Body odor is an unpleasant and awkward situation, that everyone must have experience. It is the smell of sweat produced by your body.
The medical term for this condition is bromhidrosis. As weird as it may sound, sweat itself is odorless in nature.
Body odor can vary from person to person. It is a direct result of odor forming compounds emitted through your skin.
But these compounds are actually formed as a result of sweat breakdown by the bacteria present on your skin’s surface.
The byproducts usually produced by them are acidic in nature. They even have their own peculiar odor.
How Does Sweat Production occur?
In humans body, specific glands called sweat glands generates sweat. They are present all over your body in variable concentration.
In human, there are in fact two types of sweat glands, which produce two different kinds of sweat:
These glands are found all over your body. They secrete sweat direct onto your skin’s surface.
It is responsible for cooling off your body. So it helps you to maintain appropriate body temperature. They are much smaller in size than apocrine glands. Eccrine sweat is primarily made up of water.
It is predominant in your armpits, groin, areola, and around the eyelids. Apocrine sweat is the one interacting with your skin’s bacteria.
So this is the one to blame, for your body odor. They are larger in size than eccrine glands but they remain dormant until puberty.
But Why Does My Sweat Smell Like Vinegar?
Propionibacteria is the common cause of a vinegary odor. They are one of the many types of bacteria present in your sweat glands.
Propionibacteria like many other bacteria’s present on your body, have a sweet tooth. Monosaccharides (simple sugar) act as a basic food source for such bacteria.
They break down this sugars by a process known as cellular respiration. Depending on which type of bacteria is carrying out cell respiration, this process can be termed as Aerobic (oxygen required) or anaerobic (oxygen not required) in nature.
Those bacteria can also break down amino acids present in your sweat. All these bioconversion reactions lead to the production of different types of byproducts. One such byproduct produced by them is Propionic acid.
This propionic acid is similar in structure to acetic acid ( the chemical name for vinegar). Thus propionic acid produced as the product have an acetic odor. This is the reason for your vinegar (acetic acid) odor. So, propionibacteria overgrowth or excessive activity is one major cause of vinegary smell
Main Reasons Why Your Sweat Smells Like Vinegar
As established above, bacterial activity is the main culprit in your vinegary odor. So the reason for there over stimulation can be because of various factors. Listed below are some major factors contributing in over-expression of bacteria’s activity to cause your acetic odor:
- Food. It is a prominent explanation for the occurrence of overactivity of bacteria. Sulfides and other organic compounds containing food in your diet are responsible for foul odor. These components are absorbed from your food and released in your sweat. These component have a natural pungent odor.
For instance, everyone must have noticed stinky mouth breath after eating garlic. This is because they contain allicin which has its own distinct odor. Along with that, allicin breakdown into sulfur-containing gasses responsible for bad breath. Thus smelly compounds break down into smell molecules. Such smelly compounds are commonly present in foods items like red meat, seafood, egg yolks, garlic, onions etc.
Thus smelly compounds break down into smell molecules. Such smelly compounds are commonly present in foods items like red meat, seafood, egg yolks, garlic, onions etc.
Hence to avoid this pungent odor, you should avoid over consumption of such food items. And if you suffer from consistent bad body odor. You should restrict consumption of above-mentioned food items.
- Sweating is a common side effect of many drugs such as Antipsychotic, Antidepressant. Overuse of aspirin and acetaminophen can also lead to increased in your sweat production.
Excessive sweating provides extra food to those bacteria. Because of this, excessive byproducts are produced. Since bacteria have extra food to eat, they multiply even faster causing an increase in their number. All this cumulated to increase in body odor.
- Hormonal Changes. Another major factor associated with body odor is the hormonal imbalance. It is a common side effect of middle age women suffering from menopause. This can also be observed in pre-pubescent girls due to the sudden change in hormonal levels. While it is temporary in adolescent girls, it can be prominent in menopausal women.
During menopause, a woman’s body stops or reduce the estrogen production. This causes hormone fluctuations, which are the primary reason for a change in body odor.
But why does estrogen level matter so much?
Estrogen hormone have an effect on the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus is a central part of your brain that controls body temperature. When there is the high drop in estrogen levels, it sends a false message to your hypothalamus. This message cons your brain into thinking that your body is overheated. This alerts your brain to start off your cooling mechanisms. Thus this springs your body into action, which results in an increase in sweat production and changes in body odor.
If you are menopausal women, you must have an experience this embarrassing situation. This incidence is also called as hot flashes. These are considered a common side effect in menopause.
- Genetics can have an influence on your body odor. Genetically you can be predisposed to sweat less or profoundly. For instance, if you are of East Asian descent, you tend to have fewer apocrine sweat glands. Fewer glands mean you are less prone to body odor.
- Poor Hygiene. Unlike genetics, you have total control on this factor. You should bath or shower at least once a day. And if you sweat profusely then you are advised to shower or bath at least twice a day.
It will help to reduce accumulated bacteria and dead skin on your body’s surface. Dead skin is made up of keratin, a type of protein which is nothing but the chain of amino acids. This amino acid can be metabolized by bacteria into acids contributing to vinegary odor. Thus, regular showering or bathing will help you to control your acid production.
- Diabetes. We all know it is a glucose malabsorption disorder. As a result of this, its increases quantity of sugar excreted. This sugar breakdown into acid and causes body odor. This is also known as ketoacidosis.
Below are some Minor factors responsible for odor:
- A change in weather can create more favorable conditions for bacterial growth. For instance, you sweat more in summer.
- If you are overweight, you will sweat more even on the mild exercise like walking or jogging. Thus more prone to odor.
A less common condition known as hypogonadism may also play a role in your body odor. It is caused when males generate abnormally low testosterone levels. It can be due to malfunctioning testicles. This show similar side effects to menopause. This includes hot flashes which increase perspiration and in turn increase bad odor.
Is it Time to See the Doctor?
Often, body odor isn’t a cause of major concern. With a moderate change in your lifestyle and diet, you can overcome this embarrassing condition. While a persistent acidic smell could be a sign of a health problem. So it’s a smart move for you to get your hormonal levels checked.
You should also schedule an appointment with your doctor, even if you feel embarrassed. A doctor will properly guide you as well as may run tests for diabetes.
Treatments and Solutions
- You can use deodorant which is considered to be a very convenient option. Deodorants contain antimicrobial agents such as triclosan or alcohol. So they work by reducing your bacterial count.
- You can also apply antiperspirant to your sweaty body parts. They work particularly to control sweat. It contains Aluminum salts such as aluminum chloralhydrate, aluminum chloride etc, which are commonly used to control sweating.
They act by dissolving the sweat and forming a barrier over your glands. Thus they prevent a release of your sweat onto your skin’s surface. Lower the sweat, lower will be the odor.
- Chlorophyllin Supplements. It is a water-soluble derivative of chlorophyll. Deodorant and antiperspirants will only provide you with temporary relief. While chlorophyllin tackles the cause rather than just the symptom.
When taken internally, it will bind with various odor causing compounds in your body. It then neutralizes them and removes it from your body. Hence it you suffer from persistent odor, then this is a better option for you. A recommended dose between 100mg and 200mg of per day is considered to be effective.
- Well, Balanced Diet. As mentioned above you should avoid overconsumption of sulfides and other odor causing compounds.
Take a well-balanced diet rich in protein and vegetables. Also, reduce the carbohydrate intake in your diet. This will limit food source for those odor causing bacteria. It will not only reduce your body odor but also provide you a better overall health and well-being.
Along with that drink lots of water. Water has a natural detoxifying properties. If you’re dehydrated, your sweat will have a more potent odor. So keep munching on lots of raw fruits and vegetables.
- Wash your armpits and have a shower on a daily basis. Because poor hygiene will only aggravate this condition.
Treatment Available At Home
There are many natural remedies available in your kitchen. Those can be used for a treatment of acute or persistent vinegary odor.
- Baking Soda
Baking soda can absorb your sweat and in turn, reduce your body odor. Plus, it also kills bacteria and works like a natural deodorant.
- Mix one tablespoon each of baking soda and the lemon juice in a mixing bowl
- Apply it on your underarms and other sweaty parts of your body.
- Wash it off after a couple of mins with water.
- Do not scrub.
- Afterward, you should take a shower or a bath.
- Do this once daily for a few weeks.
- Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is a weak acid. Because of this, it renders acidic to the area applied. This acidity provides an unfit environment for bacterial growth.
- Soak a cotton ball in apple cider vinegar and rub it on your underarms before you take your shower.
- This will make your skin’s pH unfit for bacterial growth.
- Do this twice daily.
- You can also add one cup of apple cider vinegar to your lukewarm bath water.
- Lemon Juice
The acidic property of lemon juice helps to lower the skin’s pH level. Thus make it difficult for odor-producing bacteria to survive in this environment.
- Rub one-half of a lemon on your underarms.
- Allow it to dry and then take a shower.
- Follow this once daily.
- If you have sensitive skin, you should always dilute the juice with water. Then leave it on for 10 minutes, and wash it off with water.
Rosemary inhibits the growth of bacteria. It also contains menthol and chlorophyll, which act as a natural deodorant. It neutralizes strong body odor and also gives a nice fragrance to your body. Rosemary also contains zinc. Zinc and Magnesium deficiency are associated with the bad odor from your body.
- Boil rosemary leaves in water.
- Strain the water and add the filtered water it to bath water.
- Afterward, pat dry your skin.
- Follow this remedy at least once daily.
- You can also mix 8 to 10 drops of rosemary oil in water.
- Apply it to your underarms as a deodorant.
Note: If you experience any irritation, you should discontinue its use.
Conclusion: What is Your Body Trying to Tell You
Pungent Body odor is an easy task to address and not a major issue. But if it is persistent, it can be an indication of underlying major issue. So don’t ignore persistent bad odor and don’t try to mask it. Such attempts can and will only worsen the situation.
In such condition, you should consult with an experienced medical professional. They will help you to overcome this problem. And it will also make you feel healthier and enjoy a higher level of self-confidence.