You've tried every deodorant and soap to get your body odor under control, but you still have an unpleasant smell about you. It might be time to take a good look inside your fridge in order to get to the bottom of your B.O. problem.
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Strange as it may sound, a meal can make more than just your breath smell funky; there are actually some foods that can change your aroma, too.
From the spice that makes your sweat stink to the veggies that give you gas, these foods could be the real culprit behind your body-odor woes.
1. Cruciferous Vegetables
Cruciferous vegetables might be good for your gut, but they're not so great for your body odor. Foods like broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower release stinky sulfur that can make its way to your sweat glands and cause body odor. On top of that, they may also cause unpleasant-smelling wind.
"These vegetables are double trouble for body odors," nutritionist Shona Wilkinson says. "Not only are they sulfur-rich and break down into mercaptan (a colorless gas with a disgusting smell), they also contain a type of fiber called raffinose. This fiber does not get broken down in the gut and serves as a fecal bulk and as a food source for beneficial bacteria."
The result? Smelly gas from bacterial fermentation.
Here's the thing, though: These veggies are part of a healthy diet, so don't cut them out altogether. Instead, consider limiting them if the smell is an issue — especially before any big social events.
2. Red Meat
Opting for a vegetarian diet could have a surprising effect on your body odor. An older but very often cited October 2006 Chemical Senses study determined that people assigned male at birth (AMAB) who were on a meatless diet smelled considerably more pleasant than those who ate red meat. Researchers had people assigned female at birth rate the attractiveness of the perspiration samples, and meat-free sweat was the overwhelming winner.
Let's be clear: This was a small study, involving only 17 people AMAB, and it doesn't prove that red meat causes smelly sweat. Rather, it shows a link between eating red meat and smelling less than fresh.
The researchers point out that red meat is harder to digest than many other foods because of its high protein and fat content. The residue it leaves behind in the digestive tract putrefies, they note, eventually resulting in bad odors and toxins that are released through sweat.
For the record, red meat includes beef, pork, lamb and veal, and you should limit yourself to about 6 ounces or less per week (or half that if you have high cholesterol or heart disease), according to the Cleveland Clinic.
Fenugreek is an herb that's often used in cooking and sometimes used as medicine (though there's not much good evidence around its purported health benefits), per the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. It has a certain stench about it that's often compared to maple syrup.
"Because sotolon, the component responsible for this smell, passes through the body unchanged, it is eliminated in sweat and urine," explains Wilkinson. "Sotolon is actually also found in maple syrup and aged rum."
Wilkinson says the only way to get rid of the smell is to stop taking fenugreek.
Fish is normally one of the first foods that springs to mind when you think about a healthy diet because of all those heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. But when it comes to body odor, some folks might want to steer clear of certain kinds of seafood.
Wilkinson explains that some types of fish, along with several other foods rich in the essential vitamin choline — such as eggs, legumes and liver — can be very problematic for a few unfortunate souls who have a condition called trimethylaminuria (aka fish odor syndrome, or TMAU).
"This syndrome occurs in people who have a genetic inability to break down choline, resulting in a strong fishy odor," Wilkinson says. "To treat it, they must avoid all of these foods."
If you suspect you have fish odor syndrome, work with your doctor or a dietitian to build a healthy diet that avoids trigger foods but still delivers the nutrients you need.
This news literally stinks: Your beloved morning coffee doesn't just make your breath smell, it can make your armpits whiff too.
The caffeine in coffee can activate your sweat glands, according to the University of Michigan. For some people, that can lead to excessive perspiration and, in turn, body odor. This is more likely if you're sensitive to caffeine or have taken in a large amount.
Switching to decaf coffee or less-caffeinated tea could help your perspiration problem.
- Cleveland Clinic: "Is Red Meat Bad for You?"
- Chemical Senses: "The effect of meat consumption on body odor attractiveness"
- National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health: "Fenugreek"
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: "Trimethylaminuria"
- University of Michigan: "Caffeine Q & A: University Health Service"