Offensive body odor: 10 unexpected reasons you smell bad

What causes body odour? Heat and bacteria on the skin are apparent causes of smell, but not the only ones.

There are several unexpected sources of body odour, some of which may surprise you.

Let’s figure out where the strange odour comes from in the armpits, from the mouth, or elsewhere, and how to fix this problem.

1. You constantly use deodorant

This may sound contradictory, but deodorant can cause foul odour, not protect against it.

More bacteria live on our armpits than people on Earth. But not all bacteria are the same. There are two main types of bacteria in the armpits: staphylococci, which do not cause a strong odour, and corynebacteria, which convert the fats and amino acids in our sweat into compounds that have a specific, pungent aroma.

This odour can be masked with deodorant, or perspiration can be prevented with an antiperspirant containing aluminium. But how do these methods affect the bacteria themselves?

Scientists from the University of Ghent in Belgium tested nine people for 28 days, collecting sweat samples before, during, and after the trial period. It has been found that ingredients in deodorants and antiperspirants contribute to the growth of odorous bacteria on the skin, leading to altered, more unpleasant underarm odour.


2. You are regularly stressed and anxious

Did you know that sweat from stress is chemically different from sweat that occurs when you are hot?

Sweating is a natural stress response, but intense stress often results in very smelly sweat.

When you are hot, sweat is secreted by the eccrine sweat glands, which extend to the skin’s surface and cover most of the body. This sweat is composed of water, salt and potassium, and when the moisture evaporates, the body cools.

When our body reacts to emotion, anxiety, stress, or excitement, sweat is released from the apocrine sweat glands. These glands produce thicker sweat made of fats and proteins.

The apocrine glands are mainly located in the armpits, genital area, and scalp. Although this sweat is initially odourless, it does not evaporate quickly and becomes odorous when mixed with bacteria on the skin.


  • Use antiperspirants with aluminum salts that effectively block perspiration. If you know you have an important meeting, wear an antiperspirant at night. Since we sweat more at night, aluminium salts are absorbed more quickly, clogging up the sweat glands.
  • If antiperspirants aren’t helping you or don’t want to use them, learn simple breathing and relaxation techniques such as meditation, yoga, or just a relaxing bath.
  • Wash your clothes more often, as this will reduce bacteria and thus odour.

3.Your blood sugar level is constantly jumping

Fluctuations in blood sugar can interfere with normal sweating, making you sweat too much or too little.

This can lead to problems in hot weather as the body is unable to regulate temperature effectively.

Excessive sweating for no reason on a fantastic day or with minimal activity may signal that it’s time for you to see your doctor.

With diabetes and hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), a person may develop a distinctive sweetish odour.

The fact is that with a lack of insulin, which regulates metabolism, the body begins to break down fats to obtain fuel. This produces a smell similar to that of rotting apples. This smell often comes from the mouth, but it can also be released from other parts of the body.


4. You started taking some medication

Excessive sweating often occurs with certain diseases and disorders in the body. Ironically, however, it can appear with certain medications.

It includes:

  • Antidepressants
  • Migraine drugs
  • Pain relievers
  • Diabetes medication
  • Asthma inhalers
  • Heartburn drugs
  • Psychotropic drugs
  • Hormonal drugs, including birth control pills
  • Some antibiotics
  • Antihistamines

Many of them cause dry mouth, which leads to the build-up of sulfur compounds. Sulfur has a distinctive rotten egg odour, which can cause bad breath.


  • If medications cause excessive sweating, talk to your doctor about reducing the dosage or changing similar medicines.
  • To reduce dry mouth, try drinking more water or chewing sugar-free gum.

5. You are a spicy food lover

Don’t be surprised if you get a powerful body odour after eating spicy foods.

Foods containing garlic, onions, curries, and other spices metabolize odorous substances such as sulfur. These substances are released through the pores for several hours after you eat.

Very spicy foods, such as hot peppers, contain a substance called capsaicin, which aggravates the situation by stimulating the nerve receptors in your mouth, making your nervous system think you are hot and sweating a lot.


  • To avoid unpleasant body odour, plan to eat spicy foods at specific times. For example, don’t get carried away with Indian food before an important meeting or date.
  • If you’ve already eaten something spicy, drink plenty of water, shower, and apply an antiperspirant.

6. You are addicted to alcoholic beverages

Many people know that alcohol has a strong physiological effect on our bodies.

Our body perceives alcohol as a toxic substance and tries to process and eliminate it as quickly as possible.

The body breaks down alcohol, and it enters the bloodstream, and some of it is released through breath and sweat. And this leads to an unpleasant body odour.

Heavy sweating can also be a symptom of hangover syndrome as well. When a person drinks a lot and regularly, they may experience night sweats a few hours or days after the last drink.

People with alcohol intolerance can also have an adverse reaction to alcohol in the form of excessive sweating. This is due to a genetic predisposition, due to which their body cannot metabolize alcohol normally. In addition to sweating, facial flushing, digestive problems, and other symptoms may appear.


And the self-evident advice: limit or even give up alcohol consumption.

7. You have irregular bowel movements

Our body releases odours through sweat, urine, and breath. Foul body odour occurs when sweat mixes with bacteria.

However, if a person begins to smell excrement, this often indicates poor nutrition, intestinal problems, due to which waste products are not filtered and not appropriately excreted.

A problem like constipation affects your overall body odour. In chronic constipation, toxins are released back into the bloodstream and are excreted, causing an unpleasant odour.


  • An unhealthy diet, especially if it lacks fiber, can lead to stool problems and constipation. Eat about 25 grams of fiber a day, which is found in vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, and grains.
  • Drink plenty of water, as dehydration often leads to constipation. Research has shown that soda (unsweetened) may be more effective in fighting constipation.

8. You lack vitamins

We often underestimate the role of vitamins and minerals in maintaining our health.

Lack of zinc, magnesium and B vitamins often leads to foul body odour.

For example, magnesium plays a vital role in most of the essential functions of our body, including our memory and energy. Scientists have also found that magnesium can rid you of foul body odour by flushing out toxins that cause a terrible smell and affecting your intestinal flora. Thanks to magnesium, waste products lose their repulsive odour.

One of the main functions of zinc is to break down carbohydrates and remove waste products from cells. With a zinc deficiency, the process of neutralizing harmful substances is not so effective, and we have an unpleasant body odour.

Since B vitamins are involved in the metabolic process, they also affect removing toxins from the body. Taking enough of these vitamins can help reduce unpleasant discharge.


  • Good sources of magnesium include dark chocolate, coriander, raw nuts (almonds and cashews), flax, and sesame seeds.
  • The recommended daily intake of B vitamins is 50-150 mg per day. Sources include whole grains, meat, eggs, legumes, and seeds.
  • Foods rich in zinc include seafood, seeds, eggs, and cheese.

9. You rarely wash your clothes

Many of us do not wash our bras often enough. In the meantime, this part of your wardrobe often comes into contact with the places most prone to sweating: your back, armpits, and breasts.

Moreover, bras are often made from non-breathable material that repels moisture.

As a result, sweat is trapped in the fibres of the bra, and moisture promotes the growth of fungi and bacteria, which leads to unpleasant odours.


  • Don’t wear the same bra for two days in a row. Long-term wear builds up fats and odours.
  • Choose bras made from natural, lightweight materials. Synthetic materials trap sweat and rub against the skin, which makes the scent last longer.

10. Sickness

The disease has a smell. This conclusion was made by scientists from the Karolinska University in Sweden. Moreover, others feel when you are sick.

Our body has a distinctive odour during illness, and other people, even if they do not realize it, perceive it as unhealthy.

It is known that in many diseases, a specific odour appears.

So, for example, the smell of ammonia when breathing can signal kidney failure, the smell of raw fish – about liver problems, the smell of hydrogen sulfide (or rotten eggs) can indicate an infection in the gums sour smell often appears with infectious mononucleosis.


See your doctor if you or someone you care about has a suspicious breath or body odour. By detecting the signs of the disease in time, you will be able to cope faster.

Note* Always consult your doctor or other qualified health care professional for any questions you may have about your health or condition. Never disregard a health care professional’s advice or delay getting it because of what you read on this website.
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