What Causes Body Odor? 7 Causes of Bad Sweat Smell

January 14, 2020 4 min read

what causes body odor

You walk into a crowded elevator on a Monday morning. As the elevator goes up to the 15th floor, you notice that everyone is slowly peeling back from you with their hands across their noses. As you start to get off on your designated floor, you watch as they part like the Red Sea to clear the way for you.

Body odors come out in many different ways. Some people may smell bad enough to repel crowds, while others may have fruity bad breath that stops them from having simple conversations. What causes body odor? Keep reading to find out.

What is Body Odor?

Body odor typically starts when a person reaches puberty because of changing hormones. With hormonal body odor, it’s easy to scrub it away in the shower.

However, long-term body odor or sudden changes in body odor may be more common in people who are overweight, eat spicy meals, and/or have certain medical conditions. For example, hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating) is a condition that may cause body odor.

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7 Causes of Bad Sweat Smell and Body Odor

1. Bacteria / Sweat

Sometimes body odor is caused by sweat glands. There are two kinds of sweat glands located throughout a person’s body: the eccrine and apocrine glands. Both glands open directly onto the surface of your body when your temperature rises, and they release fluid to cool the body. This fluid is usually odorless and typically evaporates over time.

Does sweat smell worse when you're stressed out or anxious? Definitely.

However, when a person sweats excessively, evaporation does not happen quickly enough and the sweat builds upon the body. When that happens, bacteria multiply rapidly and break down the sweat into acids. These acids are usually the root cause of body odor.

2. Stress

Typically, the only times a person sweats excessively are when he or she is in an extremely warm environment or during physical activity. However, when a person is experiencing high levels of stress, the mental pressure can cause the sweat glands in the body to release more sweat.

Does sweat smell worse when stressed out or anxious? Definitely. In times of stress, the apocrine glands open up and secrete fatty sweat. When broken down by bacteria, this fatty sweat creates an even more unpleasant smell.

3. Diet, including malnutrition

The amount of sweat your body produces can be strongly affected by the foods you eat. This is because each morsel of food gives nutrients to the body by “burning up” in a sense. Specific types of food cause a higher rate of internal combustion in the body, making you sweat more.

For instance, foods like crackers or beef jerky contain a lot of sodium, which increases sweat in the body. Processed foods take more effort to digest and so your body sweats more when you eat them. Beverages containing caffeine and alcohol can also trigger your sweat glands.

Your body produces sweat when you eat foods with little or no nutritional value or restrict your food intake too severely. Without food, the body starts to eat itself, which causes a pungent body odor.

causes of bad sweat smell

Body odor may also be a sign of an underlying medical condition. Below are examples of some of the medical conditions that could trigger strong body odor.

4. Bromhidrosis

Bromhidrosis is definitely one of the strong body odor causes. It is a medical condition that commonly affects individuals in the post-pubescent stage of life. This chronic condition involves the emanation of excessive and unpleasant odors from a person's skin.

As mentioned earlier, the eccrine and apocrine glands can be responsible for the smell of the body. These glands will sometimes generate oily secretions, which in turn, produce ammonia and short-chain fatty acids responsible for bad odors.

5. Diabetes

Diabetes is another culprit of bad body odor causes. It is a medical condition that prevents your body from producing enough insulin or effectively utilizing the insulin it does produce. If left without insulin for long enough, the body begins to break down ketones; causing you to lose fat and to secrete a sickeningly sweet type of body odor and breath.

6. Infections

When most people think of what causes body odor, they commonly think of poor hygiene or excess sweat. However, a bad smell from your body could also be a sign of an infection. The growth of fungus or bacteria on your skin can result in the production of some very putrid smells. Internal infections, such as liver and kidney disease can also affect body odor.

7. Athlete's Foot

Can fungus cause body odor? That depends if your feet are the only part of your body that stinks. Check the skin around your toes: is it scaly, dry and/or covered in blisters? If so, you may have fungal disease called Athlete’s Foot. This occurs when have poor foot and shoe hygiene, and tinea fungus grows on your toes and feet.

Experts suggest to make small changes to your everyday life to address body odor.

While easily treated with over-the-counter sprays and powders, it can become a serious condition. According to the American Podiatric Medical Association, untreated athlete’s foot evolve into dangerous bacterial infections.

To learn how to deal with foot odor, check out our blog article for nine ways to treat smelly feet.

Dealing with Body Odor

Experts suggest making small changes to your everyday life to address body odor. Develop a new hygiene routine, learn the best time and method to apply antiperspirant, use soap formulated to fight odor, adjust your diet and be sure to seek out medical advice if these home remedies don’t improve it.

You'll also want to learn how to get body odor out of your clothes... so it isn't a repeat offender.

Take Control of Odor and Excessive Sweat

Whether you experience occasional or chronic body odor, arm yourself with Ejis sweat proof undershirts, sweat proof boxer briefs and antimicrobial dress socks to ensure you always smell fresh. (Buy from our shop or on Amazon.) All Ejis basics are infused with silver to fight odor-causing bacteria to help you manage body odor wherever it affects you most.

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