Believe it or not, but your body odor can tell you a lot about your health. It can tell you if your personal hygiene is a bit off, if you're ingesting something you shouldn't, and can even be a marker for certain diseases. No need to panic, however. The best thing to do is be informed. And if you have a smell on you, or coming out of you, that's a bit iffy, get yourself to the doctor. Here are some of the most common body odors and what they could mean about your health.
Consistent bad breath
Nobody wants "halitosis"—the term Listerine invented for bad breath. But while the word may have been a made-up marketing ploy, bad breath is real, and it stinks. People who spend lots of time worrying about it buy gum, mints, breath spray, and more to combat it. But if you have consistently bad breath, it could be a sign of something more than just a bad breakfast choice.
Research says that in 90 percent of cases of people who have consistently bad breath, the cause comes from the oral cavity—better known as your mouth. This can be because of bacterial buildup on the tongue, or actual tooth decay can cause a bad smell. And when people have poor oral hygiene or a propensity for it, they develop gingivitis and periodontitis. So unless you want this to happen in the next staff meeting...
"You have bad breath caused by gingivitis."
...remember to brush and floss regularly, avoid tobacco, and see a dentist twice per year for cleanings and to check the health of your gums. If none of that helps, the smell might be coming from sinus issues or even from gastrointestinal problems. When in doubt, have a doctor check it out.
If your breath is sweet, you could have a different problem altogether.
"All gone, homie."
"Can I at least smell your breath?"
Fruity-smelling breath can be a sign of diabetic ketoacidosis, a condition that occurs when the body's unable to break down glucose as fuel because of a lack of insulin. The body uses fat as fuel instead, which releases ketones into the bloodstream. High levels of ketones are dangerous and life-threatening. Have your doctor check your sugar and insulin levels to make sure you're not diabetic.
It's worth noting that another sign of diabetes is sweet-smelling sweat. Some people report a maple syrupy smell because there's actually sugar that builds up on the skin. If your breath is sweet and kind of musty, it's a bad sign that you could have liver problems. Doctors are now using breath analysis to try to detect liver problems. If you have this symptom, schedule a liver test with your doctor to make sure you're in the clear.
Sour or rancid sweat
Everyone knows that some body odor is normal, especially after a slackening of ordinary hygiene routines.
"I haven't taken a shower since we got here."
"I know. You stink. I love it."
If your body odor is worse than usual, you could be due for a change in your diet, or your hormones might have something to do with it. Drink plenty of water to avoid this embarrassing issue, and see your doctor if you start having night sweats for no reason. That may be a sign of infection or disease. Also, if you start sweating way more than normal with no clear reason, this might be an indicator of hyperthyroidism. And if you start to smell bleachy, you should really get a medical opinion immediately, because that could be an indication of a liver or kidney problem.
Foul urine odor
Urine usually has no scent, and when it does, it's usually a bit ammonia-like. If it has a stronger smell, the top culprit is dehydration. Drink lots of water and it'll clear right up. However, if your urine smells even more like ammonia than usual or it smells sort of sickly sweet, you could be getting a urinary tract infection. This will be accompanied by discomfort when you urinate, so get to a doctor right away to get an antibiotic.
Speaking of which, having some amount of genital discharge is normal, but when it's accompanied by a smell, it's time to go to the doctor. Yeast infections, sexually transmitted diseases, and other infections like bacterial vaginosis can all cause smells down there and all require a doctor for treatment.
Of course, there are some nether region battles that affect everyone.
Unusually foul-smelling flatulence
Everybody has flatulence—it's a normal part of digestion. In fact, most people pass gas 10 to 20 times every day. It never smells great, but if it's particularly foul, you could be facing a digestive absorption issue, lactose intolerance, or even a bacteria or virus in your gut.
"Well, you have milk in the taters, milk in the gravy, Parmesan crust. Your lactose-intolerant boyfriend will turn into a gas-filled Macy's Day balloon!"
So, if the foulness becomes unidentifiable and intolerable, it's probably best to rule out any potential digestive problems, just in case.
If someone smells like fish all the time, it's likely they have fish odor syndrome, or trimethylaminuria. Yes, this is a real thing. It's rare, but there is a genetic condition that makes people smell like rotting fish. It might not affect a lot of people, but when someone does suffer this off-putting condition, it tends to take a major toll on their social and romantic lives.
Know what's normal
We can't smell like fresh flowers or soap all the time—even healthy bodies can smell a little funky sometimes.
"You're a fat loser, and you have body odor."
Our natural pheromones are part of what makes us who we are. However, if you have body odors that concern you, it's a good idea to see a doctor. There's a fine line between your natural stink and a health problem that is displayed with a particular odor. The good news is that your nose knows the difference between what's ordinary and what's not.
Thanks for watching!