Home Health Why do we smell worse while bathing?

Why do we smell worse while bathing?


Body odour, sometimes called “B.O.”, is a perceived unpleasant sense of smell the body gives off. Normally, body odour is more prominent in people who are obese, consume lots of spicy food or have a medical condition like diabetes or hyperhidrosis. Sweating is actually odourless, but it creates a moist and damp microenvironment on the skin that favours bacteria growth- the real culprit of body odour. This is why certain body parts namely the armpits, groins, genitals, anus, feet and behind the ears are most likely carrying the unpleasant smell. Most people with this problem do not need professional body odour treatment. Just a proper shower with soap and water should do the trick. But why do some people have bad smells while or after bathing? There are a number of reasons for someone to have body odour. 

People with diets heavy in cruciferous vegetables, sulphur-rich food and heavy spices are more susceptible to have body odour even after showering. Examples of cruciferous vegetables are broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, bok choy; while food containing high sulphur are meat, seafood and legumes (beans). Garlic and onions also contain some sulphur. Upon consuming these foods, the sulphur is broken down into compounds that make sweat smell like rotten eggs. No matter how clean the skin is after a shower, the sweat coming out later will still smell. One way is to avoid eating too much food as such, and cooking the vegetables can actually reduce the sulphur. 

People with trimethylaminuria also have body odour after bathing. It is an inherited metabolic disorder that prevents the body’s enzymes from breaking down trimethylamine (TMA), a fishy-smelling compound found in choline-rich foods. Due to the inability to digest TMA, its excess is released via the sweat, breath, and urine. Unfortunately, there is no cure, but the person can reduce body odour by reducing the intake of choline-rich food. This includes milk, eggs, saltwater fish, organ meats, peanuts and certain legumes like soy beans and split peas. Sometimes, doctors may prescribe a low dose of antibiotics to lower the TMA in the gut. Moreover, patients are encouraged to take vitamin B2 (riboflavin) as it helps boost the enzymes activity that breaks down TMA. Laxatives and detoxifying herbs have also been shown to eliminate the excess TMA from the body. 

Unpleasant odour after bathing may be due to the athlete’s foot. It is a fungal infection confined to the feet due to constant warm, sweaty feet with poor ventilation. Applying antifungal creams works for most people, and are easily available over the counter. Doctors can also prescribe an ointment for a stronger effect. Helpful home remedies include tea tree oil and apple cider vinegar which have natural antifungal properties. 

A heavy drinker of alcohol can also have unpleasant odour despite a good shower. A person tends to reek of alcohol smell because the liver has reached a limit to breakdown the alcohol, causing the excess alcohol to seep through the body via pores, breath and urine. It is easy to curb this, just drink in moderation and drink water in between servings of alcohol. 

If a person with underlying type 1 diabetes has an unpleasant fruity smell in the breath, it is most likely caused by diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). It is one of the dangerous complications of diabetes characterised by excessively high glucose and ketones in the body. See your doctors right away if one has symptoms of DKA, which include extreme thirst, frequent urination, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and confusion. DKA requires immediate medical attention to prevent brain swelling and acute kidney injury. 

The research found that people are under immense stress, anxiety and depression may have body odour. This is because stress causes the body to produce more sweat from the sweat glands. The presence of body odour can become the source of stress and anxiety, creating a vicious loop. By avoiding stressful events, doing meditations and breathing techniques, one can reduce anxiety and relax stress. Doctors may prescribe antiperspirants that can effectively block the sweat glands and reduce sweating, thereby reducing bacteria growth and stopping body odour.