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Body Odor - Causes, Associated Symptoms, and Remedies

Published on Nov 23, 2021   -  5 min read


Body odor is commonly thought to be due to sweat, but actually, human sweat is odorless, and body odor occurs when it mixes with bacteria. Please read the article to know more.

Body Odor - Causes, Associated Symptoms, and Remedies


Everybody has a unique body odor, which may be subtle or pleasant, but most think body odor means an unpleasant smell. Changes in body odor occur due to excessive sweating, puberty, or poor hygiene. Sudden changes are typically caused by the medications, environment, or foods that we eat. But, sudden and persistent changes in body odor can sometimes be a sign of any underlying condition.

What Are the Causes of Sudden Changes in Body Odor?

Environment, diet, medications, change in hormone levels, or underlying conditions may cause a sudden change in body odor. It is normal to have a change in body odor when we are growing, such as an adolescent going through puberty. At the time of puberty, sweat glands and hormones are more active, causing body odor. During the workout, excessive sweat causes body odor. In such cases, when healthy hygiene habits are not practiced properly, the sweat can mix with bacteria and cause an unpleasant smell. But when the body odor is persistent and accompanied by other symptoms, it may occur due to any other underlying condition.

1. Diet:

Food can sometimes cause a sudden change in body odor. Many people experience a sudden, pungent smell from the urine after eating asparagus, and once the food is metabolized, the smell goes away.

Certain foods produce more gas, leading to belching or flatulence. The amount of gas produced will depend on the food we eat. Foods that cause smelly gas are bok choy, broccoli, cabbage, asparagus, and cauliflower.

The overall diet can affect body odor, and certain foods with powerful flavors such as garlic, spices, onions, or radish cause body odor. Smoking tobacco can also cause bad breath.

2. Hyperhidrosis:

Stress can occasionally cause one to sweat more. Hyperhidrosis disorder causes excessive and uncontrollable sweat with no apparent reason. This disorder can occur due to genetics, certain medications, or an underlying health condition. Also, it is diagnosed in people with mental health conditions.

3. Diabetes (Diabetic Ketoacidosis):

When the body does not produce enough insulin or cannot effectively use it, diabetes mellitus occurs, leading to high blood sugar. A very high blood sugar leads to a complication called diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), where ketones start to build in the body and are secreted into the blood and urine. Also, it causes the breath to have a fruity odor.

4. Infections:

Vaginal infections, such as bacterial vaginosis or vaginal parasite infection, may cause a sudden change in odor. Infections that occur outside the vagina may also cause a change in body odor. Trichomoniasis, a parasitic sexually transmitted infection, may change the vaginal odor.

Skin infection may cause a sudden smell at the site of the infection. Skin infections that might cause a smell are erythrasma (bacterial skin infection), trichomycosis axillaris (bacterial infection of underarm), and intertrigo (yeast infection).

5. Athlete's Foot:

When your feet suddenly start to smell bad and itch, a common fungal infection called athlete's foot would have developed. This is because fungus thrives in the moist, warm environment of the shoes and socks. When healthy foot hygiene habits are not practiced, then you may develop them.

6. Cancer:

Unpleasant body odors have been reported in people with advanced cancer, but the body odors occur due to infected cancer-related wounds.

What Are the Symptoms of a Sudden Change in Body Odor?

A sudden change in body odor usually occurs in specific areas of the body. Some common areas are armpits, genitals, feet, belly button, mouth, and throat. A change in smell from the stool, earwax, urine, or genital discharge can be noticed. The odor can vary despite the location. It can be foul-smelling, spicy, sour, fishy, bitter, or even sweet.

The other symptoms will depend on the cause, and when the change in odor is due to an infection, the smell may be accompanied by a rash, redness, itching, discharge, oozing, or discoloration.

How Is a Sudden Change in Body Odor Treated?

1. Changing Diet:

When body odor occurs due to foods, avoid them and include variety in the diet.

2. Hyperhidrosis:

When hyperhidrosis occurs secondary to an underlying condition, treating it will help the symptoms. Doctor consultation is needed when it occurs due to certain medications. When it occurs due to an unknown cause, there are prescription creams or antiperspirants, surgery, medications, and Botox injections to treat it. Consulting a mental health professional and practicing some relaxation techniques may also help.

3. Managing Diabetes:

When there are symptoms of diabetic ketoacidosis, a fruity-smelling breath can be experienced. In such cases, emergency medical treatment should be given.

Diabetes mellitus can be managed by adequately managing blood glucose levels with medications, natural remedies, or alternative treatments.

4. Infections:

Many types of infections are not serious, but they should be handled properly to avoid complications. Infections are treated depending on the cause, and the treatments are usually done with an antifungal or antibiotic agent. Usually, topical medications are given but oral or intravenous may be given as well.

5. Athlete's Foot:

Athlete's foot can be treated with home treatments themselves, with talcum powder, over-the-counter antifungal powders, ointments, sprays, and lotions, oils such as tea tree or neem, sea salt baths, and hydrogen peroxide or rubbing alcohol.

6. Cancer:

Having cancer will not usually smell, but an infected wound related to it can cause a sudden change in body odor. When there is a sudden change in body odor and has also been diagnosed with cancer, then speak with the doctor to treat the infected wound.

7. Supplements or Medications:

In case of a vitamin deficiency, get more vitamins by adding certain foods to the diet or by taking supplements. The side effects of certain medications cause body odor to change unpleasantly, so speak with a doctor. They may either adjust the dosage or switch to another medication.

8.Healthy Habits:

Some tips for practicing better hygiene and overcoming the sudden change in body odor are


A sudden change in body odor is not anything serious. There are some easy ways to know that we should be concerned are not; they are, duration of the smell, specifically related to something, or when other symptoms accompany the odor. When the sudden smell persists for a long time and makes you worried, get a doctor's advice.


Last reviewed at:
23 Nov 2021  -  5 min read




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