(Ask the Doctor) My bad body odour is ruining my life

I am 28-years-old and have never been in a serious relationship. I suspect that the reason for that is my smell. This is quite embarrassing to talk about but I need help. I shower almost thrice a day, I use deodorant and even perfume but for some reason, I still smell bad. When I sweat, it gets worse. And even the scents I use tend to make things uglier.
Dr Rachna Pande
Dr Rachna Pande

I am 28-years-old and have never been in a serious relationship. I suspect that the reason for that is my smell. This is quite embarrassing to talk about but I need help. I shower almost thrice a day, I use deodorant and even perfume but for some reason, I still smell bad. When I sweat, it gets worse. And even the scents I use tend to make things uglier.

I don’t know what to do anymore. Is there anything you can recommend? I’m not sure if it is a health problem because like I said, I’m quite clean, I just don’t smell too good. And it’s really sabotaging the chances I have to get a boyfriend. My friends recommended special herbs, but that doesn’t sound right. Please help me.

 

Gloria S, Nyamirambo

 

Dear Gloria,

 

I am just curious to know whether somebody told you that you smell bad or it is your perspective. Actually if it is the latter, then it means the situation is really advanced and bad.

Usually bad smell comes from sweating too much.  This could be due to multiple causes including hormonal effects. Sweating as such is useful for the body as it tends to remove grime and germs from the body.  Sweat by itself is odourless, but the clothes stained with it smell bad. Superadded bacterial or fungal infections if present augment the sweaty bad smell.  Soaps and deodorants if used serve as food for the microbes making them excrete more and aggravate the bad odour.  

One may shower but if used clothes are worn after that, the smell will persist. Similarly damp clothes also lend a bad smell to the person wearing them. Eating spicy food with a lot of garlic and onions, excess fried food or even meat is also said to be responsible for bad body odour. 

If one sweats a lot then the scents mingle with that smell making it worse. This is the reason why deodorants and perfumes do not seem to work. Bad smell can also be due to poor dental hygiene and resultant infections. 

Use of alcohol and cigarette smoking can make a person smell bad. The body can smell bad because of obesity as well.

To keep away bad body odour it is important to keep good personal hygiene. That includes keeping the body as well as the teeth clean. Always wear clean fresh clothes including the undergarments. Make sure that the clothes are dry either through good ironing or dried out in good sunlight. 

Cotton clothes are better than wearing synthetic material like polyester, nylon e.t.c. because ventilation of the skin is hampered by synthetic material. Similarly one should make sure that the feet are dry and clean and fresh socks are used every day.

Healthy food containing a few spices is useful in this regard. Reducing excess body fat, avoiding alcohol and tobacco will also help an individual in keeping bad body odour away.

Use of anti sweating agents containing ammonium chloride can reduce the amount of sweat and the bad smell but it also makes a person more prone to infections in damp, moist areas like the underarms, palms and soles.

In extreme cases one can try surgical interventions like removal of sweat glands from a small portion of the body or injecting botilinum toxin.

Do not worry about the issue of not finding a mate due to bad body odour. Wait for a sensible person who can see a human being beyond the body and its odour.

Dr. Rachna Pande is a Specialist in Internal Medicine at Ruhengeri Hospital

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