8 Causes of Body Odor

Are you curious about the main cause of body odor? Body odor, sometimes called bromhidrosis, can be uncomfortable and embarrassing, but it’s a natural part of life. This smell often originates from the breakdown of sweat by bacteria on your skin. While sweat itself is odorless, bacteria transform it into acids that produce the characteristic smell.

What Causes Body Odor?

Causes of Body Odor

Not Bathing Enough

If you’re not cleaning your body regularly, bacteria can accumulate on your skin. This buildup interacts with your sweat to create a strong odor. So, it’s crucial to take a shower or bathe daily to keep these bacteria in check.

Inadequate Clothes Washing

Dirty clothes can hold onto bacteria and contribute to bad smells. Make sure you wash your clothes frequently, especially those that come into direct contact with your skin, like socks and undergarments.

Certain Foods

Believe it or not, what you eat can also affect how you smell. Foods like garlic, onions, and some spices can lead to body odor. These foods contain oils that pass into your bloodstream, eventually making their way to your sweat glands and affecting your scent.


In people with hyperhidrosis, excessive sweating is a problem. More sweat means more opportunity for bacteria to produce body odor. Treatments for this condition often include prescription antiperspirants and medications to reduce sweating.

Hormonal Changes

Hormonal imbalances can be a significant factor in body odor. For example, during puberty, the body begins to produce new types of sweat that are more prone to producing a strong smell. Similarly, menopause and pregnancy can also bring about changes in body odor due to fluctuating hormone levels.

Hot Weather

Warm climates can make you sweat more, increasing the chances of body odor. In hot weather, it’s even more critical to maintain good hygiene and drink plenty of water to flush out toxins.


When you’re stressed, your body releases a different kind of sweat from your apocrine glands, which are found in areas like your armpits. This sweat has a more potent odor when it combines with bacteria on your skin.

Antibiotics and Other Drugs

Certain medications can alter your body’s natural smell. For example, some antibiotics change the balance of bacteria in your body, which can result in a different odor. Always check the side effects of any medication you’re taking to see if it could be a contributing factor.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Role Does Sweat Play in Body Odor?

Sweat itself is actually odorless. It’s the bacteria on your skin that interact with sweat and break it down into acids, producing the characteristic smell we associate with body odor. Different types of sweat glands produce different kinds of sweat, and not all sweat contributes to body odor. For instance, the sweat from your eccrine glands—found all over your body—is mostly water and salt, so it doesn’t usually smell. On the other hand, the sweat from your apocrine glands—located in your armpits and groin—is more likely to produce a noticeable odor when it interacts with bacteria.

How Can Diet Affect Body Odor?

What you eat can significantly influence how you smell. Foods like garlic, onions, and certain spices contain oils that make their way into your bloodstream and eventually to your sweat glands. This can alter your natural scent. Moreover, a diet high in red meat has been reported to make body odor more intense. On the flip side, fruits and vegetables can help improve your smell.

Can Medical Conditions Cause Body Odor?

Absolutely. Some medical conditions can directly lead to body odor. For example, hyperhidrosis causes excessive sweating, providing more “fuel” for bacteria to produce bad smells. Hormonal imbalances, such as those experienced during puberty, menopause, or pregnancy, can also affect your scent. Other conditions like liver or kidney diseases can cause a distinct body odor. Always consult a healthcare provider if you notice a sudden, unexplained change in your body odor.

Does Stress Influence Body Odor?

Yes, stress can indeed impact how you smell. When you’re stressed, your body releases a different kind of sweat from your apocrine glands. This sweat is more nutrient-rich, making it a more appealing breeding ground for bacteria, which in turn produce a stronger odor. So, managing stress effectively can also help you manage body odor.

What About Medications?

Certain medications can alter your body’s natural smell. Antibiotics, for instance, can change the balance of bacteria in your body, potentially leading to a different odor. Other medications, such as some antipsychotics and hormonal medications, can also have this side effect. If you’re concerned, it’s a good idea to check the list of side effects for any medication you’re taking or consult with your healthcare provider.

Further Reading: 9 Body Odors You Should Never Ignore

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