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What Causes Body Odor – Diabetes, in Women, Men & Strong Body Odor

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“What causes body odor?” If you can relate to this question, then continue reading to discover some common body odor causes. You will also learn about some foods that cause body odor which you might want to eliminate from your diet if you are having a problem with body odor. This article has also explained the link between diabetes and body odor.

What Is Bad Body Odor – Meaning of Body Odor

Also referred to as bromhidrosis, body odor is a perceived foul smell given off by the body as a result of bacterial metabolism of the sweat. The majority of the people have to contend with body odor to varying degrees at some point in their lives. In severe cases body odor can cause psychological stress, depression, or even cause social withdrawal.

Excessive Body Odor – When to See a Doctor

Excessive Body Odor
Excessive Body Odor

Body odor typically clears with adoption of proper lifestyle e.g. bathing daily, eating balanced diet, using antiperspirants and deodorants and taking Chlorophyllin supplements or by adopting the various home remedies for body odor.

If body odor however doesn’t seem to respond to all these interventions, then you should seek medical advice. It is also important if the body odor has a fruity smell as is characteristic of diabetes or bleach-like smell which may be an indication of liver of kidney disorders.

Strong Body Odor – The Botulium Toxin Option

Strong body odor that doesn’t respond to lifestyle changes and home remedies for body odor can be treated using botulinum toxin if excessive sweating under the arms is the underlying cause.

Botulinum toxin is usually produced by Clostridium botulinum bacteria. Botulinum toxin is the most poisonous biological compound known and as such very small doses are used for treatment of excessively sweating armpits. About 12 injections of botulinum toxin are given in the armpit. This works by blocking the brain to sweat gland signals which in effect reduces secretion of sweats in the armpits.

Your doctor may recommend this procedure if you have a strong body odor that simply won’t go away.

What Causes Body Odor – Body Odor Causes

Body odor not only makes the person suffering from the problem uncomfortable but can also lead to depression as well as social exclusion and withdrawal. Understanding what causes body odor is the key to identifying the suitable options for preventing and reducing body odor. Here we are therefore with some common body odor causes:


What Causes Body Odor - Sweating

Sweat ranks top among the causes of body odor. The sweat is itself odorless but is a suitable culture for growth of bacteria found naturally on our skin. These bacteria multiply very fast in presence of sweat and break down the sweat into acids that are responsible for the typically unpleasant smell that we associate with sweat.

The human body has two types of sweat glands, namely eccrine glands and apocrine glands.

Eccrine glands are found on most parts of the skin and open directly onto the skin’s surface.  Humans have an estimated 3 million eccrine glands on the skin. They regulate the body temperature by producing sweat when it gets very hot. As the sweat evaporates from the surface of the skin, it cools the body.

Apocrine glands on the other hand are found mainly in the areas of the body that have an abundance of hair follicles such as the groin and the armpits. Unlike the eccrine glands, apocrine glands open into the hair follicle just before the hair follicles open onto the surface of the skin.

Apocrine glands get activated at puberty due to hormonal changes and it is thus not surprising that most people tend to notice a significant rise in tendency to get body odor at this stage of their life.

The sweat from the eccrine is made up of water, salt and other substances and is ordinarily odorless but it can have an offensive odor as a result of bacterial break down. It can as well smell after consuming certain foods such as garlic, spices and onions among others or after taking certain medications e.g. antidepressants.

The apocrine glands are however majorly responsible for body odor. They produce a milky fluid which despite being odorless contains high levels of proteins that the bacteria on the skin break down to give offensive smelling acids.

As a result, individuals who sweat a lot from their apocrine glands or who have a relatively great population of bacteria on their skin tend to have worse cases of body odor. Apocrine glands also tend to become more active when we are stressed and stress can also lead to worse body odor.

All said and one, sweat is not a really bad thing, it helps to cools the body. It is the bacteria found on the skin that causes body odor and is thus to blame. The bacteria-apocrine glands mix is the most significant of all body odor causes.


Foods that Cause Body Odor - Causes of Body Odor
Causes of Body Odor

As we have already mentioned, certain foods are known to cause body odor when consumed in large amounts or regularly. Sulfides and other organic compounds typically have a pungent smell. Such compounds are often released and absorbed into the body during food breakdown and then released through sweat glands in the skin particularly the eccrine glands. This results in body odor that typically varies depending on the type of food. Among the common culprits for bad odor of this nature are garlic, onions, beans, asparagus, spices, red meat, cabbage, sea food, coriander, mustard seed and yoghurt.


Some medications can also cause body odor. For example, antidepressant and antipsychotic medications are known to cause excessive sweating as a side effect which can then lead to increased bacterial activity on the skin and ultimately cause body odor.

Hormonal changes

Hormonal changes also rank among common causes of body odor. The hormonal changes typically associated with menopause are especially a common culprit for body odor. The resulting hot flashes often cause an increase in perspiration which can lead to more bacterial activity and ultimately body odor.

Although rare, hypogonadism can also cause hot flashes leading to body odor. This is a medical condition that affects men with abnormally low levels of testosterone as a result of improperly functioning testicles.

Genetic predisposition

Some people are less genetically predisposed than others. For example, individuals of East Asian decent – Koreans, Japanese and Chinese – tend to have a smaller number of apocrine glands which makes them less susceptible to the problem of body odor more so given the fact that the apocrine glands are the most common culprit for body odor.

This group of people also tends to have a dry ear wax whereas the majority of the people have wet ear wax which is known to be a common cause for auxiliary body odor.

Foods That Cause Body Odor

Now that we know body odor can be causes by overconsumption of certain foods knowing the foods that cause body odor is an especially great step towards preventing body odor.

Spicy food and hot peppers rank among the top foods that cause body odor. This category of foods often makes you to sweat more leading to body odor as a result of break down of the extra sweat.

Onions and garlic can also cause body odor. Their strong aroma tends to be carried in sweat when they are consumed in large quantities or very frequently which can then culminate in a perceived bad odor.

Brussels sprouts, broccoli, asparagus and other foods from the cruciferous family also rank among the foods that cause body odor. These foods are usually broken down into sulfur compounds (especially sulfides) that are released into the bloodstream and are eventually excreted through the sweat (as well as urine and breath) leading to body odor.

Other foods that are known to cause body odor are red meat, egg yolks, beans, cabbages, sea food, yoghurt, mustard seed, and coriander to name but  a few.

Diabetes Body Odor

People with diabetes are at higher risk of getting body odor just like overweight people and people who eat lots of spicy food. The UK National Health Service also says that having diabetes can make body odor worse.

Diabetes body odor is however notably different from the normal sweat-related body odor in that is has a characteristic sweet fruity smell. This reflects the high amount of glucose in the blood that is typical of diabetes.

For patients who are taking insulin to manage diabetes, their sweat tends to have a characteristic smell similar to acetone.

What Causes Body Odor in Women

You are probably wondering “what causes body odor in women?” Well women get body odor for various reasons. As we have already mentioned, sweating and the related bacterial activity is the most common cause of body odor but on a general scale, women tend to sweat less than men. Nevertheless sweat can’t be ruled out for women.

Garlic, onions, spices and the other foods highlighted in the above section can also cause body odor in women. Diabetes can as well cause body odor in women. All the causes discussed above affect women and men alike; perhaps the only factor that is unique to women is hormonal changes as a result of menopause.

What Causes Body Odor in Men

Men sweat more than women and as a result are more susceptible to sweat-related body odor than women. Other causes of body odor in men include eating spicy foods, side-effect to some medications, medical conditions such as diabetes and liver diseases, and hypogonadism.

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