You Are Not Alone
At some point, everyone gets a body part that smells a little funky.Credit: Flickr
Did you forget to wear deodorant? Did you forget to floss? Did you put way, way too much garlic in the Caesar salad?
Those things are easy to fix.
It’s when you have chronic body odor, or very strong body odor that it’s a problem.
There is an upside to that bad smell. It’s kind of like the canary in the coal mine. Body odor can be a symptom of a larger problem like a yeast, fungal or bacterial infection. It could signal a food allergy or a disease such as diabetes.
Ahead we’ll travel from the top of your head to the bottom of your feet to see what might be causing those odors.
Hair and Scalp
Sometimes people get a moldy or musky smell on their hair and scalp.
The smell could be caused by a fungal infection, but more likely, it's the oil glands in your scalp that are causing the problem.
It could be your hormones playing havoc, especially if you are in your teens or pregnant.
After you wash your hair, rinse with a cup of warm water that includes a splash of vinegar. Don't use too much or you will end up smelling like a fish and chips restaurant. The vinegar also leaves your hair looking really shiny.
Some people recommend putting tomato juice on freshly washed hair. Leave on for ten minutes and then rinse out.
Both solutions make your hair and scalp a little more acidic which helps the overall PH balance.
Many animals produce a strong odor as a means of protection. If you've ever been sprayed by a skunk, you know what I mean.
It's all part of the flight or fight syndrome and it's inherent in all of us.
If you are treed by an 800 pound grizzly, it's OK to produce a bunch of smelly sweat.
If day to day stress and anxiety are producing some bad smelling perspiration, it's time to learn some coping and relaxation tips.
On to Your Mouth
Sadly, we may not even be aware of it, and some people are more sensitive to breathe odors than others. For example, I'm not a coffee drinker, so when someone breathes on me after their first cup of morning jo, my stomach does flip flops.
We have a couple of people in my office who keep toothpaste and a toothbrush in their desk. I REALLY like them.
Obviously, basic oral care is key. Brush, floss, rinse. Use a tongue scraper.
If you are doing all that and still suffering from bad breath there could be a number of culprits.
You could have cavities, poorly fitting dentures or gum disease. For years researchers said there is a link between gum disease and heart disease. Scientists at Stanford looked at the studies and said they were inconclusive. Either way, you've got to take care of your gums if you want to keep your teeth.
Chronic bad breath could also be a symptom of sinus or respiratory tract infections as well as yeast infection. It could signal a more serious problem like diabetes.
Your Armpits are Awesome!
The perspiration produced by these glands contains fats and proteins which creates a perfect breeding ground for bacteria.
Have you ever wondered why you have hair under your armpits? There are two popular theories. One or both may be true.
Hair acts as a buffer on your skin, stopping chaffing as your upper arm rubs against the side of your chest.
The hair also traps sweat and odors. That may not sound great, but from an evolutionary point of view it was important to trap pheromones.
They are complex chemicals that can signal things like fear or arousal. One set of pheromones allows mothers to recognize their babies by scent. Interestingly enough, fathers don't have that ability.
If you sweat heavily, doctors are now using Botox to control the problem.
What's Going On Down There?
There are some women who feel they produce a strong smell when they are menstruating. It's a very uncomfortable feeling, but chances are, if you are in that category, it's probably not as bad as you imagine.
You are closest to your intimate areas, and you may feel self-conscious for no reason. There are some things you can do. If you use pads, try tampons or vice versa.
Many women swear by soft cups. The trap the blood flow inside the vagina, so it is never exposed to the air, reducing the risk of odor.
PH is also a factor. The vagina is slightly acidic. Decades ago women would douche with warm water and a touch of vinegar. They knew what they doing. Personally I don't recommend the commercial products that are on the market today. They may leave you smelling fresh for a while, but in most cases they are just masking the problem.
If you have a strong odor, it's important to see a doctor. It could be a symptom of a yeast infection or a bacterial infection including a sexually transmitted disease.
NOW..On To The Men...
Men too, can get a musty smell in their private areas.
Shower often. If it's hot outside and you are sweating heavily in that area, consider a light dusting of talc or baby powder.
Rule out any type of infection including STDs.
If you are wearing tight jockey shorts with lots of synthetic material, switch to cotton boxers.
Your feet contain different sweat glands than your armpitsand there areCredit: Image Wikipedia plenty of them. In fact there can be more than a quarter of a million sweat glands in each foot and they are capable of creating up to two cups of sweat a day.
That sweat mixes with the bacteria that is naturally on your skin, and voila..stinky feet.
There are a few things you can do to help.
1. Wear cotton socks.
2. Wear ventilated shoes.
3. Don't wear the same pair of shoes every day. Give them time to air out and dry out.
4. Wear sandals or go barefoot if you can.
5. Keep your feet clean.
6. You can also try a commercial insert for your shoes like "Odor-eaters". (They don't put chemicals on or into your body)
The Nose Knows
They can provide valuable clues to your body's health. For example, a sweet of fruity smell may indicate diabetes, liver disease or kidney disease.
Don't Use Antibacterial Soap
The University of Alabama Extension System says using antibacterial soap may not only be useless, but may help contribute to a new breed of super-bugs.
The article says that the vast majority of soaps on the market in the US have antibacterial properties, a business that is worth more than $1.5 billion a year.
Food..Is it the Culprit?
If you suspect food is causing odor problems or you believe you may have allergies or are sensitive to some types of food, I recommend an elimination diet.
Basically you eliminate foods like wheat and daily, then gradually introduce them back into your diet to see how your body responds.
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