What Your Body Odor Says About Your Health

Bellybutton

Research shows there could be as many as 70 types of bacteria in your navel. Soap and water may be all you need if yours is a bit funky. But odor can also be a sign of an infection. For instance, an infected navel piercing might stink. And if you have diabetes, it’s easier to get infections. If you somehow cut or scrape your bellybutton, it could get infected. Smelly discharge is a symptom.

Ears

Earwax is normal. But if it starts to smell or you see discharge, it could be a sign of an infection or something stuck in your ear. This is especially true for children.

Bad Breath

Waking up with smelly breath is normal. Your body puts out way less saliva, or spit, when you’re asleep. Saliva helps get rid of bacteria that cause odors, so your breath might also smell bad when you’re hungry or dehydrated. That’s because chewing signals the body to make saliva. Not drinking enough water slows down the process. Foods like garlic and onion can lead to bad breath, too.

Bad Breath: A Sign of Something Serious

Changes in your breath can be a symptom of several health conditions. These include sinus infections, gum disease, and acid reflux. Sjogren’s syndrome, an autoimmune disease, attacks the glands that make tears and saliva. The odor also depends on the medical problem. For example, gum disease may give off a metallic scent, while diabetes can make your breath smell fruity.

Poop

Poop is naturally smelly because of bacteria and compounds. But if it smells worse than usual and comes with other symptoms like diarrhea, belly cramps, or nausea, it could be a sign of an infection. Certain bacteria, viruses, and parasites can lead to stomach bugs. Giardiasis is a type of diarrhea that triggers unusually bad-smelling poop. The giardia parasite, typically found in untreated water and food, causes it.

Armpits

Exercise, nervousness, and just being too hot can all lead to sweating. Sweat itself doesn’t have an odor, but when it mixes with bacteria on your skin, watch out. An antiperspirant, which controls sweating, usually fixes the problem. So can deodorant, which helps with odor. Some over-the-counter products do both. Prescription-strength antiperspirants may also be an option.

Pee

It’s a mix of water and leftover waste from your kidneys. Pee that’s mostly water has little to no odor. But if you often smell ammonia, that’s a sign you need to drink more water. Certain foods, like asparagus, can change the smell of your pee. So can supplements. Adding water and other caffeine-free fluids should be enough to get you back on track.  

Smelly Pee: When to Be Concerned

You may need to call your doctor if an odd odor sticks around. A urinary tract infection (UTI), bladder inflammation, and uncontrolled type 2 diabetes can trigger unusual smells. So can metabolic disorders, diabetic ketoacidosis (a complication of diabetes), and gastrointestinal-bladder fistulas.

Groin

Some people sweat a lot in their groin. That’s where your thighs and lower belly meet. Testicles can rub against the skin and trigger sweating. That can lead to body odor.

Penis

If you’re uncircumcised, dead skin cells and fluids can build up in your foreskin. This buildup becomes a smelly, cheese-like substance called smegma. Washing your penis every day can stop this from happening. UTIs can also cause odor.

Funky Feet

Lots of sweat and wearing the same shoes every day can lead to stinky feet. Washing them with antibacterial soap and fully drying can help. You can also sprinkle absorbent powder or use an antiperspirant on your feet. Foot soaks with vinegar or Epsom salts help, too. It’s also important to give your shoes a chance to dry out. Spraying them with a disinfectant kills the bacteria that cause odor.

Vaginal Odor

Your vagina has its own unique smell. Sex, your period, or sweating may briefly change it. Not cleaning well or leaving a tampon in for too long can also cause odors.

Vaginal Smells: When to Call Your Doctor

A fishy or foul stench that won’t go away could be a sign of infection or another condition — especially if it comes with itching, burning, or discharge. Bacterial vaginosis, caused by too much normal bacteria, is the most common reason. The sexually transmitted infection (STI) trichomoniasis also causes odor. Other STIs, like chlamydia and gonorrhea, don’t usually have odors. Although less common, cervical or vaginal cancer can also change your vagina’s smell.

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