolproof, and the sweat can also be caused by medication side effects. Some analgesic pain medications, SSRI antidepressants, hormonal medications, and heart-based drugs have excessive sweating as part of their known catalogue of side-effects, so you’ll have to be prepared for a bit of body odor increase if you’re on a course of any of those meds.

7. You’re In The Midst Of A Hormonal Fluctuation

Hormonal shifts are a big cause of sweating increases, from perimenopause (the period right before menopause) to the early teen years. “Women experiencing hormonal fluctuations can certainly experience changes in their body odor,” says Dr. Dietz. “When estrogen levels drop during menopause, for example, the body often mistakes this as a sign that it’s overheating. This hormonal change then leads to excess sweating, which can contribute to body odor. Other common symptoms of hormone fluctuation, like hot flashes and night sweats, can also contribute to excessive sweating and increase body odor.”

People who are pregnant frequently report waves of sweatiness in response to the massive hormonal upheaval of conception and carrying a fetus, so if you’re at any point in your life where hormones are rampant (or you’re on medications with hormonal side-effects), you may have found your culprit.

“Most of the time, body odor is just a pesky and unpleasant part of life. In some cases, though, consistent or sudden body odor can indicate a chronic problem, like a metabolic condition or a more serious illness like yellow fever and typhoid fever, which can have distinct scents,” says Dr. Dietz. If your body odor has suddenly changed and there’s no clear reason why, you should schedule a doctor’s appointment; it could be a sign of something more serious.

6 Signs Your Body Odor Is Abnormal & You Should Get See A Doctor

It’s normal for everyone to have their own unique scent — especially after a sweaty day at the gym — but some people seem to have a stronger smell than others. If you suspect you smell a little more intensely than you should, you might be exhibiting some signs that your body odor is abnormal. Certain diseases and disorders can cause bad body odor, and although a little stinkiness post-workout isn’t cause for alarm, if you’ve noticed an intense smell that just won’t seem to go away, you may want to get checked out by a doctor to see if there are any underlying causes.

“Lack of good personal hygiene can certainly contribute to body odor,” says Nesochi Okeke-Igbokwe, M.D., M.S. over email. “If you are not properly washing regions of the body that are prone to sweating, you may experience body odor. We all have a certain degree of bacteria on the surface of our skin. When the bacteria interacts with sweat, body odor may arise. Abnormal body odor may occur as a result of various medical conditions, including certain infections and metabolic disorders.”

If you find that you have some unusual scents coming from your body and you’re not sure why, watch out for these six signs that your body odor is abnormal.

1. There’s A Fruity Odor


“People with diabetes — when it is poorly controlled and in a state of ketoacidosis — have a noticeable ‘fruity’ odor caused by a class of chemicals called ketones,” says Dr. Lee Norman over email. This type of odor usually appears through the breath.

2. Your Pee Smells Bad


Notice an unpleasant smell when going to the bathroom? “Most urinary odors are not necessarily a sign of disease, but a foul-smelling urine could be due to an infection, diabetes or other another underlying medical condition,” says Dr. Jennifer Caudle over email.

3. You Have Fishy Vaginal Odor


Odor coming from below the belt could signify that something is awry. “A vaginal odor that is strong — for example, ‘fishy’ — or associated with other symptoms, such as itching, burning, or discharge may indicate an underlying condition such as a bacterial overgrowth or infection,” says Caudle.

4. There’s An Odor Reminiscent Of Cat Urine


If your body odor smells like cat urine, you may have a condition called 3-Methylcrotonylglycinuria (3MCC). “3MCC is a genetic disorder in which the body lacks an enzyme that helps to break down specific proteins,” says Okeke-Igbokwe. “Symptoms usually occur during infancy, but may also manifest in adulthood.”

5. You Smell Strongly, Even From Far Away


“There are rare genetic disorders, such as trimethylaminuria, in which toxins are not metabolized normally, and they build up in the body,” says Norman. This causes a strong, garbage-like odor that can be perceptible even at a distance.

6. It’s Coming From A Rash Or Wound

Various skin rashes and wounds, especially if sticky, damp, and infected, smell bad,” says Norman. “One particular bacteria, pseudomonas, has a distinctive smell of wet socks, and experienced noses can detect that from across the room before even finding its source.”

Male Body Odor Can Stink Like Urine Or Have A Pleasant Vanilla Smell, Depending On One Gene

New research from Rockefeller University, performed in collaboration with scientists at Duke University in North Carolina, reveals for the first time that this extreme variability in people’s perception of androstenone is due in large part to genetic variations in a single odorant receptor called OR7D4.

Androstenone, found in higher concentrations in the urine and sweat of men than of women, is used by some mammals to convey social and sexual information, and the ability to perceive androstenone’s scent may have far-reaching behavioral implications for humans.

In the largest study ever conducted of its kind, researchers at Rockefeller University presented nearly 400 participants with 66 odors at two different concentrations and asked them to rate the pleasantness and intensity of each odor. When scientists at Duke University identified OR7D4 as a receptor that androstenone selectively activates, Leslie Vosshall, Chemers Family Associate Professor and head of the Laboratory of Neurogenetics and Behavior at Rockefeller University and Andreas Keller, a postdoc in her lab, formed a collaboration with them, and began collecting blood samples from participants and isolated their DNA. The Duke team, led by Hiroaki Matsunami, used DNA from each participant to sequence the gene that encodes the OR7D4 receptor.

“With this large dataset, we are able to say that people who express different variants of this receptor perceive this odor differently,” says Vosshall.

Although it has long been suspected that the ability to perceive the odor of androstenone is genetically determined, this study is the first to identify variations in a single gene that account for a large part of why people perceive androstenone’s scent so differently.

With their Duke collaborators, Vosshall and Keller identified two point mutations called single nucleotide polymorphisms along the gene, which gave rise to two variants of the odorant receptor: RT and WM, which differ by two amino acids. As a group, participants with the RT/RT genotype perceive androstenone’s odor as foul and intense. Those with the RT/WM genotype, on the other hand, are more likely to perceive androstenone as less unpleasant. Many cannot smell androstenone at all. Although some participants with the RT/WM genotype can smell androstenone, they experience the smell very differently than those with two copies of the fully functional receptor: To them, androstenone doesn’t smell like urine; it has a vanilla scent.

“There are two independent things that are interesting about this odor,” says first co-author Keller. “One is that it is a potential social signal but the other one is that so many people cannot smell it.”

Two additional point mutations in some of the participants influenced their sensitivity to androstenone, one of which may make humans hypersensitive to this odor. Vosshall and Keller are interested in what it is about these amino acid changes that alter one’s perception of androstenone’s scent, and in whether one’s perception of this potent compound can influence behavior.

“Since some mammals clearly use androstenone to communicate sexuality and dominance within a social hierarchy, it’s intriguing to think whether the same thing may happen in humans,” Vosshall says. “If so, what happens to humans who can’t get the signal because they have the nonfunctional copy of the gene? Or the hyperfunctional one? What could be the social and sexual implications of this on one’s perception of the smell of fellow humans?”

The research is reported September 16 as an advance online publication of the journal Nature.

What does cancer smell like?

UEF Bulletin 2016

In the future, cancer may be diagnosed by its smell, and polyamines may be the key to new diagnostics.

Many studies have concluded that cancer has a distinct smell. Dogs can be trained and electronic noses programmed to recognise cancer by smelling patient samples, but there is still no certainty about what exactly causes the smell.

According to Professor Jouko Vepsäläinen (in the photo above), the answer may be polyamines. They are a group of molecules that play an important role in cell growth, proliferation and differentiation. Increased cell proliferation and raised polyamine levels are typical in cancer. What’s more, polyamines actually smell bad.

Vepsäläinen has been studying the role of polyamines in cancer for almost 20 years with other UEF pioneers in the field, Professor Leena Alhonen and the late Professor Juhani Jänne. More recently, and with the university’s strategic funding, his Wet Chemistry Alliance group at the School of Pharmacy has joined forces with researchers in Tampere and Helsinki to develop cancer diagnostics possibly based on patients’ polyamine profiles. To better understand the function and potential of polyamines, his group develops the analytics and synthesis of polyamines and searches for new therapeutic purposes for drugs affecting polyamine metabolism.

The smell of cancer is caused by a mixture of volatile compounds, which are laborious and costly to identify with traditional analytics. Vepsäläinen’s group has developed a quicker method based on liquid chromatography and tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS), with which a variety of polyamines can be analysed simultaneously.

Urine samples are measured by LC-MS/MS using specific ions for each polyamine, visualised as peaks in the chromatogram.

Besides all polyamines common in human cells, the group was the first in the world to synthesise their deuterium-labelled counterparts, which are used as internal standards in the analysis, necessary for accurate quantitative polyamine profiling and thus detecting cancer from patients’ urine samples.

“We have been able to discriminate prostate cancer from benign prostatic enlargement, to detect ovarian cancer and to tell which stage the cancer is in, based on polyamine profiles,” Vepsäläinen says.

” Next, we plan to analyze samples from other common cancers.”

Applying the results to an electronic nose, Dr Niku Oksala’s group at the University of Tampere was able to detect prostate cancer from urine smell print profiles just as well as the common PSA test from blood.

“Our analytics are not feasible for clinical use yet, but a portable eNose has wide potential in the screening, diagnostics and follow-up of cancer. It could enable earlier diagnostics and thus a better outcome of many cancers, and reduce the need for expensive tests and biopsies,” Vepsäläinen says.

However, an electronic nose can’t recognise individual compounds, just a smell pattern based on provided data. More research is needed to ensure that what it detects are indeed polyamines, and to train it to recognise polyamine profiles in different cancers.

Here dogs come to rescue. In cooperation with Docent Anna Hielm-Björkman’s Dogrisk project at the University of Helsinki, dogs trained to detect cancer from urine samples will be given samples with synthesised polyamines imitating cancerous polyamine profiles. “If the dogs pick these samples, we can be quite sure that polyamines cause the smell.”

Her focus on dogs, Hielm-Björkman reveals that dogs’ cancer samples have an added benefit in research. – Food contains polyamines as well, but with dogs it’s easy to eliminate the impact of different food products on polyamine levels by keeping them all on a similar diet.

The development of polyamine analytics as well as the extensive synthesis and deuterium-labelling of polyamines on Kuopio Campus is much the result of Dr. Merja Häkkinen’s several years’ work. The research group has already received inquiries from international pharmaceutical stakeholders willing to buy the molecules for their own research use.

Häkkinen points outs that polyamines can be important markers not just in diagnostics, but in assessing patients’ response to treatment. – In the samples we have analyzed, cancer patients’ polyamine profiles have differed before and after surgery.

The applications of polyamine profiling range from different types of cancer to many other diseases where altered polyamine levels have been observed, such as urinary tract infections. They are common among aged population, and in older people they may cause behavioural symptoms that can be confused with symptoms of dementia.

– A few years from now, urinary tract infections may be diagnosed in a matter of minutes at the patient’s home using an electronic nose, predicts Docent Tuomo Keinänen who also works in Vepsäläinen’s group.

Besides health care, polyamine measurements can benefit the food industry. – For example, in live fish transport tanks, small alterations in polyamine levels could help detect dead fish that would otherwise contaminate the whole lot, Keinänen says.

– Polyamine metabolism as a drug treatment target is another area of research where a lot is happening at the moment. Many drugs that are in clinical use for other purposes have an impact of polyamine functions, which may make them useful in the treatment of cancer or other diseases they were not originally aimed at.

For example, the group has ifentified a polyamine target for metformin, a diabetes drug now showing anti-cancer potential. – It takes a lot of time and money to develop entirely new drugs, whereas it’s much faster and cheaper to look for new purposes for tried and tested drugs that are already on the market.

Text: Ulla Kaltiala Photos: Raija Törrönen

Catch your breath

Do you notice your breath smelling fruity? It may not just be the peach you had with lunch, but rather a very serious medical complication of diabetes. Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) occurs when your body is running low on insulin, causing your blood sugar to spike, Robert Gabbay tells Men’s Health. Gabbay, chief medical officer at the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston, said that the condition is more common in people with type 1 diabetes than type 2.

With this condition, your body isn’t creating the energy needed to function properly, and it breaks down fatty acids for fuel, which creates a build-up of acidic chemicals called ketones in the blood. One such acid, acetone, causes the fruity smell, Gabbay said. DKA can be a significant health problem, even leading to diabetic coma or death, according to the American Diabetes Association (ADA). If you notice the smell along with other symptoms such as a very dry mouth, difficulty breathing and abdominal pain, ADA recommends contacting your health care provider or going to the emergency room immediately.

On the other side of the breath spectrum, a foul smell could be a warning sign of undiagnosed sleep apnea, especially if you brush your teeth regularly. Sleep apnea causes breathing to stop and start while you sleep and makes your mouth very dry, a common cause of bad breath. The condition leaves sufferers chronically tired and also at greater risk for diabetes, stroke, heart disease and memory loss. If you have good dental hygiene but are still waking up with bad breath, it may be time to talk with your doctor.

Skin conditions

While some body odor is normal, a particularly strong smell could be a sign of skin disease, doctor and author Jennifer Stagg tells Bustle. “Skin infections can present with a putrid odor from the byproducts of bacterial growth. Gangrene, which is dying tissue, has one of the most offensive odors and smells like rotting meat.”

Internal health issues may result in unpleasant body odors (BO), as well, such as liver and kidney disease and hyperthyroidism, which can lead to excessive sweat and increased BO. Stagg recommends talking with your doctor if you notice a strong smell from your skin.

Other smelly symptoms to watch:

  • Stinky feet: You may have a fungal infection. Watch for dry, scaly skin around your toes, redness and blisters, which may be signs of athlete’s foot, according to the American Podiatric Medical Association. Untreated athlete’s foot can lead to bacterial infections like cellulitis.
  • Odorous stools: This could be a sign of lactose intolerance, reports. If you notice your gas or bowel movements are more smelly after eating or drinking dairy, you may want to check in with your doctor to make adjustments to your diet.
  • Pungent urine: If you notice a strong chemical smell when you urinate, you may have a urinary tract infection. When bacteria, typically E. coli, enter your urinary tract and urethra they multiply in your bladder, causing an infection. The smell is one of the signs of a high white blood cell count in the urine, a very reliable indicator of urinary tract infections, according to the New York Times Health Guide.

10 Sources of Body Odor That Aren’t Just Sweat

Cancer patients sometimes give off a powerful odor, due to dead tissue inside their bodies. Fuse/Thinkstock


If untreated, various types of cancer can cause the development of necrotic lesions — that is, dead, rotting tissue — that give off a powerful odor. For instance, a man who suffered from an undiagnosed cancer in his penis developed such a powerful stink that his office colleagues refused to work with him – which was the only reason he sought medical help. His doctor hypothesized that some substance was being drawn from the necrotic lesion and released through the sweat glands .

Another patient with psychosis had such a bad body odor that her psychiatrist could smell her even before she got to his office. “It turned out that this poor lady had advanced breast cancer, with a lesion that was eating through the breast and oozing foul-smelling necrotic gunk,” the doctor wrote. “She was too psychotic to know what was happening.” But after the psychiatrist got her to have cancer surgery and put her on antipsychotic medication, both the odor and her mental confusion subsided .

11 Weird Body Odors That Might Be A Sign Of A Health Problem

If you wake up with bad breath, or get smelly armpits after working out, then consider it common. These odors are nothing to worry about, and are usually cleared up with a quick toothbrushing or swipe of deodorant. But some body odors can be a sign of a health problem, and therefore shouldn’t be passed off as typical, or ignored.

If you notice a smell that is stronger than usual, or seems to have come out of nowhere, it’s a good idea to let your doctor know. “When the body is out of balance … we lose our natural ability to fight odors,” Dr. Harold Katz, the developer of TheraBreath, tells Bustle. If you smell offensive orders more than usual, Dr. Katz says that may be cause for concern, and t could mean something in your body isn’t right.

This might mean infections, like some STIs, and even certain diseases that can present themselves in the form of bad breath or body odor, like diabetes. Read on below for more prime examples, so you’ll know just what to point out the next time visit your doctor. Because, while some odors are totally normal, others can be a sign of an underlying health problem — and possibly one that needs to be treated ASAP.

1. Fruity Odor On Your Breath

Hannah Burton/Bustle

Morning breath is one thing. But if your breath smells fruity or sweet, it could be a sign of a problem. “If you notice a fruity odor on your breath, this symptom cannot be ignored,” attending physician Nesochi Okeke-Igbokwe, MD, of the NYU Langone Medical Center, tells Bustle. “It may be indicative of diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), a metabolic condition that has the potential to be deadly and may arise as a complication of uncontrolled diabetes.”

If you have diabetes, or suspect that you might, this is definitely a “weird” side effect to watch out for, and point out to your doctor right away.

2. A “Fishy” Vaginal Odor

While odor in your vaginal area is totally normal and usually there’s nothing to be concerned about, you may want to see a doctor if the scent is strong or becomes “fishy.”

“A ‘fishy’ odor coming from the vagina can be a sign of bacterial vaginosis (BV),” Caroline Mitchell, MD, MPH, faculty member in the Vincent Center for Reproductive Biology at Massachusetts General Hospital, tells Bustle. “BV is a change in the vaginal bacterial community that can lead to increased discharge and odor, especially after sex.”

Since it can lead to other gynecological health issues, it’s important to treat BV as soon as possible.

3. Vaginal Scents That Aren’t Normal For You

Andrew Zaeh for Bustle

Again, everyone’s vulva has an odor, so no need to panic if you notice a scent coming from down below. Do take note, however, if it’s a new smell for you.

“If there is a change in the vaginal odor that seems concerning, an exam by a physician should be able to tell whether there is a problem,” Dr. Mitchell says.

You can also ensure that things stay healthy down there, by avoiding certain habits that actually do more harm than good. As Dr. Mitchell says, “it is best to avoid products that include perfumes or scents that try to cover up these normal odors, as they can cause vulvar or vaginal irritation.”

4. Skin Issues That Smell Extra Bad

There’s a difference between normal body odor and odor that might be a sign of a skin disease — and that’s usually the strength of the smell. While it’s common to have a sweaty, bacterial odor in your armpits after going to the gym, for example, anything more pungent than that can be cause for concern.

For example, certain skin infections “can present with a putrid odor from the byproducts of bacterial growth,” Dr. Jennifer Stagg, author of Unzip Your Genes, tells Bustle. “Gangrene, which is dying tissue, has one of the most offensive odors and smells like rotting meat.”

Other skin infections can include staph infections, Athlete’s foot, and fungal infections, which can all crop up for a variety of reasons. So if you’ve noticed a rash, or a red or swollen area on your skin, let a doctor know.

5. Unpleasant Body Odor And Breath

Andrew Zaeh for Bustle

Some internal health issues can present with unpleasant body odors, too. When this happens, it may in some cases be due a serious condition, like liver and kidney disease. “In liver and kidney disease, people can experience both offensive body odor and bad breath,” Dr. Stagg says.

Other signs of liver disease include abdominal pain and swelling, itchy skin, dark urine, and pale stool. And signs of kidney disease include nausea, vomiting, and persistent itching, though these symptoms can all be signs of less severe health concerns, so don’t jump to conclusions, but instead see a doctor for their opinion.

6. Sweat That Seems To Be Smellier

As Dr. Stagg says, “People with hyperthyroidism can sweat excessively resulting in increased classic body odor.” And that’s thanks to the extra moisture on the skin, which can mix with your natural bacteria and increase chances of body odor.

Other symptoms of hyperthyroidism, along with sweatiness, include nervousness, brittle hair, changes in bowel patterns, rapid heart rate, and fatigue.

7. Bad Breath After You’ve Been Sick


“Chronic bad breath can be a sign of overgrowth of bacteria in the gums, and even an acute or chronic sinus infection,” Dr. Stagg says. If your breath as been noticeably worse after a cold, it could be a sign that an infection is lingering on.

It’s not uncommon for head colds to turn into something more, and odor can be a symptom. So if you were sick recently, and have had smelly breath ever since, this may be why.

8. Other Strong Vaginal Odors

A fishy vaginal odor may be a sign of BV, but other strong smells might mean you have a different type of infection. As Dr. Stagg says, “Vaginal odors can also be a sign of a vaginal yeast infection or STD.” Though those are nothing to be ashamed of, they are a few more issues that will need to be treated by your doctor.

9. Bad Breath That Won’t Go Away, Even After You Brush

As you know, most cases of bad breath can be cleared up with better oral hygiene. But if it seems like the odor won’t go away, it might mean it’s actually emanating from your gut. “Bad breath primarily stems from hypochlorhydria, or lack of stomach acid,” nutritional therapist Carley Smith, NTP, CGP, tells Bustle. “If your food is not being properly digested, then it will affect gut health.” And thus your breath.

10. Pee That Smells Super Strong

Andrew Zaeh for Bustle

As Smith says, more smelly symptoms can arise from poor gut health, like the aforementioned bad breath, as well as stinky sweat and smelly urine. This may be due to toxins making their way out of your body, which is a process that won’t necessarily smell great.

11. Strong Sweat Odor After Stress

While anyone can get sweaty during a stressful moment, excessive sweating is particularly common for people who have an anxiety disorder, which can leave you coated in a layer of extra pungent “stress sweat.”

This type of sweat comes out of entirely different glands than normal sweat and can even have a stronger odor. If you think anxiety may be the source of your sweat, it may help to speak with a therapist to learn ways to rein in stress and calm your nerves.

And keep in mind all the other ways body odor can tip you off to a problem. Because, while the added benefit may be fewer body odors, the most important thing is your health.

This post was originally published on 5/7/2018. It was updated on 6/4/2019.


by Dr. Lawrence Wilson

© December 2015, L.D. Wilson Consultants, Inc.

All information in this article is for educational purposes only. It is not for the diagnosis, treatment, prescription or cure of any disease or health condition.

Body odor is not a subject that many people want to talk about. However, it is important, especially for personal relationships. So let us discuss it in a scientific way for everyone’s benefit.


Many things can cause body odors. They include various bacteria and yeasts that live on sweat, and they include various toxic metals that actually have a smell to them. Some people are aware of this and will tell us they smell sort of metallic. Copper, for example, has an odor. It is actually related to yeasts that tend to grow when copper is out of balance in the body.

Another cause of body odors has to do with digestion. Impaired digestion causes the production of smelly chemicals in the gut. These can not only cause smelly bowel movements. As the chemicals are absorbed back into the body, the odors can come out in the sweat on the skin, and in the breath as well.

Impaired organ function can cause the production of many varieties of chemicals, some of which have peculiar odors. The most common is a sluggish liver. This cause a rather bitter type of smell that is quite easily recognized when one enters the person’s home, for example.

Another common source of odors is the breath. Certain chemicals are “blown off” or removed from the body as gases or partially as gases. These will cause bad breath or unusual smelling breath. Among the most common is a sort of salami breath odor. This is caused by certain chemicals made in the liver. Other people have what may be called doggie breath. This, too, may be due to toxins or a sluggish liver. However, there is a reason it is called doggie breath, as it is similar to the breath smell of most dogs. Dogs live on meat, and they produce a lot of ammonia and other smelly chemicals as they digest the meat. Humans should not smell this way, but many do who overeat on meat or who do not digest their meat well enough.

Constipation can cause bad body odor, and almost always does. This is because when one has constipation, food takes too long to pass through the intestines. When food sits in the intestines for a day or even longer in some cases, certain toxins are reabsorbed, and these cause various odors, none of which are pleasant.

Other possible causes of bad body or breath odors include infected teeth, certain diseases such as diabetes and cancer, certain emotions such as a lot of anger or fear, and rarely other factors such as a diseased spleen or stomach.


Here is a partial list of common body odors and their causes:

1. Diabetic odor. This is a sweet smell. It is actually sugar that is building up on the skin.

2. Constipation. This causes a generally foul smell, like a bowel movement odor on the skin.

3. High copper/low zinc. This causes a yeasty odor. Many women know this odor from having vaginal yeast. Yeast often, though not always, has a slightly sour, and yin odor.

4. Meat eaters. People who eat a lot of meat and do not digest it well, which is almost everyone, have a rather foul, and repulsive sulfury odor like rotting eggs. This odor is due to the high content of sulfur-containing amino acids in meat, particularly red meat. These amino acids are very excellent, but only if digested well. Meat-eating sometimes causes other foul odors due to other chemicals produced in the intestines if one does not digest meat well.

5. Fruit-eating. Eating a lot of fruit always causes a yeasty odor, but a different one from high copper and low zinc. Fruit is extremely high in sugar, and the sugars often ferment in the intestine. However, fruit is also highly irritating in many cases, and the odor has to do with this irritation as well.

6. Fruit-eating plus high copper and low zinc. This causes an even stronger yeasty smell, as one is consuming too much sugar AND one cannot kill off yeast due to the copper imbalance.

7. Doggie breath. This can be due to meat-eating, but is often due to liver and digestive problems.

8. Salami or bologna breath. This rather annoying odor is due to constipation, possibly, or inability to digest meats and other proteins.

9. Nutty odor. This is due to eating a lot of nuts. Nuts are not that easy to digest. Nut butters are a little better, but still not that easy to digest. Many people eat nuts as snacks and believe they are helping themselves with a healthful food. However, they do not sit still, relax, chew thoroughly, and they do not digest the nuts well. The breath, in particular, and perhaps the body, as well, can take on a sort of nutty odor as a result. This is not a healthful sign, by the way.

10. Chocolate odor. This is a slightly sweet odor, mixed with a meat odor, mixed with a magnesium deficiency odor. This is associated with slow oxidation.

11. Magnesium deficiency odor. This is an acrid type of odor due to enzyme deficiencies when magnesium is deficient. It is associated with a calcium shell.

12. Fast oxidizer odor. This is a more meaty odor with no yeast smell at all.

13. Four lows odor. This is a cadaver-like smell. The body is shutting down and the odor is like rotting flesh, which is different from rotten eggs associated with too much meat and constipation.

14. Low Na/K ratio odor. This is associated with yeast, but also tissue destruction. It is more like a four lows smell, but not as intense.

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