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Disease & Condition, Bromhidrosis, Body Odor

7 Medical Conditions That Cause Bad Body Odor

HealthcareOnTime Team 2023-04-27 2023-07-11 3 Min Read
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  • Body Odor Medical Conditions That Cause Bromhidrosis

    What is Bromhidrosis (Body Odor)?

    Body odor or bromhidrosis is a chronic condition wherein an unpleasant smell emanates from a person’s body. You might be thinking why sweat smells bad? Well, General perspiration does not contain any specific smell; however, when the sweat mixes with the bacteria present on your skin, it reacts, and a foul smell emerges. 

    Body odor is a medical condition that affects several people. It commonly occurs after puberty, but people with certain medical conditions are more prone to having smelly sweat. 

    Find out what are the major medical conditions that lead to unpleasant body smell in this blog. 

    Debunk Myths About Body Odor and Sweat

    • Sweat itself is odorless:  Body odor is caused by an imbalance in the skin's pH levels due to bacteria on the skin's surface and in the armpits.
    • Sweat Stinks: The smell associated with sweat comes from bacteria breaking down proteins and lipids in the moisture from apocrine glands.
    • Sweat is Toxic: Sweat is primarily composed of water and sodium, containing less than 1% of toxins. Toxins are eliminated by the liver and kidneys.
    • Everyone Sweats: While most people sweat, a rare condition called anhidrosis can result in little or no sweating. In such cases, consulting a doctor is important.

    Why is Body Odor an Issue for Most People? 

    People not suffering from underarm smell might consider body odor a small issue. However, it is a serious condition that needs to be managed properly. Bad smell from body can result in low self-esteem and social anxiety, often leading to depression. Simple actions like hugging can generate a lot of anxiety. 

    Factors such as poor hygiene, certain medical conditions, and food choices can increase the intensity of body odor.  Therefore, most people consider managing and reducing body odor as an important aspect of their personal hygiene routine.

    Types of Bromhidrosis 

    When it comes to types of body odor, it is important to recognize that body odor can vary in its characteristics and underlying causes. Understanding these types can provide insights into the potential triggers and help in finding appropriate remedies.

    Eccrine Bromhidrosis

    This type of Body order is due to the secretion from the eccrine glands, present all over the skin’s surface. It is usually odorless and helps with the regulation of body temperature. 

    Apocrine Bromhidrosis

    These glands are located in the axillae, genitals, and breasts, which become particularly active during puberty. The sweat secreted by these glands is also odorless and controlled by the nervous system. 

    Exogenous Bromhidrosis

    Exogenous BO is usually due to the breakdown of sweat by bacteria. The skin microbiota, present on the surface of the skin and the hair follicles, is also responsible for certain skin infections.  

    Endogenous Bromhidrosis

    Endogenous body odor is a result of the consumption of certain food groups that include onion, garlic, meat, fish, curries, and alcohol. It is also associated with specific medications, skin disorders, and underlying medical conditions. 

    7 Medical Conditions that Can Lead to Body Odor 

    Bromhidrosis causes vary, but frequent culprits include inadequate hygiene and the interaction of perspiration and bacteria on the skin's surface. Excessive body odor can also be caused by other reasons such as hyperhidrosis and hormonal changes.

    If your sweat smells bad regularly, you might be practicing poor hygiene techniques. But, if you realize that the bad smell from your underarms is persistent even after a fresh shower, you need to see a doctor and get yourself checked for the below-mentioned causes of Body Odour: 

    Hyperhidrosis - Excessive Sweating

    Hyperhidrosis refers to excessive sweating, more than what the body needs to regulate its temperature. Hyperhidrosis is not always induced by heat or heavy physical activity but is an internal condition of the nervous system. A faulty response from your body triggers your sweat glands. Normally, the body naturally releases sweat to cool it down or when you are nervous. 

    People with hyperhidrosis are not at threat of any serious condition. However, it causes a lot of discomfort in their daily life. Their clothes easily get soaked, which leads to a lot of embarrassment. People doing heavy-duty jobs especially are at risk since excessive sweating does not allow them to hold on to tools and gadgets for long. 

    Bromodosis - Smelly Feet

    Bromodosis or smelly feet are a result of Hyperhidrosis and is a common occurrence in people with body odor issues. Covered feet traps sweat and prevents it from evaporating, leading to excessive growth of bacteria in the region. It gives off a cheesy smell as and when the sweat decomposes. 

    Trimethylaminuria - Fish Malador Syndrome

    Trimethylaminuria or fish odor syndrome is a disorder in which the liver cannot break down trimethylamine. This chemical compound has a pungent odor that smells like rotten and decaying fish, hence the name. Trimethylamine is produced in the intestines while digesting certain meats, fishes, eggs, and legumes. An enzyme known as FMO3 is responsible for converting this compound into another molecule that contains no odor. The absence of this enzyme leads to the disease. 

    This disorder is also noticed in people suffering from kidney or liver diseases. Certain medications like L-Carnitine or Choline also trigger this disease.  

    Common Symptoms of Trimethylaminuria (Fish Odor Syndrome):

    • Body odor that smells strongly of rotten or decomposing fish.
    • Halitosis (bad breath) caused by trimethylamine in the breath
    • Unpleasant fishy odor in body secretions (sweat, urine, and breath).
    • Bloating, abdominal pain, diarrhea, or constipation are examples of gastrointestinal symptoms.


    Diabetes is a life-threatening condition where the body lacks insulin, which prevents the cells from receiving the necessary amounts of sugar. One of the primary symptoms of diabetic ketoacidosis is a fruity breath smell due to the blood turning acidic. Additionally, diabetes-related UTIs and increased blood glucose levels can also be one of the primary reasons for body odor. 

    Detect potential causes of body odor related to diabetes by undergoing a comprehensive diabetic profile Test This test assesses blood glucose levels, helps identify diabetic ketoacidosis, and enables timely intervention to address body odor and related complications

    Thyroid Problems

    The thyroid glands of the body are responsible for a number of metabolic activities. Sweat response is one of the bodily functions that fall under the thyroid glands. In cases of hyperthyroidism, the body secretes excess sweat, which eventually leads to a foul armpit smell. 

    Evaluate thyroid function with a Thyroid Function Test - 3 parameters to gauge key thyroid hormone levels. For a more comprehensive assessment, opt for a Thyroid Test Advance - 6 parameters that provides a deeper understanding of thyroid function. By monitoring these parameters, you can address any imbalances that may contribute to excessive sweating and unpleasant armpit odor.

    Kidney and Liver Problems 

    The primary function of the kidney and liver is to release toxins from the body and regulate other bodily functions, such as the filtering of blood. Failure to do so results in a build-up of toxins, which leads to an unpleasant smell. 

    People with kidney failure give off an ammonia-like smell due to the buildup of urea, and people with liver diseases emit a pungent smell of rotten eggs. 

    You can gain valuable insights into your kidney health with a Kidney Function Test to ensure efficient toxin elimination and prevent any unpleasant odors. Additionally, consider a Liver Function Test to assess your liver's ability to filter toxins, maintaining a fresh and odor-free body. 

    Hormonal Changes

    Hormonal fluctuations in the body can result in several changes, excessive sweating being one. Women especially face a lot of issues during puberty, menopause, premenopausal phases, and pregnancy. 

    During menopause, women experience a drop in their estrogen levels and an increase in their testosterone levels, which leads to more bacteria in their sweat. These excess bacteria are responsible for foul smell and cause underarm odor. 

    To assess and understand the impact of hormonal fluctuations, you can consider a Female Hormone Test to gain insights into your hormone levels and their potential influence on body odor and other related symptoms.

    How to Effectively Treat Body Odor

    Body odor, especially armpit odor, can impair a person’s day-to-day life and affect the mental health of the individual. Even though it does not pose any serious threat to life, its existence is difficult to deal with. While there is currently no known cure for bromhidrosis (excessive body odor). However, a few practices can effectively help you get rid of body odor and allow you to live your life carefree. 

    Dealing with body order

    Self Care : The first step in getting rid of body smell is to adopt healthy hygiene practices. Daily showers with antibacterial soaps, wearing clean, breathable fabrics, applying topical remedies, and avoiding spicy or fatty foods can largely help neutralize  body odor. You should also regularly shave the armpit hair as an effective underarms smell solution. 

    OTC Deodorants : One of the simplest and most effective treatment options is to use commercial deodorants, antiperspirants, and anti-bacterial soaps. These products contain active ingredients like aluminum chloride that prevent the build-up of sweat-breaking bacteria.   

    Prescription Medication: For people suffering from chronic body odor issues, doctors can prescribe topical medications like Clindamycin and erythromycin as a remedy for body odor. 

    Laser Surgery: For serious cases of Bromhidrosis, doctors can suggest laser surgeries for the removal of sweat glands in the sweat-producing regions like the underarms. Liposuction and endoscopic sympathectomy are other surgical options. You should discuss this in detail with your doctor and understand the possible complications associated with a surgical approach. 

    Natural Remedies to Minimize Body Odor: Tips for Reducing Odor Naturally

    Want to know how to remove body odor permanently naturally? Well it's important to note that complete permanent removal of body odor may not be achievable, but there are natural remedies that can help minimize it over time:

    Apple Cider Vinegar: Apply diluted apple cider vinegar to your underarms or other odor-prone areas. It can assist to balance the pH of the skin and prevent the formation of odor-causing bacteria.

    Baking Soda: Make a paste with baking soda and water, then apply it to your underarms or other body odor-prone regions. Baking soda absorbs moisture and eliminates odors.

    Lemon Juice: Apply freshly squeezed lemon juice to your underarms or other body odor-prone regions. Lemon's natural acidity can aid in the elimination of odor-causing microorganisms.

    Tea Tree Oil: Dilute tea tree oil with water or carrier oil before applying it to your underarms or other body odor-prone regions. Tea tree oil contains antibacterial characteristics that can treat odor-causing microorganisms.

    Sage Tea: Brew sage tea and use it as a natural rinse for your underarms or other body odor-prone regions. Sage includes chemicals that can aid in perspiration and odor reduction.

    Tagged In: Body Odour Causes, Home Remedy For Body Odor , Bromhidrosis Treatment, Reasons For Body Odour


    Ref Links: 

    • https://medlineplus.gov/genetics/condition/trimethylaminuria/#synonyms
    • https://thompsontee.com/blog/medical-conditions-that-cause-body-odor/
    • https://dermnetnz.org/topics/bromhidrosis

    FAQs Around Body Smell

    Why does my sweat smell sour all of a sudden?

    If your sweat suddenly starts smelling sour and vinegar-like, you need to see a doctor and ask them to rule out any medical conditions. Sour-smelling sweat is usually a symptom of diabetes, kidney or liver diseases.

    What are the ways to cope with smelly underarms?

    The best ways to cope with smelly underarms are to practice good hygiene, switch to breathable cotton fabrics, and include a deodorant in your routine. Use unscented soaps and lotions to maintain the natural pH of your skin and avoid any allergic reactions.

    How to treat bromhidrosis

    Bromhidrosis can easily be managed by good hygiene; however, in some severe cases, you may need to take prescription medication to treat the underlying causes of your excessive sweating.

    Why does sweat smell like semen?

    The bacteria that are present in your armpit area are also present in the groin area. This bacteria thrives in warm and moist areas. Hence, the sweat secreted in such areas smells similar.

    Why do I smell like onions even though I did not eat one?

    Onions are rich in sulfur and contain an unpleasant smell. When the body secrets sweat that contains sulfur, it resembles an onion-like smell. Other examples of sulfur-rich foods are meat, fish, eggs, certain nuts, legumes, leafy vegetables, and more.

    Are smelly people aware that they stink?

    Smelly people are aware that there is a foul smell coming from their bodies. However, since they are used to their body smelling bad, they do not be triggered by it very often. They usually maintain distance from other people to avoid embarrassment.

    How to get rid of menopause body odor?

    To help manage menopausal body odor, focus on maintaining good personal hygiene by taking regular showers, using mild and fragrance-free soaps, wearing breathable clothing, and opting for natural fabrics. Additionally, consider incorporating a balanced diet, managing stress levels, and staying hydrated.


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