The science behind body odor

Oct 5, 2013 at 12:00 a.m. ET

Whether we're working out, sleeping or at work, we all sweat. It's our body's way of regulating our temperature and is completely normal. What's not normal — funky body odor.

Woman plugging nose from bad odor

While sweat itself is virtually odorless, when combined with bacteria, your lady parts can become a breeding ground for more bacteria and create an embarrassing, unpleasant odor. Not sure how to get rid of your unwanted stench? We're sharing all the secrets, but first let's figure out what might be causing the body odor in the first place.

What causes bad odors?

Poor hygiene

Not showering or properly cleansing yourself is often the cause of body odor. Between our daily activities, clothes and outside factors, our bodies pick up bacteria and dirt. Allowing a continuous buildup of this bacteria and dirt without properly cleansing might be the source of your smelliness.

Stress and anxiety

Nervous about a big test or a job interview? When we are nervous or under stress, our bodies naturally release a dose of cortisol, a stress hormone. While the cortisol helps prepare an individual for the upcoming situation, it also makes a person sweat. When this sweat is combined with the bacteria that live on the skin, it can give off a foul odor.


What you eat can affect more than just your waistline — it can affect your body odor, too. The biggest culprit is red meat. Because red meat takes longer to digest, it sits in the digestive tract, releasing toxins into the bloodstream through the large intestine. As a result, your body will excrete those bad smells, leaving a disturbing odor.

Health problems

There are certain health problems that can cause body odor. These health conditions include: diabetes, gastrointestinal disorders, urinary tract infection, athlete's foot, an overactive thyroid, kidney disease and liver failure.

Fighting the funk

Fun fact: Did you know that vinegar is a natural antiseptic? A couple spritzes to the skin's surface can help kill bacteria and eliminate odors.

If you are experiencing body odor, there are a few ways you can fight the funk.

  • Wash regularly — bathing at least once a day can help limit the growth of bacteria on your skin.
  • Change your diet — add more greens and healthy proteins and carbohydrates to your diet. Avoid eating too much protein and foods that are high in fat.
  • Keep yourself fresh — carry baby wipes with you to keep underarms and other smelly areas fresh throughout the day.
  • Do a regular detox — regular sessions can help remove toxic impurities through the skin. Try visiting a sauna or incorporating detoxifying foods to your diet.
  • Wear clean, loose clothing — what you wear can prohibit air flow on the skin and create a place for odor-causing bacteria to thrive. Make sure to wear a fresh change of clothes each day and to always wear clothing that allows for breathability.

Sweating is normal, but sweating too much can actually be a sign of an underlying problem. If you are sweating excessively or notice your body odor has changed, you might want to consider seeing your doctor.

Tell Us

Ladies, what deodorant do you recommend for protecting against bad B.O.?

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