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Reasons for Body Odor

Barb regularly writes on the topics of food, health and healing.

If you're alive you have a body odor even if you can't smell it.

If you're alive you have a body odor even if you can't smell it.

Body Odor

Most living organisms have an odor; some pleasant, some not so pleasant. Most human body odors are mild and usually aren’t a cause for concern. If you have a particular body odor that you’re concerned about it could be the result of many things. It could be as simple as something you’ve recently eaten or ingested. It could be age-related or it could be a warning sign of a possible disease or disorder that you should consider seeing your doctor about. This article will explore some reasons a person might have a concerning body odor followed by helpful tips that you can try, hopefully bringing welcome relief.

What Causes Body Odor?

There are odors that are age-related. For most individuals the occasional odor is usually mild and tolerable, for others very strong and pungent odors can cause embarrassing situations. At particular times in our lives, our age might predict whether or not we experience more than usual body odor.

Relaxing can save you from health-destroying effects of excess stress.

Relaxing can save you from health-destroying effects of excess stress.


Puberty can be time when one experiences excessive body odor. You might recall sweating uncontrollably through puberty with a bit of an odor tagging along. If you have teenagers, informing them of this fact may not be a comfort to them. But you can make suggestions based on your own experiences. Be kind. Remember you were there once. Explain that along with puberty comes elevated hormones that affect every system in the body. The most common problem contributing to odors in puberty is excessive sweating.

Helpful Tips For Body Odor Due To Puberty

  • Bath regularly
  • Wear clean socks everyday, keeping an extra pair in the back pack just in case
  • Brush teeth at least twice a day to ward off bad breath
  • Arm pits, feet and hair are especially sweat prone so keep them clean
  • Zinc supplements could be helpful for teens in cases of stubborn foot odor

Perimenopause and Menopause

Onset of Perimenopause or Menopause can cause body odor. It’s not the case for every woman but if you know you’re going through either peri menopause or menopausal changes it could be the reason for the stronger body odor you may be experiencing. They both come with fluctuating hormones, either an elevation or a decrease.

4 Body Odour changes During Menopause

Helpful Tips For Body Odors Due To Hormonal Changes

  • Bathe regularly
  • Consider a magnesium or zinc- based antiperspirant

The Smell of Parkinson’s Disease


Diabetes is considered a serious health problem because it affects vital systems within the body. The smell of acetone or nail polish remover on the breath could indicate a problem and you should ask your doctor to check it out

When Your Breath Smells Like Nail Polish Remover

Disease Often Leaves Clues

There are some diseases that leave a tell-tale sign of its presence. Some are more bothersome than life threatening. But a few need immediate attention and shouldn’t be ignored

Kidney Failure

Kidney Failure isn’t a problem anyone wants. The smell of urine on the breath could indicate a potential problem. Give your doctor a call to rule it out.

Liver Failure

Liver Failure can quickly turn into a life-threatening situation. Our bodies rely heavily on the liver for processing foods and nutrients for its use. Without properly functioning livers we could all be very ill. If you or someone close to you notices a fishy odor to your breath it could be an indication of a serious problem. Call your doctor.


It’s not big news that certain foods can cause body odor. We’re all accustomed to bumping into someone who’s just enjoyed a big bowl of chili laden with garlic and onions. We may not know it was chili that they had but we certainly know whatever it was they loaded it up with garlic and onions. The reason for that is garlic and onions are foods that contain sulfur. Sulfur has the ability to emanate from our pores. Kimchi, a delicious Asian favorite is another food in the sulfur category. Eat enough of it and it comes right through your pores offending everyone in your path unless of course they love that smell too.

Certain foods like garlic travel unhindered throughout the body and

Certain foods like garlic travel unhindered throughout the body and

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Foods that contain sulfur are some of the most nutritious foods and we are encouraged to eat more of them. Unfortunately for many individuals they come at an uncomfortable price of body odor. We don’t all digest foods efficiently. Many foods you may love like eggs, fish, meat, fruit, dairy, nuts and seeds may be the very ones causing your odor problem. You may have an issue with sulfur intolerance. It’s something you can easily have checked out by your doctor or a local nutritionist.

Helpful Tips For Sulfur Intolerance

  • See your doctor or nutritionist about testing
  • Limit your intake of foods containing sulfur
  • Limit types of sulfur foods at the same meal
  • Consider a detoxification diet or a cleanse

Gaseous Foods

We all know that gaseous foods can cause body odor and follow us around with its trail of lingering vapors. Foods such as, beans, legumes, cabbage and broccoli are the culprits in many scenarios

Helpful Tips For Gaseous Food Odors

  • Consume smaller portions of gaseous foods at meals
  • Reduce intake of gaseous foods to once or twice a week
  • Limit types of gaseous foods at the same meal

Medicine: A Common Cause Of Body Odor

Side-effects from pharmaceutical drugs have long been a part of the picture of our journey to get and stay well. Occasionally we run into a medicine that causes uncomfortable side-effects. Among some of the unwelcome surprises are body odor in the form of bad breath.

The short list of common culprits are anti-depressants, anti-histamines, birth control pills, high blood pressure medications, hormone replacement medicines and many over-the-counter offerings.

Occasionally one might find body odor listed as a side effect on the literature included with a medicine. On most occasions you will need to seek the assistance of your healthcare provider to help you sort out which medicine is causing the odor.

Pharmaceutical drugs often list body odor as a side effect.

Pharmaceutical drugs often list body odor as a side effect.


Sudden strong odors are likely caused by stress or anxiety. Our bodies have apocrine glands predominantly located in the armpits. When we become anxious our bodies produce a fatty-protein sweat that when mixed with the bacteria from the armpit skin begins to stink. These odors are temporary and will subside as soon as the object of the stress or anxiety is removed.

Taking time to relax could save your life.

Taking time to relax could save your life.

Helpful Tips For Odors Caused by Stress

  • Deep breathing
  • Meditation
  • Read a good book
  • Listen to relaxing music
  • Get a massage or Invest in a massage chair or pad

How To Reduce Stress with the 2:1 Breathing Technique

Interesting Trivia About Body Odors

  • Family Specific Smells

    We may not be aware of it but each of us has our own smell. There are even smells that are family related smells. That’s right, the Smiths smell different than the Jones’s. It’s really not such a crazy idea. It’s a continuing topic of research. There’s evidence that our pets can recognize family members by their smell. A comforting thought if you’re coming home in the middle of the night at an unexpected time. Your family pet won’t challenge your entrance.

  • More Age-Related Smells

Besides puberty, peri menopause and menopause, the other age groups have particular odors too. Once you hit your twenties well into your thirties, you transition into another odor category. Then again in midlife, the odor changes again, and again in old age. Through all of these life stages body odors may be unknown to us. Again some may be mild, even unnoticeable to you or anyone else.

Body Odor: Nuisances Or Welcome Warnings

Body Odor - Quick Review

We all have body odor of some sort even if we’re unaware of it. It’s just a smell or aroma that is simply part of being alive; and quite often very specific to us individually. Some smells or aromas are bothersome, offensive or a warning sign to slow down and take care of ourselves or to seek immediate medical attention.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Barb Johnson


Rajan Singh Jolly from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on September 04, 2020:

A very interesting read. Surprised to read the stress can cause body odors and the certain diseases can be identified by certain body odors. Great topic to choose to write about.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on September 03, 2020:

Fascinating information, Barb! You've obviously given this much more thought than I have. :) I don't think I walk about with a bad odor. I would hope that my wife would tell me if I do. God, I would hope someone would tell me. lol

Barb Johnson (author) from Alaska's Kenai Peninsula on August 28, 2020:

Yes it is interesting Doris. Evidently to scientists as well because they continue to seek funding for research in this area. It really does bring up a few questions, beginning with the diet as you mentioned.

Thanks for reading.

Barb Johnson (author) from Alaska's Kenai Peninsula on August 28, 2020:

You’re welcome John. Thanks for taking the time to read it.

Doris James MizBejabbers from Beautiful South on August 28, 2020:

Yes, very interesting. I learned some things that I didn't know. Years ago when I was in the dating stage, I learned that not just different families, but different races may have different odors. I dated an Asian man for a few months, and he was a very clean person, but he had a more acrid smell than my other friends or me. A person in the medical profession said it probably was his diet not his genes.

John Hansen from Gondwana Land on August 27, 2020:

Very good information here about body odour, Barb. Thank you for sharing.

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