Body Odour

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Evidence suggests that animals sniff body odour to choose their mates. Amongst human beings, however, body odour is considered a problem that is socially debilitating as well as personally embarrassing.

Sweat is the body's biological way of cooling down. By itself, sweat is odourless but when it remains on the body for a while, it reacts with bacteria present on the skin. This causes certain chemicals or aromatic fatty acids to be released, which lead to body odour.

Why should I be aware of it?

Medical research shows that people with body odour might suffer from severe problems in their personal and social relationships.[1] It might also impact their work life -- with colleagues and seniors avoiding them. They might not get full rewards of their hard work which in turn might wreck promotion prospects at work. For kids it might lead to educational under-achievement because of teasing and bullying along with enormous degrees of stress which is blamed for their frequent progression into alcoholism, excessive tobacco or drug use and in some cases to suicide.

Feelings of shame, embarrassment, low self-esteem, isolation, frustration, anxiety and depression are extremely common where body odour is present.

Although sufferers and their families have been shown to gain considerable benefit from sympathetic counseling, and while learning to deal with the stress this condition causes is certainly important - long-term strategies and approaches which deal with underlying causes of increased body odour are probably a lot more important.

It is important to know how to deal with the problem of body odour if you are suffering from it. If someone in your personal, social or professional circle suffers from body odour then there is a need to find out a way to address the issue mindfuly and delicately to avoid future embarassment to the person.

All about body odour

Body odour may afflict anyone, at any time. People with higher BMRs (Basal Metabolism Rates) sweat more than those with lower BMRs. Women especially around the time of menopause, tend to sweat profusely. Certain medical conditions and medicines may also make people sweat more than usual.

While sweating is normal, unfortunately many societies look upon it as being `unclean' or `unhygienic'. The fear of smelling bad is so intense especially in adolescents whose newly raging hormones cause them to sweat more, that it has spawned a huge range of antiperspirants, deodorants and perfumes. Not all these are harmless, in fact the FDA has classified antiperspirants that inhibit the functioning of sweat glands, as drugs.

The good news is that body odour may usually be controlled quite easily through a plethora of home remedies and alternatives to chemical deodorants and antiperspirants. And at the end of the day, just basic hygiene goes a long way in keeping body odour at bay!

In a human body, there are many areas or zones which are more likely to sweat, and where sweat tends to accumulate. Most common among them are the armpits and the genitals. Wherever it is allowed to accumulate, sweat will smell bad. Wherever it evaporates, there is little difference between sweat and salt water. In majority of cases young children are not prone to body odour because it is only after puberty that the glands in the major sweat producing areas become active. Once the sweat glands mature, there is an increase in the hormones and protein. Once that happens and if a person has poor hygiene, it is a ripe case for body odour.

Sometime excessive sweating is caused by medical conditions like some thyroid disease and carcinoid syndrome. It can also happen as possible side-effects of certain antidepressant medicines. Some of the other common causes of body odour are serious illnesses strong medications, fungal infections, liver problems, kidney diseases, alcoholism, cavities, zinc deficiency and toxins present in the body.

What can I do about it?

Fortunately body odour is one of those very rare conditions that can be treated without much medical intervention or even diagnoses.

  • Keep yourself clean. Have a shower at least once a day.
  • Use Deodorants and antiperspirants. The fragrance in deodorants masks the odor while the later reduces the amount of sweat. Roll-ons can also be used as they work better for people who sweat more. Cleansing foams with plant extracts from ribwort and liquorice root are well known as a traditional and natural remedy.
  • Wear fresh and washed clothes. Ensure that the clothes also dry fast as some bacteria can survive in damp clothing.
  • Keep your feet also clean as that is another potential source of embarrassing smell. Use antifungal powder if required. Always wear clean socks specially in hot and humid weather.
  • As armpit hair provides a more fertile area for the bacteria, it is advised to keep it hair free.
  • Do not wear synthetic clothes. Cotton or other natural fibres are better.
  • Do not wear tight fitting clothes as this aggravates the problem.

Since body odour is often related to the sort of food one eats, here are some food-related tips for avoiding this smelly problem --

  • Avoid very spicy food.
  • Reduce the consumption of processed foods, hydrogenated oils and refined products.
  • Eat food that contains lots of fiber, whole grains, wheat, soy products and green leafy veggies.
  • Have a glass of red radish juice everyday. It can also be applied on the sweat producing areas to banish odour.
  • Drink a lot of water.
  • Take two or three charcoal capsules per day. It will help to absorb waste products and decrease fermentation.

Home remedies for body odour are quite effective. Here are some --

  • Apply cider vinegar on the armpits.
  • One can apply baking soda on the underarms as well to kill bacteria that produce sweat. It also helps to absorb sweat.
  • While having a bath, add a couple of cups of tomato juice. Soak for about 15 minutes.
  • Add a tsp of alum to bath water. Or even a cup of camphor oil and boiled mint leaves. It gives a fragrance to the body.
  • An old remedy is to rub slices of potato on the armpits, let it dry and then wash it.
  • Before having a bath one can also put about 10-15 drops of any essential oil either in the bath water or just in 30 mm of water and use it on the underarms
  • One can add a tablespoon of honey to lukewarm water for the last rinse.

In case none of these tricks work, try some of these over the counter remedies.

  • Use an antibacterial and antiseptic solution called chlorhexidine 0.05% solution. It must be applied daily to kill the number of bacteria.
  • Application of 20% aluminum chloride solution or Anhydrol Forte on the armpits and feet before sleeping every day helps to stop sweating. It must be washed off in the morning and reapplied only in the night. Certain precautions must be used. It should not be applied after shaving and one can reduce the frequency as sweating reduces.

For more severe sweating, called hyperhidrosis, certain surgical options are available. For example one can remove the troublesome sweat glands at the apex of the armpit by using local anesthesia. One can also inject Botox into the skin near the armpit. The option of liposuction to suck out the sweat glands is also present thanks to modern medical science. Another surgery that is recommended by doctors is a keyhole surgery in which nerve cells that control sweating are destroyed. An electric current is used in this and it is also done under anesthesia.


  • In most cases people with the worst body odour, can not smell it on themselves!
  • Body odour smells different in different people. It is dependent on a number of factors such as diet, living conditions, the clothes and fabric etc.
  • Certain foods such as garlic and strong spices etc can cause a rather unpleasant and pungent body odour.
  • In many parts of the animal kingdom, body odour plays an important role in sexuality.
  • Sweating is one of the body's ways of cooling down and it is important that we do sweat.
  • A human body has more than 2 million eccrine glands.
  • Hot drinks, drinks that contain alcohol or caffeine, and spicy foods can also make you sweat more than usual.
  • We all have our own particular scent. This is why dogs can track a particular person by their scent.

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