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How To Get Rid Of Body Odor - Effective Body Odor Remedies

Updated on July 10, 2010

Eliminating body odor is important for anyone who wants to feel socially comfortable. Unlike other 'embarrassing problems' such as acne or dandruff for example, body odor not only affects the sufferer but everyone around him or her too. For this reason, social ostracism is a real threat, and even if things don't reach that extreme, body odor suffers will usually find that their social and work lives are affected to some degree, whether they realize it or not. Fortunately, there are ways to get rid of body odour, even if the problem is severe. Let's take a look at what causes body odor in the first place, and then at some body odor remedies that can be used to treat and prevent it.

What Causes Body Odor?

So, why do people smell? Body odor is most often caused by bacteria that live on the skin, which break down sweat (which is usually odourless when fresh) into foul-smelling fatty acids. However, in some cases, body odor can be produced by eating foods that smell strong in themselves, or have strong-smelling breakdown products (such as some spices or rancid fats), and other cases are related to fungal growth on the skin.  Everyone sweats, and everyone produces body odor from time to time, but different people vary enormously in the degree and type of odor they produce. Men tend to have worse BO than women, simply because they usually sweat more, and overweight people can be especially prone to body odor for the same reason. Some people are also genetically predisposed to the problem, although nobody has to smell - some may just need to make more of an effort to keep it under control. Certain areas of the body have a higher concentration of sweat glands, and cause more body odor than others – these include the armpits, genital area and feet, although odor can be present in any part of the body. The armpits and genitals tend to be smellier, because they contain apocrine glands, which secrete the substances on which odor-causing bacteria live.  In some cases, people may sweat excessively, which makes treating body odor more difficult – this is known as hyperhidrosis, and requires medical treatment.

Ways To Eliminate Body Odor

You can get rid of body odor by reducing the amount of sweat on the skin and/or tackling the bacteria that live on the sweat. The best body odor treatment depends on the severity of the problem. For example, mild cases can be managed by maintaining a simple but effective hygiene regime, whereas people whose body odor is the result of a medical disorder that causes excessive sweating will need more in-depth treatment.

Wash regularly – the first and most obvious way to reduce body odor is to wash regularly, which means bathing or showering with a mild soap or shower gel at least once a day (more if it's very hot or you're very physically active). Deodorant soaps are another option which can help to provide extra protection. Genital odor can be reduced by the use of a bidet and thorough wiping after using the toilet. This should really go without saying, but a surprising number of people neglect their personal hygiene, and taking these simple steps will eliminate or prevent body odor in many cases. Many people are accustomed to their own odor and don't notice it, but it's safe to say that if you don't wash daily, you almost certainly smell bad to others!

Deodorant and/or anti-perspirant – it's also vital to use an armpit deodorant and/or an anti-perspirant (preferably one that combines both functions) on a daily basis. An anti-perspirant will reduce sweating, whereas a deodorant allows sweat to flow, but kills the bacteria and/or masks the odor they produce. If you're concerned about the chemicals in conventional deodorants or anti-perspirants, natural-ingredient versions are available. Alternatively, you can buy extra-strong deodorants and anti-perspirants that have been developed to deal with problem BO.

Hair removal – many people prefer to remove hair in the armpit area (and sometimes in the genital area too), believing that it helps to reduce odor. It's perfectly possible to stay hygienic without such hair removal (and genital hair also plays a protective role), but hair does trap sweat, so you need to be extra-vigilant about washing if you're prone to body odor in these areas.

Clothing – the type of clothing you wear can really make a difference in the amount of sweat and odor you produce. Choose loose fitting clothing made from natural fibres (cotton, linen etc), and avoid synthetic fibres, especially in the genital area. This will allow the skin to breathe and won't trap sweat so much. Clothing should also be washed after each wearing, and if you're prone to sweaty feet, change your socks two or three times throughout the day if necessary – keeping them dry can help to greatly reduce odor.

Stop smoking – if you smoke, this is making you smell bad. Tobacco smoke not only sticks to the clothes and hair, it also causes bad breath, and is secreted out through the skin too, creating a more generalized internal odor. So if you need yet another reason to quit smoking, remember how disgusting it makes you smell to everyone else.

Supplements – some natural health practitioners have noted that body odor may sometimes be reduced by supplementing the diet with zinc, magnesium and vitamin B-complex. Chlorophyll (in the form of spirulina, chlorella etc) may also help, as it is a natural deodoriser. It is best to seek professional advice before supplementing your diet.

Anti-fungal remedies – if your body odor problem is related to fungal growth on the skin, try washing the armpits or other affected area with an anti-fungal shampoo, and/or apply tea-tree based remedies. Coconut oil is another effective natural anti-fungal and anti-bacterial product – try applying it directly to the skin in the affected areas.

Internal hygiene – in some cases, body odor is related to diet. Everyone has a different body chemistry, and some people find that eating certain foods leads to strong body odors a day or two later, even if the same foods don't affect others in the same way. Common foods that cause body odor include strong spices, sulphur- and/or choline-rich foods such as eggs and fish, garlic, excessive meat consumption, onions and strong-smelling herbs, junk foods containing rancid fats, and drinks such as alcohol and coffee. It you're prone to BO, try keeping a food diary for a few weeks, and see if it appears to be worse after eating particular foods. You can then reduce or eliminate these from your diet - it obviously makes more sense to eliminate the cause of body odor if possible, rather than just masking the symptoms.
It's also important to drink plenty of water, as this can help to dilute the sweat, providing less 'food' for the odor-causing bacteria to feed on.

Botox and surgery – if you suffer from excessive sweating (hyperhidrosis) that cannot be kept in check by over-the-counter products, your doctor might recommend surgery. This can involve removing the sweat glands in the armpits, or destroying the nerves which control the sweating response. These procedures can help to reduce sweating in the most odor-prone areas, but may result in more sweat being produced elsewhere. Another, less drastic, option is the use of botox, which can be injected into the armpits to control sweating.

Medical issues and treatments – some cases of excessive sweating and odor are related to underlying medical issues, such as kidney disease, liver disease, hormonal imbalances, diabetes and parasite infestation. If you sweat excessively, or can't seem to get rid of your body odor after following the above suggestions, you should consult your doctor to see if there is a more serious underlying cause. Some prescription medications also cause body odor, so this is another thing you might need to discuss with your doctor.

As you can see, there are a number of options that can help to get rid of body odor, so there's no reason why anyone should have to live with this embarrassing and preventable problem.


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  • Rockstarhobbo profile image

    Rockstarhobbo 5 years ago

    Wonderful & interesting article :) I might want to try taking some natural supplements as suggested!

  • profile image

    Chris Hugh 5 years ago

    Good article, great info. When I eat too much pastrami, I end up smelling like a sandwich all the time!

  • Waren E profile image

    Waren E 8 years ago from HAS LEFT THE BUILDING............

    Deficiency in certain enzymes can cause it as well!

  • SamCat7 profile image

    SamCat7 8 years ago

    Shayvon - thanks for the comment! Pungent foods like garlic can cause an odor in some people who eat a lot of them, but it does depend on the individual.

  • Shayvonharris profile image

    Shayvonharris 8 years ago

    Wow very interesting. Some people have an odor and don't even realize it. I eat a lot of Garlic. Is that a major cause of some Body odor.