body odour head pic

Body Odour

Around the age of 12 many of us would have had an awkward conversation with our parents. If they are subtle it goes something like “I bought you some deodorant to try out, thought it be fun”, if they are gentle but firm it may come across more like “maybe it’s time you start using deodorant?” if it’s a tough love world you lived more likely it was a simple “you smell”. During puberty everyone starts to sweat more and to a particular type of sweat gland called the apocrine gland goes to work producing pheromones. It’s at this point most people also start to noticing body odour (medically referred to as bromhidrosis) and using deodorant.

Body odour is unpleasant and can be a difficult and embarrassing social problem to navigate. Whether you are the sufferer or it’s a friend of yours check out the facts below. Being smelly isn’t necessarily due to bad hygiene and there are a number of easy solutions to your pungent problems.

+   Symptoms

The only real symptom of body odour is pretty obvious. You will give off an unpleasant smell which may be identified as having a slight vinegar or cheese like quality.  This is actually a pretty accurate description of the smell because the chemicals released in the process of bacteria breaking down sweat are similar to those found in vinegars and cheeses.

+   Causes

Body odour is strongly connected to sweat but contrary to popular belief it is not the sweat itself that causes the smell. Bacteria that live on your skin actually cause the unfortunate musk of body odor. The smell is created as they break down acids in your sweat particularly, when the break down sweat produced by apocrine glands.

Your body has loads of sweat glands, almost 4 million in fact, all over it. Most sweat glands are a type called eccrine glands and they produce sweat to help control your body temperature. We also have sweat glands called apocrine glands, these glands are mostly concentrated in your hairy areas such as your armpits, groin and even in your eye brows. These glands produce sweat that contains pheromones (to help attract the opposite sex) and high levels of protein. The bacteria find the protein easy to digest and go to town causing you to have a ripe whiff about you.

+   Risk Factors

  • Being male
    • Sorry guys, as we all know guys just tend to have more hair and sweat more than girls. Plus girls are all sugar and spice and all things nice anyway.
  • Being overweight
    • Being overweight usually makes you sweat a little more than people who are a healthy weight
  • Some people are just born with more bacteria on their skin
  • Certain medical conditions
    • Diabetes
    • A thyroid condition that leads to hyperhidrosis which basically means excessive sweating – if you have excessive sweating to the point that it disrupts your daily routine or wakes you up at night you should consider a trip to the doc
    • Diabetes or Liver/kidney disease can lead to a change in the smell of your sweat. It may be either a bleach like smell or a fruity smell. If this happens to you, you should see a doctor
  • Lack of body odour
    • 2% of the population has a gene called ABCC11 which means they don’t get body odour at all. They also tend to have dry ear wax

+   Prevention and Treatment

Keeping the areas that are prone to heavy sweating such as your armpits, groin and feet clean and free of bacteria is the best prevention to body odour:

  • Use soap and warm water to wash daily
    • It will help to remove any sweat already on your skin and decrease the number of bacteria hanging out
    • Warm water is better is better at killing of bacteria than hot water
    • If you sweat particularly badly you may need to shower twice a day in hot weather
    • There are medicated soaps and soaps that include deodorant you can use also
  • Change and wash your clothes and socks regularly
    • Pretty obvious we know but sweat gets on your clothing also and bacteria will do the same there as on your skin
    • Also wear natural materials that will allow your skin to breath and sweat to escape
  • Use deodorant
    • Deodorant makes your skin more acidic creating a tough environment for the bacteria to live in. They usually also contain some sort of scent or perfume to cover up any smell
  • Use antiperspirant
    • Antiperspirant works to reduce sweat
  • Shaving hairy areas especially armpits
    • Girls you probably already do this and guys I know this is maybe a hard one to stomach but reducing the amount of hair you have in hairy areas can make a big difference
    • Sweat gets trapped in the hair and hair provides a great place for bacteria to hide out. Reducing the amount of hair you have can help to ease the stench
  • Avoid spicy foods or foods with strong flavors like garlic (unless you have vampires after you, then you should go for it)
  • If none of these things work for you, you should have trip to your doctor, to check there’s no underlying cause and to talk to you about your options
    • One more recent option is to use Botox injections
      • Botox is made of an extremely deadly poison called botulinum toxin
      • Used very small quantities it is injected into your armpits and it will block nerve pathways that make you sweat
      • The effect will usually last between 2-8 months and then you may need the treatment repeated
      • It is likely you will have to pay to do this privately

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