What causes body odour?

It is common to interact with people whose body odour is not the best. A bad odour kills someone’s (the victim) confidence but also turns off most people. But what exactly causes someone to have that unpleasant odour?
Doctors encourage regular shaving as one of the ways to prevent body odour. (Net photo)
Doctors encourage regular shaving as one of the ways to prevent body odour. (Net photo)

It is common to interact with people whose body odour is not the best. A bad odour kills someone’s (the victim) confidence but also turns off most people. But what exactly causes someone to have that unpleasant odour?

Dr Elisah Agaba, a dermatologist at The University Teaching Hospital (CHUK), says poor hygiene can cause someone to smell. For instance, he says, if one sweats a lot and does not take a shower immediately, they are most likely going to have an odour.

“Bacteria break down sweat into fatty acids hence producing unpleasant odour. Sweat plus components of other glands like secretion of sebum from sebaceous glands also can produce the unpleasant smell,” Dr Agaba says.

He, however, adds that not all people who sweat excessively have a body odour.

Research has also gone on to say that odour is not always a result of poor hygiene. That is why some people who bathe everyday (sometimes more than once) still produce bad odour. Doctors say some conditions such as thyroid disease and carcinoid syndrome can be associated with a bad smell.

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Showering atleast twice a day can go a long way in dealing with body odour. (Net photo)

According to the Mayo Clinic, when diabetes is untreated, it’s possible to experience what’s called diabetic ketoacidosis.

“Without enough insulin, the body starts to break down fat for fuel, which leads to a build up of ketones in the body. That buildup in turn may produce a change in body odor,” according to the Mayo Clinic, a medical research group that comprises over 3,300 physicians, scientists and researchers.

But did you know that the problem can sometimes be genetic?

According to the Genetics Home Reference at the National Institutes of Health, some genes in the process of mutation create trimethylaminuria, a condition which limits the body in breaking down chemical compounds, and when it builds up in the body it’s released in the breath, urine and sweat, giving a person trimethylaminuria a similarly fishy smell.

Dr George Nzaramba, a consultant, says a dysfunction in the kidneys and liver can also lead to a bad body odour since they are the vital organs which help the body in the excretion of its wastes. Therefore when they don’t do their job, toxins can compile in the blood and digestive system which in turn leads to an odour.

He recommends a blood test which can help rule out if there is a problem with either of these two vital organs.

He adds that some foods with a strong smell such as onions and garlic also can lead to one having a body odour. “The oil secreted from onions mixes with the fatty sweat released in the apocrine glands which when mixed up ends up creating an odour and in most instances a foul breath.”

Remedies for body odor

“Since causes of body odour are many, it is advisable to see a doctor in order to establish the exact cause and solution,” Dr Agaba says.

He explains that if it’s excessive sweating leading to the odour, one can use antibacterial and antiseptic liquids on a daily basis.

“This can significantly help in the reduction of the number of bacteria,” he says.

Dr Nzaramba also advises people to keep their bodies well kempt and make it a point to bathe at least twice a day.

It is also essential to wash clothes thoroughly especially clothing that comes into contact with sweaty areas such as socks, underwear and shirts.

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