What Is Bromhidrosis? Causes, Treatments and Prevention of Excessive Body Odor

Dealing with constant sweat is a daily struggle, but at least others can only see the problem. When you have chronic body odor or bromhidrosis, people can smell it. So what is bromhidrosis? And why do you get it? We’re here to lift the veil on this silent but deadly confidence killer.

What Is Bromhidrosis?

Bromhidrosis is a chronic medical condition characterized by extreme body odor. It happens when the bacteria on your skin breaks down sweat and produces an abnormally offensive smell — one that’s more pungent and persistent than regular B.O. 

Bromhidrosis stems from the decomposition of both apocrine and eccrine gland sweat.

Like hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating), you cannot control bromhidrosis. It’s a devastating condition that can cause embarrassment, frustration and psychological distress.

Apocrine vs. Eccrine Bromhidrosis

There are two types of bromhidrosis: apocrine and eccrine. Both occur when sweat, bacteria and skin mix. The difference between the two conditions depends on how these three variables interact.

Apocrine Bromhidrosis

Apocrine bromhidrosis is the most common type of bromhidrosis. When you have apocrine bromhidrosis, body odor is the byproduct of lipid-rich apocrine gland sweat mixing with skin bacteria. When these two ingredients come together, they produce thioalcohols — compounds that smell like sulfur, onions or raw meat .

Eccrine Bromhidrosis

Eccrine bromhidrosis is the rarer form of bromhidrosis. It happens when sweat from your eccrine glands softens the keratin on your skin. The softer the keratin is, the easier it is for bacteria to break down. This break-down process produces as stenchy odor .

But what’s the difference between bromhidrosis and regular old B.O. and how do you know that you have it?

The Difference Between Regular Body Odor and Bromhidrosis

It’s easy to keep natural body odor under control with good hygiene habits and over-the-counter treatments like antiperspirant deodorant. But when you have bromhidrosis, simple solutions don’t work.

In other words, bromhidrosis isn’t an “I smell bad when I forget deodorant” problem. It’s an “I stink most of the time,no matter how many times I reapply deodorant” problem.

Here are a few more examples of what it’s like to have normal body odor versus bromhidrosis.

Anti-Stink Tactic Normal Body Odor Result Bromhidrosis Result
Shower Eliminates B.O. completely Does not reduce B.O. significantly
Apply deodorant once per day Keeps B.O. away most of the day Keeps B.O. away for a few hours
Apply extra-strength antiperspirant deodorant Eliminates B.O. for extended periods Reduces B.O. for very short periods

Signs You Have Bromhidrosis

Most of the time, you can detect bromhidrosis from its distinct scent. The most common symptoms of this condition include:

  • Constant (but not overpowering) body odor
  • Body odor within 30 minutes of showering or bathing
  • A cheese or meat-like smell coming from your underarms or groin
  • A garlic or onion-like smell coming from your breasts, underarms or groin
  • Social anxiety due to body odor

Doctors can diagnose bromhidrosis by swabbing and testing the bacteria on your skin. Excessive amounts of Corynebacterium, Propionibacterium, Staphylococcus and Micrococcus usually indicate chronic body odor. Staphylococcus is typically the strongest-smelling bacteria.

Being able to spot the signs of bromhidrosis is a helpful first step in overcoming chronic body odor. But to solve the problem, you also need to understand the underlying cause of your condition.

Causes Of Bromhidrosis

Whether you have apocrine or eccrine bromhidrosis, stink happens because of bacteria and sweat. But other factors cause bromhidrosis including genetics, the consumption of certain foods and other medical conditions.

Genetics

If chronic body odor runs in your family, you have a stronger chance of having the condition as well. Studies show that there is a strong correlation between the ABCC11 gene and bromhidrosis. This same gene is present in individuals with wet ear wax. So believe it or not, if you have wet ear wax, you’re more likely to have bromhidrosis.

Obesity

Having large amounts of excess fat on your body makes more likely to suffer from bromhidrosis.

Excess fat creates skin folds. These warm, dark crevices are the perfect environment for sweat and bacteria to mix and produce an odor. Because these areas can be challenging to clean, you may neglect them when it comes time to bathe or shower. Failing to cleanse and exfoliate these areas allows bacteria and sweat to fester and create a pervasive odor.

Diabetes

Sometimes bromhidrosis can be mistaken for a condition called diabetic ketoacidosis which can occur if you have untreated diabetes. When you have diabetes, your body doesn’t produce enough insulin to regulate your metabolism. As a result, it starts to break down fat which causes acids to build up in your bloodstream. This process can result in body odor and bad breath.

Intertrigo

Intertrigo is a rash caused by trapped moisture and sweat. Although the most common form of intertrigo is infant diaper rash, adults can also get it from lack of air circulation to their skin.

When intertrigo goes untreated, it allows bacteria to thrive in moist, friction-prone areas which can lead to chronic body odor.

Erythrasma

Erythrasma is a bacterial infection caused by humid, tropical climates that manifests as a pink skin rash. The bacteria that causes this rash, Corynebacterium, naturally occurs on your skin. It’s also one of the bacteria that exists in excess on the epidermis of people with chronic body odor.

Hyperhidrosis

You already know that bacteria and sweat are key ingredients of bromhidrosis. Therefore, the more you have of either, the more likely you are to have chronic body odor. When you have hyperhidrosis, sweat is a constant struggle. If you also have the type of skin bacteria that promotes B.O., you may also deal with continual stink.

If you think sweat or hyperhidrosis are contributing to your bromhidrosis, it’s important to note that you must treat hyperhidrosis first to eliminate your body odor issue.

For tips on excessive sweating treatments, check out our article: The Complete List of Axillary Hyperhidrosis Treatments. If natural solutions are more your style, check out our list of the best Home Remedies for Hyperhidrosis.

Consuming Certain Foods, Liquids and Drugs

Your diet and oral medications can affect the way byproducts secreted in your sweat smell. When the byproducts of pungent foods like garlic, onion, cruciferous vegetables and red meat blend with sweat and bacteria, it can cause chronic body odor.

Other foods and medications that promote stink include:

  • Alcohol
  • Tobacco
  • Fish
  • Asparagus
  • Curry
  • Penicillin
  • Bromides

Bromhidrosis Treatments

Thankfully, bromhidrosis is treatable. Here are some ways to fight the funk and rid yourself of embarrassing body odor:

Take Measures To Reduce Your Skin Bacteria

There are several ways to decrease your skin bacteria.

  • Adjust your soap: Try antibacterial or germicidal soap, avoid scented products that can worsen body odor, use gentle cleansers and choose liquid and cream body washes over solid soaps.
  • Shave excess body hair: Hair traps bacteria and sweat, which aggravates bromhidrosis.
  • Remove sweaty clothes immediately : This gives bacteria less time to break down sweat.
  • Shower and bathe more often : Two times per day is the minimum for bromhidrosis victims.
  • Wear garments with silver or copper : These materials resist bacteria to reduce the B.O. stink.
  • Use extra-strength or prescription deodorant : Old Spice might not cut it. Consult a dermatologist to explore more powerful deodorants and solutions.
  • Try home remedies for body odor.

Change Your Diet

Avoid foods that promote odiferous sweat secretions to reduce the effects of chronic body odor. Instead, add odor-fighting foods to your diet like:

  • Lemons, oranges and grapefruits
  • Green leafy vegetables like kale and spinach
  • Fresh herbs
  • Whole grains

Keep Your Skin As Dry As Possible

The more sweat that bacteria have to feed off, the worse the body odor. You must treat heavy sweating and hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating) to cure bromhidrosis.

Medical and Treatments for Bromhidrosis

Bromhidrosis is also treatable with antibiotics, laser hair removal and sweat gland removal surgery. To find out more about each of these options, check out our complete list of bromhidrosis solutions.

Wear a Sweat Proof Undershirt

Is your bromhidrosis particularly severe in the underarm area? Try the Thompson Tee. This patented sweat proof undershirt absorbs sweat and releases it into the air as vapor, keeping you dry and stink-free throughout the day.


Resources:

  1. https://www.racgp.org.au/afp/2013/may/hyperhidrosis-and-bromhidrosis/
  2. https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/dermatologic-disorders/sweating-disorders/bromhidrosis
  3. https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2015/03/31/396573607/meet-the-bacteria-that-make-a-stink-in-your-pits
  4. https://www.bustle.com/articles/177764-11-weird-causes-of-body-odor-what-to-do-about-it
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2731057/
  6. https://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatment...
Lawrence Hunt

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