Conventional wisdom suggests that perspiration is the cause of body odor. However, perspiration by itself is basically odorless, but it is the bacteria and odors coming from other sources that are the real culprits. Anaerobic bacteria, which flourish when your body doesn't have enough oxygen, may well be the cause of your body odor. As the body's metabolism goes to work, it gives off odors which is the body's way of ridding itself of waste products. Any imbalances in metabolism will result in stronger odors. We suggest you visit our Bad Breath, Foot Odor and Sweaty Hands sections for in-depth discussions of some of the causes and remedies.
Since we are talking about waste products you must consider toxins as a possible cause of body odor. In today's world we are bombarded with toxins in our homes, food, and air that accumulate in the body when the organs of elimination cannot dispose of them. The liver and intestines may be clogged up, causing odors to emanate from the body, so we suggest a thorough detoxification program by cleansing the liver, kidneys and colon. At some point in the future we will have a complete section on this very important process.
Dietary imbalances, resulting in constipation or a deficiency of magnesium or zinc may be other causes of body odor. See our Constipation section for causes and remedies. Because of a person's body chemistry, some people who eat large quantities of meat or who are vegetarians have a very distinctive body odor which can be quite offensive. Some individuals cannot metabolize foods containing large amounts of choline, such as eggs, fish, liver and legumes. The result is a "fishy" smell. If you are one of these people, cut out these products and see if this is the cause of your odor. Certain foods and drinks, such as onions, garlic, curry, certain spicy foods, coffee and alcohol, are also prime causes. Fried and baked goods may contain rancid fats and oils that lead to body odor.
Sweat glands (apocrine glands) under the arms and in the groin secrete a substance that is the major non-food/drink related cause of body odor. This substance, which contains protein, carbohydrates, and lipids, often secreted by a surge in sex hormones caused by tense moments or emotional stress, is quickly attacked by bacteria, causing odor. Also, today children are starting puberty much earlier, and this change in hormones may lead to body odor in children younger than previously. Estrogen dominance, often caused by petrochemical products, may trigger the earlier puberty. Drinking sodas out of plastic bottles is one of the leading causes of estrogen dominance.
There may be underlying causes of excessive sweating, such as low blood sugar, liver disease, diabetes, parasites, metabolic dysfunction, menopause, or emotional stress (anger, fear, excitement). Excessive sweat may be on the forehead, palms, soles of the feet or the underarms. See our Sweaty Hands section for some suggestions to help with this problem.
Some other possible cause of body odor...
- Kidney disease
- Liver disease
- Fungal infections
- Refined sugar feeds bacteria and fungus on the skin
For excessive underarm odor, try using a mild solution of hydrogen peroxide (3%) that is cheap and can be picked up at the pharmacy. Put a teaspoonful in a glass of water and wash the underarm. If that doesn't work, increase the amount of peroxide.
Since toxic overload may be one of the causes, try taking steam baths or saunas frequently as part of an overall detoxification program.
There are certain lifestyle changes to make if you have a constant problem with body odor. Occasional problems can be treated if you know the cause. We suggest a program of daily bathing, changes in diet, and changes in clothing.
Bathing Bathe daily to remove bacteria from your skin, especially the armpits and groin area where the bacteria is most prevalent. Scrub the armpits with a soapy washcloth as that will work better to remove the bacteria than just soap in your hands. Deodorant soap is preferable as it helps fight bacteria more than regular soaps. If you have a serious odor problem, soak for fifteen minutes or longer in a tub of water with three cups of tomato juice added. Don't forget, tomato juice works on you and your pets if you have been "skunked"!
Clothing Clothing is an area many people overlook. Loosely fitting clothes allow the body to breathe better than tight clothes. The perspiration escapes and doesn't become a breeding ground for bacteria. The type of fabric is also very important. Synthetic fabrics for shoes and clothes don't allow the body to breathe, so use all natural fabrics. Wash your clothes often!
Dietary Dietary changes are also very important in eliminating various sources of odor. Certain foods, such as meat, onions, garlic, exotic spices, and drinks such as coffee and alcohol can lead to body odor. Try eliminating these from your diet for a week or two and see if this makes a difference. Although you can usually smell your own B.O. if it is from your armpits many people don't realize they have general body odor because they have become accustomed to it. Have someone you can confide in do a "smell test" - before and after you start eliminating certain foods. That may be the only way you will find out.
Sweating As we mentioned above, excessive sweating may have underlying causes, so it is wise to be diagnosed to see if you have a medical problem. Women going through menopause and perimenopause may experience bouts of sweating accompanied by terrible body odor. The sweating may occur even when the woman is not warm. We'd like to thank Sue Berkenstock for this tip and the remedies she suggested as being quite effective, mentioned below, are baby wipes, vinegar, and bauxite crystal deodorant.
Caffeine and medications may also be the cause of your sweating. Reduce your caffeine intake and note if there are changes when you stop taking medication.
Tobacco Although we have mentioned it in the Bad Breath section, tobacco use is a major cause of body odor. Not only does it come back through your lungs, but it comes through the skin. It probably mixes with other elements of your body's chemistry to create a distinct odor. If you stop smoking it may take several weeks for the body to rid itself of odor causing substances.
Chlorophyll One or two chlorophyll tablets or chlorophyll liquid taken with each meal may also help, as chlorophyll is a great deodorizer.
Magnesium Take magnesium supplements or augment your diet with food sources high in this important mineral. Between 200-500 mg of magnesium have been recommended. You will have to try different doses until you get the amounts that are right for your body.
Vitamins A high-potency B vitamin (50 mg or higher), when combined with magnesium, will help reduce certain secretions that can be a cause of odor. Make sure you are getting 100 mg of PABA and 100 mg of B6.
Zinc If you have body odor, try taking zinc tablets. Zinc, plus magnesium, will help balance your body's metabolism and reduce the cause of bad odor. Studies have shown that taking 30 to 50 mg daily will dramatically reduce certain body odors, although you may need less. Zinc may also reduce perspiration and sweaty feet. However, it is wise to go above 15 mg only with a doctor's supervision as zinc may interfere with the absorption of copper, another essential trace mineral.
Alcohol/witch hazel Wipe your armpits with alcohol, white vinegar or witch hazel instead of deodorant.
Alum Try using a crystal rock made from the mineral salt potassium alum instead of a deodorant. It won't keep you dry as an antiperspirant will, but they clog your sweat glands and contain aluminum chlorohydrate, which may lead to future health problems.
Apple cider vinegar Apple cider vinegar eliminates under arm body odor when used in place of deodorant because it reduces the pH of the skin. Bacteria can't live in areas with low pH.
• White vinegar is also helpful. Place some on a cotton ball and apply to the underarms instead of deodorant. The vinegar smell is gone in minutes and you should be smell-free all day.
Baby powder Use baby powder or talc in areas of heavy perspiration.
Baby wipes (see towelettes below) also work, but the results may be temporary.
Baking soda Baking soda, the odor-eating standby, can be used instead of deodorant. Just apply the powder to your dry armpits. It will kill bacteria and help absorb perspiration. Cornstarch can also be used instead or mixed with the baking soda.
Bauxite crystal deodorant works very well at controlling underarm odors.
Parsley/alfalfa Chewing parsley, alfalfa and other leafy greens will help neutralize body odor, probably because of the deodorizing effect of the chlorophyll.
Radishes Juice about two dozen radishes, add 1/4 teaspoon of glycerine, and put in a squirt or spray-top bottle. Use as an underarm deodorant or to reduce foot odor.
Rosemary is an antibacterial herb. Put 8 to 10 drops of the essential oil in 1 ounce of water and appy it where needed.
Sage Herbalists suggest drinking a cup of sage tea daily to reduce sweat gland activity. This is especially true for those who perspire excessively due to tension. Use 11/2 teaspoonsful of dried sage or two tea bags in one cup of water; steep for ten minutes; drink in small doses throughout the day.
• Fresh sage leaves blended with tomato juice has been found to be very effective.
Tea tree is an antibacterial herb. Make a deodorant by putting 2 drops of the essential oil into 1 ounce of water and apply where needed.
Towelettes (baby wipes) Useful when a tense moment surges the sex hormones which produce fluid under the arms and around the genital areas that, when combined with bacteria, causes odor.
Turnip juice Turnip juice will reduce underarm odor for up to 10 hours. Grate a turnip, squeeze the juice through cheesecloth, so that you have two teaspoonsful. Wash your armpits first, and vigorously rub one teaspoonful on each one.
Wheat grass Take 500 mg of wheat grass daily on an empty stomach and wash down with a glass of water. The chlorophyll will dramatically reduce body odor.