Body Odor 101: What’s Making You Smell?


Text by Eimor Santos

Sweat has gained a bad rep for body odor (we even call the smell “amoy pawis”!), but is it really the culprit behind our personal stench? Here are some surprise causes of body odor and how to put a stop to the problem of putok.

It’s probably the most embarrassing thing a person can have – body odor, derogatorily termed anghit or putok. It is medically called bromhidrosis, a chronic condition that makes an unpleasant odor emanate from the body.

While common in both sexes, body odor is a reeking problem that more often affects men because they sweat almost twice as much as women do. Most men also maintain hair in the armpits, which trap sweat and odor.

But contrary to popular belief, sweat itself is not the cause of body odor. Sweat is just moisture secreted by two kinds of glands in the body: eccrine glands which produce only odorless sweat, and apocrine glands which are often to blame for the foul stink associated with sweat.

These apocrine glands develop during puberty, and secrete a milky fluid that reacts with the bacteria normally found on the skin’s surface to produce the distinct smell we call amoy pawis.

Sweat coming from the apocrine glands is also easier for bacteria to break down. Thus, people who sweat excessively from their apocrine glands and have a lot of bacteria on their skin, tend to have the worst body odor.bodyodor

What (else) is making you smell?

1. Your own genes
There are people who smell bad only after enduring a long day at work, but there are also some who still stink despite their best efforts. What’s bizarre about body odor is some people may be more prone to acquiring the stench than others. Believe it or not, a person’s genetic makeup may have something to do with it.

Feet and underarms are naturally sweaty body parts, but some people are genetically cursed with stinky feet and armpits. There is also a rare genetic metabolic disorder called trimethylaminuria, which prevents the body from breaking down trimethylamine, a chemical compound found in eggs, saltwater fish, liver, and certain legumes. It has a pungent odor similar to the smell of rotting eggs or garbage, and since some people can’t break it down, the smell lingers around their bodies.

2. Food (and alcohol) intake
While there may be limited research, dermatologists from all over the world agree that certain foods contribute to making the body smell. Aside from the infamous garlic and onion, cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower also change a person’s scent.

These veggies contain sulfur, which the body breaks down into compounds that bring the pungent smell. There is also evidence that spicy foods such as curry and red meat can contribute to body odor.

Liquor may also be the culprit if a person’s body starts emitting a malodourous scent – as alcohol flows through your blood and body after a Friday night out with friends, not only will you breath smell, but some of the alcohol seeps out of through your body’s pores.

3. Obesity and health conditions
Sadly, most fat people tend to sweat more, thus increasing the risk of having body odor.

Other medical conditions, such as thyroid problems, diabetes, hypoglycemia, and anxiety are also linked to body odor because they cause excessive sweating too.

There is even a medical condition called hyperhydrosis characterized by an increased activity of the sweat glands, which causes extreme sweating and odor.

But the stinkiest sweat of all is not caused by any disease. The sweat secreted when a person is stressed – the so-called stress sweat – is said to be the worst personal stench of all. It’s very smelly because it is produced by the apocrine glands.

How to fight body odor
Nobody wants body odor. It’s embarrassing, but more importantly, studies show it can cause severe lack of self-confidence, anxiety and even clinical depression. So for less serious cases – those not caused by medical reasons – here are a few tips on how to combat body odor:

  1. The most basic is still proper hygiene. Wash regularly to remove sweat and bacteria. Focus on the areas that are more prone to excessive sweating such as the armpits, genital area and feet. Use antiperspirants and deodorants, and wear only clean clothes to avoid bacterial buildup. Web MD suggests applying antiperspirants during bedtime, to give the product more time to work while you are asleep and not sweating.
  2. Try some of these home remedies. In order to keep your underarms dry, Web MD also recommends a solution of hydrogen peroxide and water. Dissolve a teaspoon of peroxide in a cup of water, then wipe thesolution on the underarms, feet or groin. Reader’s Digest’s 1,801 Home Remedies lists baking soda or cornstarch, tea-tree oil, lemon, and essential oils such as lavender, pine and peppermint, as natural remedies for body odor.
  3. Change your diet, especially if you are fond of fatty foods, oils and strong smelling foods such as garlic that all contribute to body odor. However, consult your doctor or nutritionist first before making drastic changes in your diet. It’s not healthy to avoid all odor-causing foods, as some of them, like vegetables, are also good for your body. According to Reader’s Digest, green, leafy vegetables such as spinach have a powerful deodorizing effect in the body so consider eating more of it instead. Parsley and wheatgrass juice also have anti-odor properties.
  4. If nothing seems to work, consider visiting a medical professional to address your body odor issues. There are many local clinics that offer both surgical and non-surgical treatments to remove excessive underarm sweating. A small part of the armpits can be surgically removed, together with a lot of sweat glands it contains. Popular procedures likebotox and liposuction are even used to treat body odor. Find out what is best for you. Never undergo any procedures without consulting your doctor. Excessive sweating may be an indication of hyperhydrosis or trimethylaminuria, so it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Body odor is a serious concern, but trying to get rid of a nasty smell shouldn’t leave you with worse problems.



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