Dealing with armpit odor and smelly sweat isn't fun. But contrary to popular belief, sweat by itself is virtually odorless. That familiar smell of body odor comes from bacteria interacting with the sweat on your skin’s surface.
Chronic smelly sweat is known as bromhidrosis — and there are many possible causes behind the condition.
9 Causes of Smelly Sweat
The cause of body odor varies from person to person. But most body odor originates from your apocrine glands, a type of sweat gland concentrated in the armpits and groin.
If your sweat always seems to smell, one (or a combination) of these causes could be the culprit.
1. Personal Hygiene
Poor personal hygiene can cause an overgrowth bacteria and encourage smelly sweat. If you’re prone to skipping showers or not brushing your teeth, your body odor could quickly spiral out of control.
2. Stress Sweat
Do stressful situations like project deadlines and family gatherings make you smell? Stress sweat actually smells worse than other types of sweat. When you’re stressed, your apocrine glands produce a white, odorless fluid that lets off a strong odor when it mixes with bacteria on the skin.
3. Synthetic Clothing Materials
Synthetic fibers like rayon, polyester and nylon trap moisture on the surface of your skin, creating a breeding ground for sweat-loving bacteria. To keep smelly sweat at bay, buy clothing made of natural fibers like cotton, wool and linen — these materials soak up sweat and allow it to evaporate.
4. Underlying Medical Condition
Certain medical conditions can cause a sudden change in body odor. These include:
- Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid)
- Kidney and liver dysfunction
- Genetic disorders
If you think you might have a medical condition that is causing body odor, you should consult with your doctor to determine the best treatment option.
5. Choline-Rich Foods
Choline is a type of B vitamin found in fish, meat and eggs that has a naturally fishy smell.
Millions of people have a genetic defect that causes them to produce a fishy body odor after eating foods with choline — these people can secrete choline in their sweat for up to a day. If you’ve experienced these unpleasant effects, you may benefit from a low-choline diet.
6. Sugary Treats
It might be time to toss out that secret candy stash in your desk drawer. Eating too many sweet treats can cause an overgrowth of yeast, which converts sugars into alcohols, which contribute to body odor.
Increased sweating and body odor are potential side effects of Tylenol, allergy medications and some prescription medications like ADHD and birth control pills. Make sure you read the fine print to determine if sweat and odor are side effects of your medications.
8. Low-Carb Diet
High-fat, low-carb diets like the Atkins diet can actually cause smelly sweat and bad breath.
When the body enters a state of ketosis, it starts burning fat instead of carbs for energy and produces a high level of ketones in your blood. Ketones — a type of acetone — can give your breath and body odor a fruity smell.
9. Magnesium Deficiency
Magnesium is a vital mineral for your heart, muscles, nerves and kidneys. But an estimated 80 percent of Americans are deficient in magnesium.
Research shows that people who are magnesium-deficient have stronger body odor than people who get enough in their diet. Eating magnesium-rich foods like dark chocolate, raw almonds, flax and sesame seeds can help you get your magnesium fix and eliminate excessive B.O.
How to Combat Smelly Sweat
Body odor is embarrassing, but the good news is that it’s usually treatable. Here are some easy ways to fight back against smelly sweat.
Change your diet. Stay away from foods packed with spices, onion or garlic and eat more foods high in magnesium. Reducing your alcohol intake can also reduce B.O.
Wear a sweat proof undershirt. The more sweat on your skin, the worse your body odor becomes. Wearing a sweat proof undershirt can help keep your pits dry and ward off smell-causing bacteria.
The Thompson Tee is the only sweat proof undershirt guaranteed to block sweat and odor from reaching your outer layer. Every Thompson Tee is armed with patented Hydro-Shield technology in the underarms, keeping you dry and odor-free in any situation.
Adjust your personal hygiene routine. Make sure you’re taking regular showers, applying deodorant and wearing clean clothes every day. Try an antibacterial soap and avoid scented products, which can worsen body odor.
Shave or trim your armpits. Hair traps moisture on your skin, giving bacteria more time to produce odor. Shave or trim your pits regularly to keep body odor to a minimum.
What other tips do you have for controlling smelly sweat?