Definition & Causes:
Body odor, or B.O., bromhidrosis, osmidrosis and ozochrotia, is a perceived unpleasant smell our bodies can give off when bacteria that live on the skin break down sweat into acids – some say it is the smell of bacteria growing on the body, but it really is the result of bacteria breaking down protein into certain acids.
Body odor usually becomes evident if measures are not taken when a human reaches puberty – 14-16 years of age in females and 15-17 years of age in males. People who are obese, those who regularly eat spicy foods, as well as individuals with certain medical conditions, such as diabetes, are more susceptible to having body odor.
People who sweat too much – those with hyperhidrosis – may also be susceptible to body odor, however, often the salt level of their sweat is too high for the bacteria to break down – it depends where the excess sweating is occurring and which type of sweat glands are involved.
.Body odour is caused by a natural process involving sweat that occurs on the skin’s surface. Sweat is odourless, but if left on the skin the bacteria that normally live there feed on it and break it down. This process releases chemicals that cause the unpleasant smell.
Some areas of the skin, such as the armpits and genitals, are more likely to produce body odour because these glands produce proteins and oily substances that bacteria feed on.
The feet produce their own characteristic odour. We tend to wrap them in socks and shoes, making them hot and humid and allowing fungi, as well as bacteria, to flourish.
According to Medilexicon’s medical dictionary:
Bromhidrosis (or bromidrosis) is a “fetid or foul-smelling perspiration. Apocrine bromhidrosis affects the axillae after puberty, and eccrine bromhidrosis is generalized, with excessive sweating.”
Sweat itself is virtually odorless to humans; it is the rapid multiplication of bacteria in the presence of sweat and what they do (break sweat down into acids) that eventually causes the unpleasant smell. The smell is perceived as unpleasant, many believe, because most of us have been brought up to dislike it. Body odor is most likely to occur in our feet, groin, armpits, genitals, pubic hair and other hair, belly button, anus, behind the ears, and to some (lesser) extent on the rest of our skin.
Body odor can have a nice and specific smell to the individual, and can be used – especially by dogs and other animals – to identify people. Each person’s unique body odor can be influenced by diet, gender, health, and medication.
Two types of acid are commonly present when there is body odor:
*Propionic acid (propanoic acid) is commonly found in sweat – propionibacteria break amino acids down into propionic acid. Propionibacteria live in the ducts of the sebaceous glands of adult and adolescent humans. Some people may identify a vinegar-like smell with propionic acid, because it is similar to acetic acid, which gives vinegar its sour taste and pungent smell.
*Isovaleric acid (3-methyl butanoic acid) is another source of body odor as a result of actions of the bacteria Staphylococcus epidermidis, which are also present in several strong cheese types.
Body odor can smell pleasant and specific to the individual and can be used to identify people, though this is more often done by dogs and other animals than by humans. An individual’s body odor is also influenced by diet, lifestyle, gender, genetics, health and medication.
Sweating and our sweat glands:-
The average human body has three to four million sweat glands, of which there are two types:
*Eccrine glands - a type of simple sweat gland that is located in almost all areas where there is skin. They produce sweat that reaches the skin’s surface via coiled ducts (tubes). When sweat evaporates from the skin the body is cooled. Eccrine glands are responsible for regulating our body’s temperature.
*Apocrine glands - these glands are found in the breasts, genital area, eyelids, armpits and ear. In the breasts they secrete fat droplets into breast milk. In the ear they help form earwax. Apocrine glands in skin and the eyelids are sweat glands.
Body odor is largely influenced by major histocompatibility complex (MHC) molecules. These are genetically determined and play an important role in immunity of the organism. The vomeronasal organ contains cells sensitive to MHC molecules in a genotype-specific way. Experiments on animals and volunteers have shown that potential sexual partners tend to be perceived more attractive if their MHC composition is substantially different. This behavior pattern promotes variability of the immune system of individuals in the population, thus making the population more robust against new diseases.
One study suggests that body odor is genetically determined by a gene that also codes the type of earwax one has. East Asians (those of Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese descent) have the type of sweat glands that even after hitting puberty still don’t produce the chemicals found in the perspiration of other ancestral groups. East Asians evidently have a greater chance of having the ‘dry’ earwax type and reduced axial sweating and odor. This may be due to adaptation to colder climates.
Why you should be aware of it?
Medical research shows that people with body odour might suffer from severe problems in their personal and social relationships. It might also impact their work life — with colleagues and seniors avoiding them. They might not get full rewards of their hard work which in turn might wreck promotion prospects at work. For kids it might lead to educational under-achievement because of teasing and bullying along with enormous degrees of stress which is blamed for their frequent progression into alcoholism, excessive tobacco or drug use and in some cases to suicide.
Feelings of shame, embarrassment, low self-esteem, isolation, frustration, anxiety and depression are extremely common where body odour is present.
Although sufferers and their families have been shown to gain considerable benefit from sympathetic counseling, and while learning to deal with the stress this condition causes is certainly important – long-term strategies and approaches which deal with underlying causes of increased body odour are probably a lot more important.
It is important to know how to deal with the problem of body odour if you are suffering from it. If someone in your personal, social or professional circle suffers from body odour then there is a need to find out a way to address the issue mindfuly and delicately to avoid future embarassment to the person.
The symptom is an unpleasant smell that may be worse in hot and sweaty conditions. The actual smell varies from person to person. The ‘recipe’ of sweat is individual.
Body odour may be influenced by diet. Certain foods, such as curry, garlic and strong spices, contain chemicals that may be excreted in the skin.
The smell almost always disappears with a shower or bath, but can return rapidly, especially if a person puts on unwashed clothes covered in old sweat and bacteria.
In the vast majority of cases of body odor it is not necessary to see your doctor. The individual himself/herself may be aware of it, or a good friend or a member of the household may tell them about their body odor. There are some self-care techniques that will usually successfully treat the problem.
Most people can easily recognise body odour. Unfortunately, the person who has it may be so accustomed to their own smell that they don’t notice.
When to see your doctor:
Some medical conditions may change how much a person sweats, while others can alter how we sweat, subsequently changing the way we smell. For example, hyperthyroidism (an over-active thyroid gland) or the menopause can make people sweat much more, while liver disease, kidney disease, or diabetes can change the consistency of sweat so that the person smells differently. You should see your doctor if:
*You start sweating at night
*You start sweating much more than you normally do, without any logical reason
*You have cold sweats
*Sweating disrupts your daily routine
*You body smells differently – if it is a fruity smell it could be due to diabetes, liver or kidney disease often makes the individual have a bleach-like smell.
#.Armpits - a large concentration of apocrine glands exist in the armpits, making that area susceptible to rapid development of body odor.
*Keep the armpits clean – wash them regularly using anti-bacterial soap, and the number of bacteria will be kept low, resulting in less body odor.
*Hair under the armpits slows down the evaporation of sweat, giving the bacteria more time to break it down into smelly substances; shaving the armpits regularly has been found to help body odor control in that area.
*Deodorant or antiperspirant – deodorants make the skin more acidic, making the environment more difficult for bacteria to thrive. An antiperspirant blocks the sweating action of the glands, resulting in less sweating. Some studies, however, have indicated that antiperspirants may be linked to breast cancer or prostate cancer risk; this study suggests that the evidence is inconclusive either way.
*Botulinum toxin – this is a toxin produced by Clostridium botulinum; it is the most poisonous biological substance known. However, very small and controlled doses are today being used in various fields of medicine. A relatively new treatment is available for individuals who sweat excessibely under the arms.
The patient is given approximately 12 injections of botulinum toxin in the armpits – a procedure that should not last more than 45 minutes. The toxin blocks the signals from the brain to the sweat glands, resulting in less sweating in the targeted area. One treatment can last from two to eight months. In countries where free universal healthcare is available, such as the NHS (National Health Service), UK, botulinum toxin therapy for excessive underarm sweating is not usually available and most patients will have to do it privately (pay for this specific treatment).
#.Wash daily with warm water – have a shower or bath at least once a day. Remember that warm water helps kill off bacteria that are present on your skin. If the weather is exceptionally hot, consider bathing more often than once a day.
#Clothing – natural fibers allow your skin to breathe, resulting in better evaporation of sweat. Natural-made fibers include wool, silk or cotton.
#Spicy foods - curry, garlic and some other spicy (piquant) foods have the potential to make some people’s sweat more pungent. Some experts believe a diet high in red meat may also raise the risk of developing more rapid body odor.
#Aluminum chloride - this substance is usually the main active ingredient in antiperspirants. If your body does not respond to the home remedies mentioned above, talk to a pharmacist or your doctor about a suitable product containing aluminum chloride. Follow the instructions given to you carefully.
#Treatment for smelly feet (bromodosis) - smelly feet are less of a problem socially than underarm B.O. because the unpleasant odor is usually contained by shoes and socks. However, the smell may become obvious if the person with smelly feet visits a home where shoes are taken off before entering, as is the custom in various countries and homes. The following steps may help control food odor:
*Wash your feet in warm water regularly – this means at least once a day. Remember that warm water is better at killing off bacteria than cold water. Tea-tree oil, when added to water, helps kill off bacteria (do not apply tea-tree oil directly to skin). Make sure you dry your feet thoroughly afterwards, including in between your toes.
*Socks – they must allow the sweat to evaporate. The best socks are those made of a combination of man-made fibers and wool. Wear a clean pair of socks each day.
*Shoes - if you wear trainers or shoes with plastic linings make sure it is not for long. A leather lining is better for sweat evaporation. If you have a problem with sweaty feet, do not wear the same pair of shoes two days in a row – shoes do not completely dry overnight.
*Pumice stone – bacteria thrive on dead skin. If the soles of your feet have patches of dead skin remove them with a pumice stone.
*Deodorants and antiperspirants - ask your pharmacist for special foot deodorants and antiperspirants. If you have athlete’s foot you should not use deodorants or antiperspirants – treat the fungal infection first with appropriate medication.
*Go around barefoot – whenever you can walk around barefoot, or at least slip out of your shoes regularly.
Disclaimer: This information is not meant to be a substitute for professional medical advise or help. It is always best to consult with a Physician about serious health concerns. This information is in no way intended to diagnose or prescribe remedies.This is purely for educational purpose.
- Why does sweat smell the way it does? (greenanswers.com)
- To a Mosquito, You Are the Stinkiest Species (livescience.com)
- De Odor Works product review – can a slab of stainless steel eliminate body odor? (gadling.com)
- Easing Underarm Odor (everydayhealth.com)
- Humans are the world’s smelliest animal, study shows (msnbc.msn.com)
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- Take a Stand Against Body Odor from Outsyder Gaming (outsydergaming.com)
- Men Of The World, I Want To Smell Your Sweat [Sweat It] (jezebel.com)
- How Do I Get Rid of Body Odor? (brainz.org)
- You Asked: Is It Unhealthy to Wear Antiperspirant While Exercising? (fitsugar.com)
- Can Young Children Get Body Odor? (everydayhealth.com)
- What causes excessive sweating? (zocdoc.com)