Body odor can be an isolating reality. For some, it goes way beyond the initial smelly teen years. With deodorant ads telling us that we should smell like roses, body odor can be distressing when it rears its head in real life. While we typically know our rating on the body odor scale, changes can occur in different phases of life. If you've recently gotten a diagnosis or are considering asking your doctor what medical conditions cause body odor, this post will help.
In this article, we'll review some common medical conditions and diseases that cause body odor and how sudden new smells can be an indicator that something else is going on below the surface. If you've recently noticed a change in body odor and have one of these illnesses that causes body odor (or don't know that you have one), talking to your doctor is the best way to address the situation.
This post was originally published in August 2020, and was updated in June 2021.
Diabetes is one of the diseases that can cause body odor – along with bad breath. (Talk about a double-whammy!)
This is due to a high level of glucose in the blood and often accompanying urinary tract infections. If blood sugar levels increase dramatically, this can lead to a serious complication called diabetic ketoacidosis, which produces a fruity smell of the breath. If this happens, seek immediate medical attention.
Hormonal shifts can instigate changes in body odor and increase sweating. Cast your mind back for a moment to your teen years, that inevitable hormonal bombardment during puberty and the questionable smells that came as an accompaniment.
Those who have experienced the hormonal rollercoaster of pregnancy or the estrogen drop during menopause will be familiar with the sweatiness and resulting body odor that comes with them.
Did you know that kidney problems are linked with medical causes of body odor too? The role of the kidneys is to help filter toxins out of our system. If they cannot do their job properly, these toxins start to accumulate in our bodies and create odor. In the case of kidney failure, urea cannot be removed and is excreted in the sweat.
Liver disease is another medical condition that can cause body odor. Like the kidneys, the liver is another organ that has the function of removing toxins from our body. If waste products cannot be eliminated, they cause a build-up that changes the consistency of sweat.
In the case of liver disease, it can cause a smell resembling bleach. You might think of that as a "clean" smell, but it's unfortunately not and an important issue to discuss with your doctor.
Metabolic disorders are rare genetic medical conditions that cause a change in body odor. People who experience metabolic disorders do not create the specific enzyme needed to break down trimethylamine. The compound then builds up and is released through pores as an unpleasant fishy smell.
Did you know we have two different types of sweat glands in our bodies? The eccrine glands come into play when we need to cool down, producing mainly water. The sweat produced by the apocrine glands, however, is made when we feel stressed or troubled. It creates a particularly alluring environment for bacteria to mingle. So it’s normal to smell a little worse for wear after a stressful encounter.
Can thyroid problems cause body odor? Yes, medical issues with your thyroid can cause body odor.
The thyroid is in charge of regulating the metabolism, and in the case of an overactive thyroid, such as with Grave’s disease, it goes into overload causing rivers of sweat as a side effect. Bacteria on the skin can’t resist all that sweat protein and so body odor is generated.
Yes, body odor caused by medication can occur. Some drugs used to treat heart conditions, along with analgesic painkillers and SSRI antidepressants, can cause excessive sweating as one of their many side effects. As we know, a surplus of sweat means more partying for bacteria and, yep, body odor.
For those experiencing changes in body odor, don’t fret. There are ways to manage the smells, including dietary and lifestyle changes, as well as talking to your doctor.
Also, we recommend using an antibacterial soap to cut down on potential body odor caused by bacteria on your skin. Shaving your armpits helps too. Sweat can evaporate more quickly if there’s no hair in its way, which means less time for the bacteria to get involved. Finding an effective deodorant can also help to neutralize odor.
You can also wear Ejis basics to help control your body odor and maximize your confidence. All of our products - undershirts, boxer briefs, and dress socks - are treated with silver to fight odor-causing bacteria. (Buy from our shop or on Amazon.)
Want your clothes to work extra hard to manage sweat and odor? Learn about antimicrobial fabrics and textiles, which help manage odor, plus how they work.
Curious about switching to natural deodorant? Learn about the "detox" transition period and how to manage it while your body adapts to natural deodorant.