What Are the Common Causes of a Change in Body Odor?

Felicia Dye

A change in body odor is not always as serious as may be presumed. It may be the result of something as simple as improper bathing or the body's reaction to emotional or hormonal changes. A person's diet may affect the way that he smells. An altering of body odor may also be caused by a medical condition or the drugs used to treat it.

A stick of deodorant.
A stick of deodorant.

Anyone who notices a change in body odor may want to first consider some of the possibilities that are easiest to rectify. These include changes in habits, such as the cleaning of a person's clothes or personal grooming. A change in laundry detergent or deodorant may not be working well and may cause an individual to believe that his body odor is what has changed. It is also possible that a person simply may not be bathing adequately. These problems are usually resolvable simply by changing the products a person uses or his personal care techniques.

Males may smell differently during puberty.
Males may smell differently during puberty.

Many people are unaware that a person's emotional or psychological state can prompt a change in body odor. Sweating is a normal human activity, and body odor often results when bacteria breaks down that sweat. There is research that suggests that when people are overly emotional, under pressure, or stressed, they can perspire more heavily and the resulting odor may become stronger than it would be under normal conditions. Hormonal changes are another potential cause of change in a person's smell. A woman may note this during menopause when her estrogen levels drop, or a male may smell differently during puberty when his testosterone levels rise.

Naturally found in the body, testosterone in men is mainly produced in the testicles.
Naturally found in the body, testosterone in men is mainly produced in the testicles.

A person's diet is believed to have the ability to change personal scent for the better or for worse. One type of food in particular that reportedly has negative effects on body odor is red meat. Processed foods that are rich in sugars, oils, and preservatives are also suspected culprits. On the other hand, it is believed that increasing consumption of vegetables and herbs can help to positively alter a person's natural scent.

Some medications can alter body odor.
Some medications can alter body odor.

There is also a possibility that a change in body odor may be an indication of a medical condition. It may be a minor problem, such as the buildup of toxins, which a person may resolve by embarking on a detoxification program. Examples of other conditions that could affect an individual's personal smell and may require medical attention are vaginal infections, gastrointestinal disorders, and diabetes.

When odor change is caused by a medical condition, it is often eliminated once the problem is diagnosed and a person begins treatment. It is important to note that the treatment of a condition may be the cause of an odor problem. Some medications have been noted to alter body odor. For example, there has been evidence to suggest that cholesterol medications can have this effect.

A vaginal or other infection can cause a change in body odor.
A vaginal or other infection can cause a change in body odor.

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Discussion Comments


@MrsPramm - The problem with theories like that is that bacteria colonies are fairly vulnerable if you have to establish them on purpose multiple times. You'd have to change all your habits to accommodate them which is more difficult than it sounds in the modern world.

It's the kind of thing that I think will end up just being on the fringe rather than a mainstream thing, unless our society changes quite radically.


@KoiwiGal - I wonder how much garlic you have to have before it really changes the way you smell to the point where it's not just on your breath. I've never noticed that with garlic bread, but I guess I've never prepared it from scratch either.

I read recently that there are some scientists currently working on developing a deodorant that works by providing your body with new bacteria that overcome the ones that cause bad odor. The theory is that these bacteria are what horses and other animals are collecting to deal with sweat when they roll in the dust and that we should have them naturally as well, but we remove them with soap and they don't grow back as quickly as body odor bacteria do.

I think it will work in theory, but honestly, I really enjoy having a shower each morning, so even if I didn't have to do that I think I'd still want to.


Garlic is probably the most common cause of this. I know people realize that it gets on your breath after you eat it, but it actually seeps into your pores and your bloodstream if you prepare it as well, if you touch it with bare skin anyway.

I don't actually mind the smell much so I don't bother to take any special precautions if I'm not going anywhere afterwards, but if I was going to a party or something I would either wear gloves or just not use garlic in the first place.

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