Unfortunately for its sufferers, body odor is a condition that comes with a stigma that makes it hard to discuss. Because of this, its causes are often shrouded in mystery, making it difficult to identify potential solutions. Read on to discover four myths about the causes of body odor and the facts that lie behind them.
MYTH: Sweat Smells Bad
Unpleasant odors and sweat seem to go hand in hand, so it's natural to assume that one causes other.
FACT: Bacterial Waste Smells Bad
While there is some truth in the idea that there's a relationship between the two symptoms, sweat alone can't be blamed for causing body odor. However, bacteria on the skin does feed on sweat, and it's the smell of its waste product - in combination with fatty acids, ammonia, and other chemical reactions - that contributes to the aroma unique to each person.
MYTH: Only People with Poor Hygiene Have Body OdorKnowing that bacteria's on the skin are the culprits for body odor, it might be surmised that those with odor problems must have higher bacterial counts. Improper washing practices would leave more sweat as well as more bacteria on the skin, so unpleasant scents must simply be the result of bad habits.
FACT: Hygiene Isn't the Whole Story
While poor hygiene can certainly be one of the causes of body odor, there are several other factors that might contribute to the issue. Hormonal fluctuations due to menopause for example, can trigger frequent hot flashes that lead to sweating. Genetics can also play a role in personal propensity as can malnutrition and diseases such as diabetes.
MYTH: Smelly Foods Only Affect Breath
We've all had those moments where we've reached hastily for the mints after eating well known pungent foods. Popular belief however, asserts that once you've brushed your teeth after consuming strong-smelling foods you should have neutralized all evidence of bad odors.
FACT: Strong Smells Linger
Unfortunately, aromatic foods can permeate skin, and trigger body odor just as much as the sweats that feed it. Try limiting your red meat, coffee, garlic, and onion intake if you're worried about body odor.
MYTH: Body Odor Is a Purely Physical Problem
It's easy to focus on the physical conditions that can cause body odor and neglect other possible contributors. However, while treating these aspects alone may solve the problem, sometimes they may not.
FACT: Mental Factors Are Important
Stress, anxiety, and depression can contribute towards the development of physical symptoms, such as sweat and body odor, just as much as much as physical factors. For this reason trying to maintain moments of peace and serenity is vital to conquering body odor.
If you find that addressing these factors hasn't provided results, speak to your doctor, and research simple lifestyle changes you can make to find relief as soon as possible.
- BMJ Group. "Menopause: What is it?" Patient Leaflet. 2007
- Hutchinson, Susan M.D. "The Stages of a Woman's Life: Menstruation, Pregnancy, Nursing, Perimenopause, Menopause". November 2007.
- Love, Susan M.D. Menopause and Hormone Book. New York: Three Rivers Press, 2003.