It's true: Some people's sweat doesn't stink. Scientists have discovered that your ex-roommate miiight not have been lying when she swore she didn't steal your Dove because she doesn't need deodorant. According to a video on sweat put out by the American Chemical Society, about two percent of Europeans and a majority of Asians lack a transporter protein that makes sweat smelly. Unfortunately, the rest of us sweaty Betties aren't so lucky. But the good news is that you may have more control over your personal perfume than you think. Sweat itself isn't smelly at all; it's the bacteria that feast on your workout juice that cause the offensive odors. Here are nine reasons your sweat stinks (and what you can do about it):
If just imagining a blind date makes you sweat, you're not alone. A majority of people report breaking out into a nervous sweat when confronted with something stressful. Anxiety over meeting Mr. Right activates the hormone cortisol in your body, which in turn kicks your sweat glands into high gear. The sweat then gets trapped in your Spanx, combines with bacteria, and suddenly you have one more thing to worry about besides his last text. Just what you needed, right?
There's a reason no one works out in polyester tennis dresses anymore. Natural fibers like cotton, wool and linen soak up sweat from your skin and allow it to evaporate. But while synthetic fibers like Rayon, polyester, nylon and even some natural fibers like silk look pretty, their ability to repel water (and your sweat) will make you smell worse in the end. Instead of helping move the sweat away from your skin bacteria, these fabrics keep it trapped on the surface. FYI: scientists have found that bacteria love polyester in the best (read: stinkiest) way possible.
A catch-22 of modern hygiene is that the stuff you buy to help keep body odor away may actually be making the problem worse. Ingredients in some antiperspirants, deodorants, body washes, body sprays and lotions can encourage stinky bacterial growth by giving bacteria more food. Many doctors now advise patients with body odor problems to use plain water when washing and leave it at that, since sweat itself has no odor. If that isn’t enough for you, they suggest trying lemon juice diluted with water or apple cider vinegar—the acid will inhibit bacterial growth, the real source of the stench.
Time to read the fine print? Many medications have increased sweating or body odor as a known side effect. This includes over-the-counter pills like Tylenol, diet pills, and allergy medications, as well as prescription meds like some anti-depressants, ADHD meds, and even birth control pills.
Obviously, eating tons of garlic can make you smell like an Italian restaurant at the gym the next day, but what you don't eat can also affect your body odor. Scientists found that people who are deficient in magnesium, a vital nutrient found in leafy greens and nuts, had stronger body odor than people who got enough. "In a few days, if [the patients’] diets contain nothing particularly toxic, [the magnesium supplement] deodorizes them," the researchers concluded. Who knew that eating a sweet treat (dark chocolate is a great source!) could also make you smell sweet?
Vegetarians and carnivores have long accused the other of smelling badly because of their diets—and, it turns out, they might be right. “Because of a person’s body chemistry, some individuals cannot metabolize foods containing large amounts of choline, such as eggs, fish, liver and legumes. The result is a “fishy” smell which can be quite offensive,” reports one expert. Plus, adds Dana Ullman, a holistic practitioner and naturopathic physician, “Foods high in protein require active metabolic breakdown by the body and may increase the likelihood of increased body odor.”
Bacteria have excellent taste, and they love sugary treats as much as you do. Eat too many sweets and not only does your waistline suffer but, according to Edward Group, a certified clinical nutritionist, all those treats can cause an overgrowth of yeast, which in turn converts those sugars into alcohols that cause you to smell anything but sweet. Not to mention, the by-product of all that yeast in your bowels is gas—we don't have to tell you how that smells!
Well, this is awkward: Holding in your urine or feces will not only make you long for a bathroom, but can also make you smell like one. Scientists found that in cases of severe constipation, toxins released by the digestive system may seep through the pores, giving you what’s affectionately known as “fecal body odor.” In addition, the "ammonia" smell from a urinary tract infection can become so concentrated that the odor comes out through your pores as well. Talk about making a bad situation worse!
Anyone who’s done a long treadmill run the day after hitting their fave Mexican restaurant knows that foods like onions, garlic, curry and other strong spices can make your sweat pretty fragrant—but your French fry cravings may be equally to blame. According to researchers, the oils in fried and baked goods can quickly become rancid causing poor digestion and, consequently, body odor.