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The Ultimate Guide to Bromhidrosis. Everything You've Ever Wanted to Know About Getting Rid of Body Odor.

July 22, 2019 12 min read

Ultimate Guide to Bromhidrosis

Despite the countless roles body odor might play in the game of attraction, one thing is for certain. When the odors produced by your body aren’t good, this can be a turn off instead of a turn on. If you are living with bad body odor despite your best hygiene efforts, your life can be miserable. It can keep you from participating in social activities, hold you back in your career, and make it near impossible to find a partner.

Many potential issues can lead to bad body odor from hygiene to diet and underlying illness to your family background. It could also be a result of a condition called bromhidrosis. According to Medscape in the United States it’s unclear how many people suffer from bromhidrosis because it's underreported. However, the diagnosis is likely to rise in countries where body odor is considered more off-putting. Many Asian countries associate body odor with physical distress, and therefore, more people might seek assistance.

If your body odor is affecting your life, there is a good chance you may have bromhidrosis. In our Ultimate Guide to Bromhidrosis, we take a look at the condition, its causes, and most importantly, what you can do to help fight B.O. 

How Body Odor Kills the Mood 

What is Bromhidrosis?

Bromhidrosis is a condition that causes bad body odor. Although many people associate body odor with sweat, your body has millions of glands that can secrete either sweat or a thicker, oily substance. It’s the oily substance that causes the odor.

Types of Sweat Glands

There are two types of sweat glands:

      1. Eccrine: These glands are found all over your skin’s surface and produce the clear, odorless liquid that is sweat.
      2. Apocrine: These glands are all over the body, including the armpits, areolas, perineum (between the anus and genitals), and even in the ear and eyelids. They are much larger than your eccrine glands and secrete a small amount of odorless, oily fluid.

Types of Bromhidrosis

There are two types of bromhidrosis:

      1. Eccrine bromhidrosis: Eccrine secretion is usually odorless. However, if you have eccrine bromhidrosis, eccrine secretion can produce a bad odor. When keratin is softened, it leads to bacterial degradation and odor. As well, eccrine bromhidrosis can be caused by certain foods, such as garlic or curry, as well as alcohol, medications, and toxins. It can also be an effect of an underlying illness. Overly active sweat glands can be a condition called hyperhidrosis. It is believed that hyperhidrosis can spread apocrine sweat while increasing odor-causing bacterial growth due to the damp environment. However, those with hyperhidrosis can counteract the effects of bromhidrosis. The excess odorless sweat can help flush away the oily apocrine sweat.

      2. Apocrine bromhidrosis: This is the most common type of bromhidrosis. The odor is caused by bacterial decomposition of the oily secretions. They produce ammonia and short-chain fatty acids, which in turn produce bad odors. When the acids come to the skin’s surface, they contribute to the odor. There are also axillary bacterial florae that can react with sweat to produce more acids and lead to odor. As well, aminoacylase can release other smelly acids in sweat, which is believed to be the cause of the distinct individual body odor we emit.

Bacteria that break down sweat are odor-causing troublemakers.

Causes of Bromhidrosis

The causes of bromhidrosis depend on the type. Although it is common for patients to have family members with bromhidrosis, there are also many other factors at play, such as:

Eccrine bromhidrosis

      • Occurs in all races
      • Begins in childhood
      • Spurred on by some metabolic disorders
      • Caused by certain foods
      • Affected by certain medications
      • Caused by bacterial degradation of the skin protein keratin
      • Potentially enhanced by hyperhidrosis
      • Influenced by an increase in axillary bacterial flora caused by using antiperspirants Apocrine bromhidrosis
      • Positive family history
      • More common in races of darker skin tone
      • Begins after puberty when the apocrine glands become active
      • More common in men
      • Skin usually appears normal
      • Corynebacterium species bacteria found in the armpit

What is the Difference Between Bromhidrosis and Hyperhidrosis?

As mentioned, bromhidrosis affects the odor produced by your body, while hyperhidrosis is characterized by the increase of sweat production. Other differences include:

Hyperhidrosis

Hyperhidrosis affects about 3% of the population, with both men and women affected equally. It produces a disproportionate amount of sweat compared to your stress level and the temperature. It is believed that an issue with your sympathetic nervous system could be at fault, although the true cause is not confirmed.

With hyperhidrosis, the excess sweat is caused by your eccrine glands, which means you will not necessarily produce a bad odor. In some cases, when the sweat is left on your skin to dry, it can cause an unpleasant smell that is a little musty, as opposed to an obvious body odor.

The condition is distressing and causes both physical and social issues. People who have hyperhidrosis can find socializing awkward, which means it can have a negative impact on daily life.

Bromhidrosis

This condition causes offensive body odor due to secretions from the apocrine glands. The bacterial metabolism of apocrine sweat causes odor. In the case of eccrine bromhidrosis, the odor can be caused by other factors, including your diet, alcohol, and medications. It is more common in men.

The production of bad body odor causes severe social embarrassment, which can keep you from leading a fulfilling life. For some patients, they might develop selective anosmia, meaning they are unaware of their own odor. This can lead to further embarrassment as the patient will not take action to help combat the smell.

Bromhidrosis causes your body to take odorless natural secretions and transform them into odor-producing substances.

Is Body Odor Only Caused by Sweat?

Although sweat is usually the culprit, it is not at the root of bad smells. According to Dr. Miriam Hanson, board-certified dermatologist at Sanova Dermatology, the bacteria and germs that break down sweat are really the odor-causing troublemakers. Because bacteria love dark, moist areas, they tend to collect in your groin and underarms. However, your feet can also stink.

As sweat breaks down, whether it is from apocrine or eccrine glands, the bacteria will keep producing the odor.

So, what causes odor? Here’s a list of some of the most smell-producing issues:

      • Inadequate hygiene
      • Obesity
      • Diabetes mellitus
      • Intertrigo
      • Trichomycosis axillaris
      • Erythrasma
      • Colonization of bacteria
      • Adverse effect of laser hair removal
      • Nasal foreign body
      • A diet rich in garlic or spicy ingredients
      • Some medications
      • Hyperhidrosis

Can a Doctor Help with Body Odor?

If you or others have noticed a strong, unpleasant body odor, you should speak to your doctor. Some signs you have bromhidrosis include:

      • Your body odor or sweat is distressing
      • There is a change in your body odor
      • You are sweating more frequently
      • You cannot manage your body odor

Diagnosing bromhidrosis

Diagnosis of Bromhidrosis

Because bromhidrosis is a metabolic and functional disease, it can be difficult to diagnose. If your body odor is related to skin conditions, a physical exam might show the rash or issues with your body hair in the area affected.

In the case of eccrine bromhidrosis, if the degradation of keratin is causing it, your doctor might be able to spot a thick mat of keratin. Your doctor can also consider underlying metabolic disorders, in which case, they can request urine tests or even a sweat test. They can then look for the presence of abnormal amino acid.

In most cases, it will be the odor itself that will provide a diagnosis.

How Can I Battle Body Odor?

According to Dr. Mamelak, also of Sanova Dermatology, keeping the smelliest areas clean is always a good start. However, this means using specific products designed to fight bacteria. Antimicrobial and antiseptic agents can kill the bacteria and germs that are causing the odor. Deodorant or cologne can mask the odor but do little to combat it.

To put up a proper fight, try these tips:

Use Unscented Products

If fragrant, heavily scented deodorants and antiperspirants aren’t working, try an unscented product instead. Although this might seem counterintuitive, fragrances can sometimes interact with your body odor and make it worse.

Properly Use Antiperspirant

This is an obvious choice, but often people do not realize they are using deodorant instead of antiperspirant. Deodorants mask smells, while antiperspirants stop sweating by blocking sweat ducts. You should also make sure you’re using your antiperspirant properly with these steps:

      • Step 1: Choose an antiperspirant with a higher content of aluminum chloride, which helps block sweat ducts.
      • Step 2: Apply your antiperspirant at night to give it time to set in while you sleep. When you apply it during the day, you begin to sweat before it has a chance to start working. Your sweat washes it away, defeating the purpose.
      • Step 3: Apply a thin layer of antiperspirant only after making sure your pits are completely dry. Do it outside the bathroom as the humidity in this space can keep your pits moist.
      • Step 4: Apply your antiperspirant based on the type you use, such as:
        • Aerosols: Shake it really well, or you might not get anything but air when you spray it. You should hold it about 6 inches from your pit and use short, sharp sprays. Do this once or twice under each arm.
        • Sticks: Use two or three strokes for each underarm.
        • Roll-ons: This needs a good shake as well, and then one or two strokes per underarm. You also have to allow it to dry completely before you get dressed.
      • Step 5: Shave your armpits often to keep your skin smooth. Hair gets in the way and can increase sweating. Smooth skin allows better contact with your antiperspirant. Shave your pits in the morning, and avoid applying antiperspirant directly after as it will probably hurt. It can also cause irritation.
      • Step 6: You can also add an additional layer of antiperspirant first thing when you get up in the morning to allow it to set in before you get dressed.

Remove Dead Skin Cells

Your armpits should be thoroughly washed twice a day. Use soap and water with an exfoliator to remove dead skin cells. According to Dr. Hanson, an exfoliating cleanser used every couple of days can also keep skin fresh. Choose a cleanser containing glycolic acid to remove dead skin cells and sweat.

Remove Excessive Hair

As mentioned above, hair removal is a good idea for a number of reasons. First, it can provide a clean surface for your antiperspirant. Second, it can help you to avoid skin conditions like folliculitis and hidradenitis suppurativa. Finally, it can also help keep odors at bay. That is because some organisms and fungus can grow on your body hair.

Use Powder

Powders can help reduce moisture. Moisture can allow odor-causing germs to thrive.

Change Your Diet

If you are a guy who loves spice in your life or who likes to indulge in a few drinks, you might reduce body odor by limiting your consumption of these things. Pungent foods can be smelled in your sweat, while alcohol can make your body odor worse.

Are There Any Medical Treatments for Bromhidrosis?

There are medical treatments you can discuss with your doctor if these extra hygiene techniques are not working. Medical treatments can include:

Surgery

Laser Apocrine Sweat Gland Removal: This sweat gland removal procedure uses lasers to remove apocrine glands and the stinky fatty tissue surrounding them. This is something to discuss with your doctor, as it can cause irreversible long-term effects like hematoma and scarring.

Superficial Liposuction: This uses suction to remove your sweat glands and fatty tissue. It tends to be a less invasive procedure.

Apocrine Gland Removal with Cartilage Shaver: A suction-assisted cartilage shaver is used to scrape away the skin tissue containing apocrine glands.

There are risks associated with surgery, including:

      • Nerve or artery damage
      • Increased sweating (compensatory) in other parts of your body

Antibacterial Agents

Because bacteria is one of the known culprits to cause odor, you can try topical antibacterial agents prescribed by your doctor. These include clindamycin, erythromycin benzoyl peroxide, and antiseptic soaps. All can help inhibit bacterial growth.

OnabotulinumtoxinA

OnabotulinumtoxinA has been an effective treatment for hyperhidrosis. It can also assist with decreasing odor, including genital bromhidrosis.

Aluminum Chloride

Aluminum chloride is the active ingredient in antiperspirants. Your doctor can prescribe a prescription-strength antiperspirant that carries a far higher amount of the solution.

Botulinum Toxin

Botulinum toxin A, also known as Botox®, can decrease sweat production. Injections can denervate your eccrine sweat glands and have proven to be an effective treatment for hyperhidrosis. Although its effects on apocrine gland secretions are unknown, it has been shown to decrease body odor in some cases.

 Facts about the sense of smell.


Diet Tips for Body Odor

You can try making changes to your diet to help reduce the intensity of your body odor. Some tips to consider include:

Reduce Beef and Pork Consumption

Carnitine is an amino acid found in beef and pork. This acid takes extra work for your body to break it down. Your gut contains enzymes to help break down amino acids, but in some cases, you might not have enough. If this is the case, your body can produce a fishy odor. Consider other protein sources such as chicken or plant-based protein, like beans, into your diet.

More Fiber, Less Processed Foods

Processed foods combined with not eating enough fresh produce reduces the effectiveness of your body’s natural detoxification process. By eating more plant foods containing fiber, you can enhance your digestion. Eating more salads is an easy way to increase your fiber and plant intake. You can also choose more vegetarian foods when dining out. Use more vegetables, such as spiralized zucchini or cauliflower rice, when you cook at home.

That said, some veggies such as broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage can increase body odor, so choose wisely.

More Citrus Fruits

Citrus fruits provide not only fiber but also acids that can flush out compounds in your body that lead to odor. Grapefruit makes a great breakfast option, while oranges are a great to-go snack.

Fresh Herbs

Avoid using garlic and onion as your go-to ingredients and reach for fresh green herbs instead. Herbs contain chlorophyll, which can help combat body odor. Parsley, cilantro, and mint are great alternatives to stinky garlic and onions. You can add them to stews, veggies, salads, sauces, and smoothies. Another green friend is wheatgrass; you can drink it straight or combined with other fresh juices.

Promote Gut Health

You’ve probably heard about using probiotics to promote a healthy gut. What you might not realize is that poor gut health can cause strong body odor. Some good probiotic-rich foods include:

      • Kombucha
      • Yogurt
      • Fresh sauerkraut
      • Pickles
      • Korean kimchi
      • Kefir

How to Remove Body Odor from Clothes

If you suffer from body odor, chances are your clothes do too! If you have been tossing your clothes out due to odor, here are some at-home tips you can try.

      • Aspirin and Cream of Tartar: Blend three uncoated aspirin, a cup of warm water, and a tablespoon of cream of tartar in a bowl. Use the paste to scrub the underarm area of your shirts using a toothbrush. Let it sit for at least 20 minutes, and then throw it in with the rest of your laundry according to directions.
      • Baking Soda: Baking soda has long been used to neutralize odors. Make a paste with baking soda and warm water and rub it into the pits with a toothbrush. Let it sit for 15 minutes or overnight and then launder as usual.
      • Salt: Dissolve several spoonfuls of table salt into a sink, basin, or large bowl filled with warm water. Make sure it completely dissolves before soaking your shirt for at least 20 minutes. Launder as usual.
      • Vinegar: Add 1/3 cup of vinegar to your washing machine in place of detergent. If your shirts still stink after the wash cycle, add another 1/3 cup of vinegar during the rinse cycle. If the shirt smells of vinegar but not B.O., you can then put it through the laundry as usual. Note: Do not use vinegar to launder your Ejis sweat proof products.
      • Sunshine: Often, hanging freshly cleaned laundry in the sun has natural odor-fighting power. The heat of your dryer can increase the smell B.O., so line drying is always a great alternative. It is also eco-friendly.

Fashion Tips to Reduce Body Odor

There are some fashion tips you can try to help reduce body odor.

Natural Fabrics

Try to buy only natural fabrics for your shirts. This includes wool (for the winter), silk, or cotton. These fabrics allow your skin to breathe so that your sweat will evaporate before it gets a chance to break down and cause odor.

Clean Clothes

Always wear clean clothes every day to prevent odor build up in your pits and undergarments. Your clothes should be laundered regularly and never left to sit in the laundry bin too long. That allows the odors on your clothes to mingle and set in.

Odor-Blocking Underwear

Odor-Blocking Undergarments

Odor-blocking undergarments such as Ejis sweat proof basics will stop sweat from reaching your clothes while also reducing odor. The unique fabric uses a combination of materials to help wick away sweat while keeping you cool and comfortable.

Ejis undershirts contain embedded silver to fight odor-causing bacteria so that you can smell fresh all day. They also keep pit stains from forming to protect your pride and your shirts from damage.

If the odor is not confined to your underarms, you can also try Ejis boxer briefs. Armed with the same technology, the breathable micro modal fused with real silver fights odor-causing bacteria. The ultra-thin waterproof layer provides powerful sweat absorption in all the right places. You remain comfortable and dry, and so do your pants.

Using an Ejis sweat proof product makes good financial sense as it will reduce the cost of replacing pants and shirts damaged by odor and sweat. Although it can’t end your challenges with body odor, it can certainly help reduce it.

 

 



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