It's true of all of us. Everyone has a unique odor, which can be either agreeable, disagreeable or neutral. If the particular smell you carry causes people to comment and makes you self-conscious, you may find yourself on a serious search for body odor pills or some other magic solution.
Body odor is largely determined by genetics, explains a paper published in a May 2014 issue of Experimental Dermatology and can't be easily controlled. Sweat isn't smelly until it reacts with specific bacteria. Some supplements for body odor and body odor drugs make promises they can't keep, and no research stands behind a specific supplement for body odor. So, you may need to accept that proper hygiene, healthy diet and a medical evaluation might be your only hope.
Instead of adding supplements for body odor, consider reducing specific ones you do take, such as choline, and modifying your diet and lifestyle to smell sweeter.
The Cause of Body Odor
Your body features two types of sweat glands: eccrine and apocrine glands. Eccrine glands are present all over your body while apocrine glands develop in areas such as your armpits and groin, where hair follicles are found. Eccrine glands secrete sweat when your body temperature rises, and apocrine glands produce a milky sweat when you're under mental stress. It's the sweat from the apocrine glands that combines with bacteria to create body odor.
Sweating is important because it's the way the body cools itself. Pure sweat doesn't have a smell, but bacteria that live on your skin may break down acids in the sweat that comes from apocrine glands in areas such as the breasts, armpits and genitals. The bacteria create waste, which produces your body odor smell, explains the Cleveland Clinic. Men usually produce more sweat than women, and this means they tend to have more body odor.
Of course, most people start to develop some unpleasant body odor during their teen years. A study published in a June 2017 issue of ChemoSensory Perception found that parents who reported adoring the smell of their infants reported less than favorable appreciation of their children's smells when girls reached 8 to 14 years of age and when boys reached 9 to 15.
Body Odor Control
Bathing regularly and using antiperspirants and deodorants help ease the smell of body odor, explains MedLinePlus. Keep up with your laundry, and always take care to put on a clean outfit, because dirty clothing can trap body odor.
Cleveland Clinic suggests limiting the spicy foods you eat as well as garlic, all of which can increase body odor. Red meat may also reduce proteins when you sweat that contribute to body odor. You can inhibit bacteria from getting trapped by shaving your armpits and wearing naturally breathable clothing, such as cotton and silk.
Although it's normal to sweat more if you exercise, if you're anxious or if you have a fever, it's possible to sweat too much. If you suffer from hyperhidrosis, or excessive sweating, medical interventions such as Botox injections, medications and a treatment called iontophoresis can help. Iontophoresis shuts down overactive sweat glands with a mild electrical current. Hyperhidrosis usually results from a nervous system disorder or other medical condition.
Supplements for Body Odor
Some supplement manufacturers claim they can curb your body odor with a magic pill, but little research stands behind any vitamin or nutritional solution apart from the dietary changes already mentioned.
You might try chlorophyllin, a mixture derived from chlorophyll — the substance in plants that gives them their green color — to reduce some body odor, suggests Oregon State University's Linus Pauling Institute. Older research shows that doses of 100 to 200 milligrams per day is effective in reducing fecal odor, which could contribute to body odor. Chlorophyllin doesn't address body odor such as that from sweating, but body odor that results from your digestive tract.
Chlorophyllin may also be helpful if you have the rare hereditary disorder known as trimethylaminuria. This condition is diagnosed when you produce a compound known as trimethylamine, which gives your body a foul, fishy odor. According to Columbia University health specialists, chlorophyllin can reduce production of trimethylamine.
Topical zinc may be effective. Dermatology Research and Practice published an overview of zinc benefits in July 2014 showing that increased bacterial flora can cause foul-smelling sweat, particularly on the feet. When a 15-percent zinc sulfate solution was applied regularly for several weeks to the soles and toe webs of people with the foul-smelling sweat disorder, 70 percent of patients saw a reduction of foot odor, compared to just 1 percent in a placebo group.
Read more: The Ten Best Supplements
Reduce Choline Intake
Choline is an essential nutrient necessary for promoting the structural integrity of your cells and producing important neurotransmitters in the brain that regulate mood and memory, among other functions. People produce choline in the liver, but not enough to support all their needs, so some must come from the diet or supplements. In people with the genes of the disorder trimethylaminuria, choline can be converted into the fishy-smelling trimethylamine.
The Linus Pauling Institute warns that doses of choline equaling 10,000 to 16,000 milligrams per day have been associated with body odor, vomiting and increased sweating. If you're prone to this condition, avoid choline supplements and moderate your intake of foods high in the nutrient, including meat, dairy, eggs and cruciferous vegetables. This is a case of removing a supplement for body odor, not adding one.
Get Your Body Odor Checked
If you have a relatively sudden change in body odor, it could indicate a medical condition that needs attention. The Cleveland Clinic warns that a fruity body odor may indicate diabetes, a bleach-like odor may be a sign of kidney or liver disease and a sudden change in odor, especially at the genitals, may indicate some sort of infection.
Is This an Emergency?
- Cleveland Clinic: "Sweating and Body Odor"
- Experimental Dermatology: "What Determines Human Body Odour?"
- MedlinePlus: "Sweat"
- Linus Pauling Institute: "Choline"
- ChemoSensory Perception: "Babies Smell Wonderful to Their Parents, Teenagers Do Not: An Exploratory Questionnaire Study on Children’s Age and Personal Odor Ratings in a Polish Sample"
- Dermatology Research and Practice: "Zinc Therapy in Dermatology: A Review"
- StatPearls: "Anatomy, Skin Sweat Glands"
- Cleveland Clinic: "How 7 Different Foods Affect Your Body Odor"
- Go Ask Alice: "Getting Your Fill of Chlorophyll"
- Linus Pauling Institute: "Chlorophyll and Cholorophyllin"