Body Odor 101

Morning Routine by Ruth Elayne Kongaika

You may have been in tight quarters like an elevator, bus, or movie with a person that has an odor, which you do not appreciate. Usually, you try to escape as soon as possible because your nose is insulted.

I work at a college that has students from over seventy countries. I have noticed that there are groups of them whose body odor stands out much more than others. I have wondered if it is due to lack of hygiene, a particular food they eat, or their genes.

There is also a story of a lady who was shunned most of her life because of her odor. She went through drastic measures, even going as far as to remove the sweat glands in her armpits to no avail. She did marry, and I wondered why her husband did not notice the noxious scent when most everyone else did.

Those persons who exercise or watch sports believe that perspiration is the cause of body odor. However, perspiration by itself is basically odorless. It is the bacteria and odors coming from other sources that are the real culprits. In reality, anaerobic bacteria, which flourish when your body doesn't have enough oxygen, are the cause of body odor. As the body's metabolism goes to work, it gives off odors, which is the body's way of ridding itself of waste products. Any imbalances in metabolism will result in stronger odors. This can come in the form of bad breath, foot odor, and sweaty hands.

In today's world, we are bombarded with toxins in our homes, food, and air that accumulate in the body when the organs of elimination cannot dispose of them. The liver and intestines may be clogged up, causing odors to emanate from the body, so some people go to a thorough detoxification program by cleansing the liver, kidneys and colon.

We rented some rooms to some of the students at the college nearby, and some days I would come home to my whole house reeking. I had to set new house rules especially for the Korean students who love to eat Kimchee.  This is a condiment Koreans eat with almost every meal.  I often wondered how they ever got married because I could detect this odoriferous scent coming from them the minute they opened their mouths. I am sure they were raised with it, so they are used to it.

But there are actually dietary imbalances, resulting in constipation or a deficiency of magnesium or zinc that cause body odor. Because of a person's body chemistry, some people who eat large quantities of meat or who are vegetarians have a very distinctive body odor, which can be quite offensive.

However, for the young lady, I mentioned earlier who was shunned her whole life except for the man who became her husband; she had a very rare condition called Trimethylaminuria. It is a genetic disorder in which the body is unable to metabolize trimethylamine from food sources. Patients develop a characteristic fish odor of their sweat, urine, and breath after the consumption of choline-rich foods. This includes eggs, cheese, and milk products. Once she was finally diagnosed and avoided such foods, her life became easier.

Certain foods and drinks, such as onions, garlic, curry, certain spicy foods, coffee and alcohol, are also prime causes. Fried and baked goods may contain rancid fats and oils that lead to body odor.

Sweat glands (apocrine glands) under the arms and in the groin secrete a substance that is the major non-food/drink related cause of body odor. Bacteria, causing odor, quickly attack this substance, which contains protein, carbohydrates, and lipids, often secreted by a surge in sex hormones caused by tense moments or emotional stress.

Today children are starting puberty much earlier, and this change in hormones may lead to body odor in children younger than previously. Estrogen dominance, often caused by petrochemical products, may trigger the earlier puberty. Drinking sodas out of plastic bottles is one of the leading causes of estrogen dominance.

There also may be underlying causes of excessive sweating, such as low blood sugar, liver disease, diabetes, parasites, metabolic dysfunction, menopause, or emotional stress (anger, fear, excitement).

There is help!!

For excessive underarm odor, try using a mild solution of hydrogen peroxide (3%) that is cheap and can be picked up at the pharmacy. Put a teaspoonful in a glass of water and wash the underarm. If that doesn't work, increase the amount of peroxide.

Since toxic overload may be one of the causes, try taking steam baths or saunas frequently as part of an overall detoxification program.

There are certain lifestyle changes to make if you have a constant problem with body odor. Occasional problems can be treated if you know the cause. We suggest a program of daily bathing, changes in diet, and changes in clothing.

Bathing Bathe daily to remove bacteria from your skin, especially the armpits and groin area where the bacteria are most prevalent. Scrub the armpits with a soapy washcloth, as that will work better to remove the bacteria than just soap in your hands. Deodorant soap is preferable as it helps fight bacteria more than regular soaps. If you have a serious odor problem, soak for fifteen minutes or longer in a tub of water with three cups of tomato juice added. Don't forget, tomato juice works for you and your pets if you have been "skunked"!

Clothing is an area many people overlook. Loosely fitting clothes allow the body to breathe better than tight clothes. The perspiration escapes and doesn't become a breeding ground for bacteria. The type of fabric is also very important. Synthetic fabrics for shoes and clothes don't allow the body to breathe, so use all natural fabrics. Wash your clothes often!

Sweating As we mentioned above, excessive sweating may have underlying causes, and so it is wise to be diagnosed to see if you have a medical problem. Women going through menopause and perimenopause may experience bouts of sweating accompanied by terrible body odor. The sweating may occur even when the woman is not warm. Using baby wipes, vinegar, and bauxite crystal deodorant has been recommended for this.

Caffeine and medications may also be the cause of your sweating. Reduce your caffeine intake and note if there are changes when you stop taking medication.

Tobacco use is a major cause of body odor. Not only does it come back through your lungs, but also it comes through the skin. It probably mixes with other elements of your body's chemistry to create a distinct odor. If you stop smoking it may take several weeks for the body to rid itself of odor causing substances.

Chlorophyll One or two chlorophyll tablets or chlorophyll liquid taken with each meal may also help, as chlorophyll is a great deodorizer.

Magnesium Take magnesium supplements or augment your diet with food sources high in this important mineral. Between 200-500 mg of magnesium have been recommended. You will have to try different doses until you get the amounts that are right for your body.

Vitamins A high-potency B vitamin (50 mg or higher), when combined with magnesium, will help reduce certain secretions that can be a cause of odor. Make sure you are getting 100 mg of PABA and 100 mg of B6.

If you have body odor, try taking zinc tablets. Zinc, plus magnesium, will help balance your body's metabolism and reduce the cause of bad odor. Studies have shown that taking 30 to 50 mg daily will dramatically reduce certain body odors, although you may need less.

Some Folk remedies include the following:

Wipe your armpits with alcohol, white vinegar or witch hazel instead of deodorant.

Apple cider vinegar Apple cider vinegar eliminates under arm body odor when used in place of deodorant because it reduces the pH of the skin. Bacteria can't live in areas with low pH.

White vinegar is also helpful. Place some on a cotton ball and apply to the underarms instead of deodorant. The vinegar smell is gone in minutes and you should be smell-free all day.

Baby powder Use baby powder or talc in areas of heavy perspiration.

Baking soda, the odor-eating standby, can be used instead of deodorant. Just apply the powder to your dry armpits. It will kill bacteria and help absorb perspiration. Cornstarch can also be used instead or mixed with the baking soda.

Chewing parsley, alfalfa, and other leafy greens will help neutralize body odor, probably because of the deodorizing effect of the chlorophyll.

Rosemary is an antibacterial herb. Put 8 to 10 drops of the essential oil in 1 ounce of water and apply it where needed.

Sage Herbalists suggest drinking a cup of sage tea daily to reduce sweat gland activity. This is especially true for those who perspire excessively due to tension. Use 11/2 teaspoonsful of dried sage or two tea bags in one cup of water; steep for ten minutes; drink in small doses throughout the day.

Tea tree is an antibacterial herb. Make a deodorant by putting 2 drops of the essential oil into 1 ounce of water and apply where needed.

Towelettes or baby wipes are useful when a tense moment surges the sex hormones which produce fluid under the arms and around the genital areas that, when combined with bacteria, causes odor.

Take 500 mg of wheat grass daily on an empty stomach and wash down with a glass of water. The chlorophyll will dramatically reduce body odor.

A change in body odor may be a sign of certain medical conditions, such as diabetic ketoacidosis or kidney failure.

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