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7 Medical Conditions that Cause Body Odor

August 26, 2020 4 min read

medical conditions that cause body odor

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. In this article, we'll review some common medical conditions that cause body odor and how sudden new smells can be an indicator that something else is going on below the surface.

What causes body odor?

A common misconception is that body odor is caused by sweat alone, although it does play a part. Sweat contains proteins that start to get broken down into acids when they come into contact with the healthy bacteria found on your skin. It’s this process that produces the smells we recognize as body odor. Sweat itself is actually pretty much odorless!

Why does body odor change?

Certain foods we eat, alcohol consumption (ever had the hangover or meat sweats?) and times of stress can increase sweating. Although sweat is not inherently smelly, more sweat leads to more mixing with bacteria, which ultimately increases or changes body odor. There are also certain diseases and medical conditions that cause body odor to change without prior warning.

What are medical conditions or diseases that cause body odor?

1. Diabetes

Diabetes is one of the diseases that can cause a change in body odor along with bad breath. 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.

2. Hormonal Changes

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.

3. Kidney Problems

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.

4. Liver Problems

Diseases that cause body odor include differing degrees of liver problems. 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.

Diseases that cause body odor include differing degrees of liver problems.

5. Metabolic Disorders

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.

6. Stress

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.

7. Thyroid Problems

Issues with the thyroid can also be medical conditions that 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.

Can medications cause body odor?

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.

body odor from medication

Ways to Manage Body Odor

For those experiencing changes in body odor, don’t fret. There are ways to manage the smells.

For instance, use an antibacterial soap to cut down on potential body odor. 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. Bare armpits also allow deodorants (and antiperspirants) to make direct contact with your skin, so they are more effective. 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.)

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