February 15, 2024

How Body Odor Can Indicate Health Changes

woman putting on deodorant to cover body odor

Everyone sweats. Some more, some less, but sweating is essential for proper body temperature regulation.

As we all know, perspiration has an odor, and there’s significant variability from one person to another. Some people have a very mild body odor, while others have a strong scent.

Generally speaking, your body odor isn’t anything to be concerned about from a medical perspective. And if you want to reduce it, regular washing and using deodorant or antiperspirant can help.

However, a significant difference in your “baseline” body odor can indicate a change in your health.

Why Does My Sweat Smell So Bad?

Several factors can cause a noticeable change in your body odor. They include:

Dietary Changes

If you’ve ever noticed your urine smelling different after eating certain foods, you understand how what you eat affects the odors you produce. Your pores can also release scents.

For example, onions and garlic contain sulfur-like compounds. When your body breaks these foods down during digestion, it frees those compounds to be released through your pores.

So, if you’ve recently increased the number of odor-causing foods you consume, you may notice a difference in your body odor. This includes cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, red meat, alcohol, caffeine, and monosodium glutamate (MSG).

Various Medical Conditions

They are correct in believing or suspecting that some medical conditions can cause a change in body odor. This includes:

If you eliminate non-medical causes for a concerning change in body odor (a new soap or change in your diet, for example), you should contact your doctor. They can explain the thyroid/kidney and body odor connection, explain sweat characteristics in diabetes, and generally educate you about the possible causes of body odor changes. Then, they can perform an exam and order tests (if needed) to determine if your different or stronger body odor is related to an illness that should be treated.

Hormonal Changes

Changes in hormone levels can cause a difference in your body odor. Some women experience this when they enter menopause.

Lifestyle Changes

If you start an exercise program and work out more than previously, you may notice your body odor becoming stronger. Gaining significant weight can also cause a more noticeable body odor.

Other factors like stress or anxiety and hot, humid weather can cause you to sweat more or cause your sweat to evaporate more slowly, resulting in a more robust body odor.

Hyperhidrosis and Body Odor

Some people are diagnosed with a condition called hyperhidrosis, where they sweat more than average. Primary hyperhidrosis is rare and has no known cause. Secondary hyperhidrosis results from a health change or problem, such as starting menopause or having an infection. Certain medications can also cause secondary hyperhidrosis.

If you have hyperhidrosis, your doctor can help. Treatments like prescription antiperspirants can reduce the amount of sweat you release.

Talk with Your Baptist Health Physician About Body Odor Changes

Some people find talking with their doctor about their body odor uncomfortable. However, you shouldn’t. If you’re thinking, “Why does my sweat smell sour all of a sudden?” or “What autoimmune disease causes body odor?” your doctor has answers to these and similar questions.

They understand that body odor issues can be embarrassing and can work with you to find the right solution. If your change in body odor is related to a medical condition, it’s crucial to get a diagnosis and treatment.

Talk with your Baptist Health primary care doctor to learn more about body odor changes. If you don’t yet have a provider, you can find one using our online directory

Next Steps and Useful Resources

What Causes Body Odor? 
Understanding Liver Disease and Cirrhosis
When Does Menopause Start?

Learn More.