As with every other living creature, human beings are capable of producing less-than-pleasant body odors. Usually, these odors are quite harmless, provided you are not standing right next to someone – and you intend to take a shower ASAP.
However, some smells are more than just unpleasant in that they could signal an underlying health problem.
Here are seven body odors to never ignore:
While “fruity breath” may sound kinda nice, it may actually be a sign of something serious. The condition diabetic ketoacidosis (KDA) causes a lack of insulin and a spike in blood sugar levels. KDA forces the body to burn primarily fatty acids for energy, causing a buildup of acidic ketones. One such ketone, called acetone, produces a “fruity” smell that may indicate a severe (potentially life-threatening) health problem. If the symptom is accompanied by vomiting, frequent urination, and or abdominal pain, you should visit the emergency room.
Anyone who has used a pair of athletic shoes for an extended period will attest to their smelly nature. It is when this smell resembles that of your feet that you should pay close attention. Chronic foot (and shoe) odor is often a symptom of a bacterial and fungal infection, which can erode the webbing of your skin.
To counteract this nastiness, first, use an over-the-counter antifungal spray. If symptoms persist, seek the advice of a doctor or specialist (a podiatrist), who may recommend more aggressive treatment.
Strong smelling poop
Okay, let’s try to make this one quick, shall we? When your small intestines do not produce enough lactase, a digestive enzyme, it cannot properly digest lactose – a sugar found in most dairy products. As a result, lactose is fed directly into the colon as opposed to the gut (which is where it’s supposed to go.) This digestion detour is what causes the foul-smelling stool and gas – and not to mention the dreaded bloat that often come with these body odors.
It is wise to check things out with your doctor, who can determine if any intestinal complications are to blame. If not, taking an over-the-counter lactose enzyme (like Lactaid) can help.
It is normal for the smell of urine to change from time to time (eat asparagus and see what happens). Dehydration, for example, causes a higher concentration of minerals to pass with less liquid. Provided one adequately hydrates, the smell will usually become a non-issue.
But when bacteria infiltrate the urinary tract, our pee can smell especially bad. Foul-smelling urine that is also cloudy or bloody may be a sign of urinary tract infection, or UTI. Infections of the urinary tract are usually treated with antibiotics. Staying hydrated, getting vitamin C, and taking probiotics may help prevent the condition.
Inexplicably bad breath
If you brush your teeth, floss, use mouthwash – all of that – and still can’t seem to get rid of bad breath, you could be dealing with sleep apnea or some other sleeping disorder. Sleep apnea forces the person to breathe heavily through their mouth throughout the night; this produces excessively dry mouth, which is the leading cause of complications with bad breath. Sleep apnea – and poor sleep quality in general – has been linked to severe conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure.
Medical treatments and devices are available that will open the airways and provide a more restful sleep, which should help improve the body odors as well. You should still see a doctor to rule out any of the conditions mentioned above.
Sweat doesn’t smell lovely, but it shouldn’t smell like road kill either. While it is normal for certain areas of the body – the armpits, for example – to emit a stronger scent than other parts of your body, nothing should smell out of the ordinary. By “out of the ordinary,” doctors mean when the stronger scent from certain areas as mentioned earlier spreads to other parts of the body.
Fortunately, the cause is usually not serious. Typically, some kink in your digestion system is to blame. Simple dietary changes, e.g., adding more fiber, can help. If digestive issues continue, schedule an appointment to discuss these body odors with your primary care physician.
Sour smell around the vagina
It is entirely normal for the vagina to emit a slightly acidic odor; a smell that isn’t usually detectable. However, if the odor around the vaginal area is very sour (“fishy”) or stale, it could signal a conditional called bacterial vaginosis (BV). BV is inflammation of the vagina, caused by the overgrowth of the natural bacteria gardnerella.
BV is very common, affecting nearly 30 percent of women in the United States. A simple bacterial imbalance, BV can usually be treated with prescription antibiotics or topical gels.