Adult Health

9 Causes of Body Odor (And How to Treat It)

Written by andy

Nine causes of body odor you should know about before you layer on the fragrances.

The human body produces sweat as a means of flushing toxins from your body and helping you to cool off. However, did you know that most sweat has no smell at all? A drop of sweat is basically just salty water, so how is it that sweaty people often tend to stink? It’s important you understand the main causes of body odor, as well as what you can do to both prevent and deal with it!

  • Sweat — There are two types of sweat: eccrine and apocrine. Eccrine is the sweat produced by the majority of your body (like your chest and back). This sweat is made up of mostly water, and it’s produced in order to cool your body. But apocrine is produced in your armpits, around your areola, around your eyelids, and around your groin. This sweat is thicker, and it actually feeds the bacteria that live on your skin. This type of sweat is one of the primary causes of body odor, and there’s not much you can do about it!
  • Bacteria –– Bacteria live on the surface of your skin, particularly in the damp, warm places like your armpits, groin, and feet. Bacteria tends to break down the sweat and “feeds” on it, causing the bacteria to multiply. The waste material produced when the bacteria breaks down your sweat is what causes you to smell.
  • Medication –– Medications can cause excessive sweating, particularly antidepressants and antipsychotic medications. Taking too much Tylenol or aspirin can also increase the production of apocrine sweat, increasing your risk of body odor.
  • Food –– The food you eat can affect the way you smell! Foods that are rich in sulfuric compounds (sulfides) and other organic compounds often release pungent odors when broken down. Your body absorbs these odors and releases them via your sweat and skin, which is what links these pungent foods to bad body odors. Cabbage, garlic, egg yolks, onions, beans, yogurt, and asparagus are just a few of the foods that can increase your risk of bad body odors.

READ MORE: Keep Your Skin Smelling Sweet All Day Long!

  • Genetics –– Yes, your genetics will play a role in your smell. People from East Asia have fewer apocrine sweat glands on their body, meaning they’re less likely to smell. The less apocrine sweat your body produces, the lower your risk of body odor.
  • Hormones –– Hormonal changes in your body (those resulting from menstruation, ovulation, pregnancy, and menopause) can all change the way you smell and increase your production of body odor. For men, hypogonadism (under-functioning testicles) can lead to side effects similar to menopause, including excessive sweating.
  • Fabric –– Some fabrics are more prone to “trapping” dirt, sweat, and bacteria than others. If you don’t wash these fabrics often, they are likely to smell. That smell clings to your skin, and it makes you smell bad when you sweat. It’s vital to change your clothes–particularly your bras and underwear–on a regular basis.
  • Alcohol –– Did you know that alcohol is actually able to seep through your pores? Your body releases the alcohol “poison”, causing you to produce a sweat that actually smells slightly of alcohol.
  • Diabetes –– Diabetics may suffer from what is known as diabetic ketoacidosis, a build-up of ketones in your body resulting from the breakdown of fats as fuel. This ketoacidosis can cause your sweat to smell bad.

Thankfully, there are a few simple things you can do to reduce your body odor: stay clean, wash regularly, apply deodorant, and eat a well-balanced diet. Do this, and your risk of bad body odor drastically decreases!

About the author


Some people get lucky and are born with fit, toned bodies. Andy Peloquin is not one of those people... Fitness has come hard for him, and he's had to work for it. His trials have led him to becoming a martial artist, an NFPT-certified fitness trainer, and a man passionate about exercise, diet and healthy living. He loves to exercise--he does so six days a week--and loves to share his passion for fitness and health with others.

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