Everyone has a unique odor, and your smell can fluctuate based on factors like how much you sweat, your environment and how regularly you bathe. But if you notice a constant stench, you may be on the lookout for a supplement for body odor to help switch up your scent.
Body odor is largely determined by genetics, according to a May 2014 paper in Experimental Dermatology. As a result, it can't always be completely controlled by good hygeine, so supplements that claim to magically alter your body's smell are likely too good to be true.
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Still, some supplements can influence your scent. Here's a breakdown of which nutrients affect body odor and whether or not you should consider certain supplements.
A sudden change in body odor could indicate a medical condition that needs attention, per the Cleveland Clinic. For instance, a fruity smell may indicate diabetic ketoacidosis, and a sudden change in odor, especially at the genitals, can indicate infection.
The Cause of Body Odor
Sweating is important because it's the way your body cools itself, according to an October 2021 StatPearls article.
Your body features two types of sweat glands: eccrine and apocrine glands. Eccrine glands are all over your body, and secrete sweat when your body temperature rises.
Apocrine glands are localized to areas where you have hair follicles (like your armpits and groin) and produce a milky sweat when you feel stressed, anxious, nervous or excited. It's the sweat from the apocrine glands that combines with bacteria to create body odor, per the StatPearls article.
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 then create waste, which produces body odor, per the Cleveland Clinic.
Supplements for Body Odor
Some brands claim they can curb your smell with pills or supplements for body odor, but there's little research to back up these claims.
While there aren't any supplements that magically make you smell good, body odor can sometimes be the result of one nutrient deficiency (which causes scurvy), per a still-relevant September 2011 review in The Journal of Biochemistry. As a result, supplementing your diet with certain vitamins may help with body odor that's a symptom of an underlying condition.
Certain supplements may also mingle with the bacteria on your skin to reduce or prevent smell. Here's a breakdown of what vitamins help with body odor in these indirect ways:
Though not a supplement for body odor per se, topical zinc may be an effective way to beat some stink.
September 2013 research in the Journal of Cosmetics, Dermatological Sciences and Applications found 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 people saw a reduction in foot odor, compared to just 2 percent in a placebo group.
However, this was a smaller study, so more research is needed to better establish this link.
Zinc is also a common ingredient in deodorants because of its antimicrobial properties that fight some of that odor-producing bacteria.
- Visha Skincare Cheek 2 Feet Body Spray ($25, Amazon.com)
- Tom's of Maine Natural Strength Plastic-Free Aluminum-Free Deodorant ($13.17 for a 3-pack, Amazon.com)
2. Vitamin C
A severe lack of vitamin C can cause a disease called scurvy, per The Journal of Biochemistry research. And one symptom of this condition is putrid-smelling sweat.
Taking vitamin C supplements and/or eating more vitamin C-rich foods can help treat scurvy and remedy the stench, according to the National Health Service.
3. Vitamin B2
Trimethylaminuria is a metabolic disorder that occurs when the compound trimethylamine accumulates in your body and must be released through sweat, urine, reproductive fluids and breath, according to the National Human Genome Research Institute. And these bodily fluids can have a strong fishy odor.
Though this condition isn't caused by a vitamin B2 deficiency, taking supplements and eating foods rich in B2 can help remedy your symptoms, per the National Human Genome Research Institute.
Chlorophyllin is a mixture derived from chlorophyll, the substance in plants that gives them their green color. And it may help reduce some body odor, according to 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. However, there's not enough data to support using chlorophyllin to address body odor from sweating — only smell that results from your digestive tract.
Chlorophyllin may also be helpful in addressing the symptoms of trimethylaminuria, including fishy body odor, according to the National Human Genome Research Institute.
Talk to your doctor before trying any supplement, as the FDA doesn't require these products to be proven safe or effective before they're sold, so there’s no guarantee that any supplement you take is safe, contains the ingredients it says it does or produces the effects it claims.
Supplements That Contribute to Body Odor
On the flip side, choline supplements may add to body odor.
Choline is an essential nutrient that promotes the structural integrity of your cells and produces important neurotransmitters in the brain to regulate mood and memory, among other functions, according to the National Institutes of Health's Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS).
Your liver produces choline, but not enough to support all your needs, so some must come from your diet or supplements, per the ODS.
However, high doses of the nutrient — which the Linus Pauling Institute defines as 10,000 to 16,000 milligrams per day, as opposed to the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans-recommended 425 to 550 milligrams per day — has been linked to side effects like fishy body odor, vomiting and increased sweating.
What's more, people with the disorder trimethylaminuria may convert choline into the fishy-smelling trimethylamine, which can likewise lead to strong body odor, according to the Linus Pauling Institute.
If you have this condition or have noticed a fishy smell while taking choline supplements, skip the supplements, per the ODS.
The takeaway: Sometimes the best supplement for body odor is no supplement at all.
Hyperhidrosis — a disorder that causes excessive sweating — is another potential reason for your body odor, per the Mayo Clinic. Talk to your doctor if you notice extreme sweating outside of heat or exercise, which can be signs of the condition.
Other Ways to Control Body Odor
There are no body odor supplements that can magically change your smell — taking vitamins for body odor (or skipping certain supplements) may only help in the case of an underlying health condition like a nutrient deficiency or trimethylaminuria. It's important to note that a nutrient-related cause of body odor is uncommon, though.
Instead, your best bet may be to take different measures to control any unwelcome odor. Here are some tips from the U.S. National Library of Medicine and the Cleveland Clinic:
- Bathe regularly
- Use antiperspirant or deodorant
- Wear clean clothes
- Opt for clothing made of breathable fabrics like cotton and silk
- Do your laundry regularly
- Limit spicy foods, red meat and garlic, all of which may contribute to body odor
- Experimental Dermatology: "What Determines Human Body Odour?"
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: "Sweat"
- Linus Pauling Institute: "Choline"
- Journal of Cosmetics, Dermatological Sciences and Applications: "Topical 15% Zinc Sulfate Solution Is an Effective Therapy for Feet Odor"
- Cleveland Clinic: "How 7 Different Foods Affect Your Body Odor"
- Linus Pauling Institute: "Chlorophyll and Cholorophyllin"
- StatPearls: "Anatomy, Skin Sweat Glands"
- The Journal of Biochemistry: "The scent of disease: volatile organic compounds of the human body related to disease and disorder"
- National Health Service: "Scurvy"
- National Human Genome Research Institute: "About Trimethylaminuria"
- Office of Dietary Supplements: "Choline"
- U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: "2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans"
- Mayo Clinic: "Hyperhidrosis"
- Cleveland Clinic: "Body Odor"
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration: “FDA 101: Dietary Supplements”
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.