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Why Do My Fingernails Smell Like Garlic?

Updated on February 22, 2015

Many people report that they have discovered a scent of garlic exuded at the fingernails; particularly, pregnant women and people who have fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, metabolic disorders and celiac disease will often report that their fingernails smell like garlic.

Here we will explore the possibilities of why your fingernails might be smelling like garlic.

Sensitivity to Odors

It just so happens that both pregnant women and people suffering from fibromyalgia are more sensitive to odors.

In the case of those with fibromyalgia, sensitivity to fragrances is one of the symptoms of the condition. Due to energy being depleted by the pain and fatigue of this condition, the sufferer becomes hypersensitive to stimuli because he or she needs all of their energy just to deal with the pain. Any other stimulation gets amplified and magnified. Odors, essentially become stronger.

In the case of pregnancy, hormones--specifically, estrogen--makes you more sensitive to smells.

So, it is possible that what you smell on your fingernails is not a particularly strong odor but your hypersensitivity to smells makes it seem strong.

There is another much rarer possibility that you have a condition called temporal lobe epilepsy which causes you to smell things that aren't there. But this is rare and if others smell what you smell, then it's unlikely you suffer from this disorder.

Of course, literally eating garlic can give you an odor of garlic. The sulfur from it can stay in your system for quite awhile.
Of course, literally eating garlic can give you an odor of garlic. The sulfur from it can stay in your system for quite awhile. | Source

The Sulfur Connection

Sulfur is found in many foods and medications, and even in industrial waste, and if you have consumed sulfur or applied it to your skin or have otherwise been exposed to it, you could be exuding a garlic scent. Sulfur coming out of your pores will smell like garlic.

Surprise, surprise, garlic has a lot of sulfur in it. So do onions, leeks, chives and cumin. So, if you're eating foods with those ingredients, your fingernails might smell like garlic.

However, a substance known as dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO) also has a lot of sulfur, and is used in medications to treat such things as, you guessed it, fibromyalgia. Basically, DMSO helps oxygen get transported to the cells, offering relief for those with fibromyalgia. It is often prescribed as a pain cream.

This substance can also be found in household cleaning agents. Exposure to these compounds, if they get in your system, will cause them to be excreted through the skin and give you an odor of garlic.

Do your fingernails smell like garlic?

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Those hands might look pretty, but do they smell like flowers or garlic?
Those hands might look pretty, but do they smell like flowers or garlic?


Bacteria with a lot of sulfur mix in the fat of your body and come out in the oil in your skin when you sweat. Of course, if you are stressed and anxious, you sweat a lot. Therefore, anxiety can make you smell like garlic because of the sulfur-producing bacteria excreted in your oily sweat that is triggered during stress and distress.

Conditions That Make You Exude Odors

As mentioned, those with a metabolic disorder and those with celiac disease often report garlic odor from their fingernails. In the case of metabolic disorders, specifically trimethylaminuria (TMAU), the sufferer is unable to adequately metabolize trimethylamine, something produced in the gut.

With celiac disease, the body's bad reaction to gluten, which is found in such foods as wheat, causes the immune system to damage the part of the small intestines that absorbs nutrients, often making the sufferer exude odors.

Foods That Can Make You Smell Pungent

So, if your fingernails are giving off an odor of garlic, you might want to investigate what you are eating, what's in your environment or medications you are taking to find out if any of it could be exposing you to sulfur. In addition, you should consult a doctor and see if there is a medical basis for the odor, like a metabolic condition or celiac disease.


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