Written by Emily Howard

Most people spend a portion of their everyday routine trying to prevent body odor by various ways. From commercial chemicals to artificial scent sprays to natural remedies, people try several things to control body odor. But offensive body odor is a sensitive and embarrassing problem that is not openly discussed. Before we mention the various ways to treat undesirable body odor, let us first go through the scientific process behind this off putting smell.

The real cause of body odor

Most of us think that the sweat or perspiration is the cause of body odor. However, it has been found that perspiration is actually odorless and is a physiological process through which our body regulates the internal body temperature. It is the presence of bacteria that adds smell to the sweat.

Everybody sweats and our body is comprised of two kind of sweat glands: apocrine glands and eccrine glands. Apocrine glands are found in areas of the body where hair follicles are present—underarms, scalp, head, feet and groin— whereas eccrine glands are found in all surfaces of our body. The odorless sweat from eccrine glands mainly contain water and salt. Eccrine glands produce sweat as a natural phenomenon to cool the system.

On the other hand, the sweat from apocrine glands comprises of fatty acids and proteins, which are broken down into smaller particles by bacteria. This process is what usually causes the pungent, unpleasant smell that comes from the body. The presence of fatty acids and proteins in the sweat gives it a milky, yellowish color. Apocrine glands produce sweat when your body is experiencing stress, anxiety or nervousness. Apocrine glands become active around puberty which is why babies smell much better than teenagers!

What are the risk factors of body odor?

Although the formation of sweat is a natural process, there are certain risk factors that contribute to the unpleasant smell.

  • Poor hygiene. Poor hygiene is the primary cause of annoying body odor. It increases the risk of bacterial growth, which further help in making this condition more prominent.
  • Not drying after bathing. Some people like to air dry after a shower, but this can lead to increased body odor. This is because wet areas around the hair follicles provide a perfect environment for growth of bacteria.
  • Food. The food that you eat can affect your scent. Onions, garlic and curries are the classic factors that make your scent worse. Red meat and asparagus are some of the other foods that can have an impact on body odor.
  • Stress. When people are stressed, they tend to secrete more sweat through their apocrine glands, causing an elevation of body odor that can be easily smelt from far. Apocrine secretions produce underarm odor that is quite unpleasant.
  • Medical conditions. Some of the medical conditions such as thyroid imbalance and carcinoid syndrome can cause excessive sweating.
  • Prescription medications. Some of the medicines contain chemicals that are secreted through our sweat glands. These particles from the prescription medications can add undesirable smell to the sweat. For example, drugs such as acetaminophen and antidepressants can cause an increase in sweat.
  • Female conditions. Ovulation is another reason for bad body odor in women. When you are ovulating, your body temperature rises and your body tends to produce more sweat.

Ways to reduce body odor

  • Take bath at least once in a day. Bathing helps in washing away the sweat and the bacteria on the skin. The sweat per se is generally odorless but produce an odor when it interacts with skin bacteria. When you wash, focus on cleaning areas such as feet, underarms and genitals. Dry your body post bath as bacteria tend to grow fast when the skin is damp.
  • Use anti-bacterial soap. Opt for an anti-bacterial soap for taking bath. This will help in limiting the bacterial growth on the skin and hence reduces the body odor.
  • Clothing. Wear natural fiber based clothes, such as cotton or silk based clothes. These fabrics allow better breathability to keep your skin drier and hence helps in reducing the growth of odor causing bacteria.
  • Use deodorants or antiperspirants to neutralize the odor. Antiperspirants contain aluminum salts as one of the ingredients, which temporarily plugs the sweat glands and help in reducing the sweat produced. One may even opt for natural ingredients based deodorants as they are safer on the skin.
  • Keep your wardrobe clean. Make sure that you change your clothes often, especially in hot weather as you tend to sweat profusely. Fresh clothes help in keeping the odor down. If you have trouble with foot odor, make sure that you use a clean pair of socks every day.
  • Dietary changes. Certain foods tend to make you sweat more, such as hot pepper or other spices. The odor of some of the food may also be carried in the sweat, such as onion and garlic, use of which should be moderated if you suffer from bad body odor. Also, use of caffeinated and alcoholic drinks should be curtailed as well, as they make you sweat more. People who do not digest their food properly tend to face problems related to body odor. Adding probiotic supplements in the diet boosts the digestion and also helps in reducing the body odor.
  • Green supplements. Adding green supplements such as chlorophyll or wheatgrass to your daily diet helps in reducing the bodyodor. These green supplements act as natural deodorizers and help you smell nice.
  • Detox. Sometimes body odor is also an indication of problems within the body. Considering a detox of your body could be answer to the problem. A variety of detox routines can be adoptive to cleanse your body and it will be effective in reducing the body odor.
  • Apply a natural sanitizer. During the day, wipe your underarms and other odor prone areas with natural sanitizers such as witch hazel or tea tree oil. Witch hazel modifies the skin pH and makes it undesirable for bacteria. Tea tree oil is an antiseptic and helps in reducing bacterial growth. Also, applying vinegar helps in killing bacteria and fungi that grow on skin surface. Applying apple cider or white vinegar on odor prone areas and then wiping them dry helps in reducing the body odor significantly.