Body Odor: What Is That Smell?

Relatively speaking, there is nothing worse than when someone walks past you and the foul odor that follows attacks your nostrils like a unstoppable plauge. It lingers and festers and seems to stain the very fabric of your being. In other words, it's nasty.

Why? What could possibly cause another person to smell that way? Can they not afford soap or maybe they forgot to pay the water bill. While definitely a possibility, there are many other reasons that people have body odor. Some are within their control to do something about, but others are not.

The most common cause of body odor is from bacteria that live on the skin. These little critters love our sweat. They consume it and release smelly ammino acids that are broken down into various odor compounds that reak. It's these compounds that we associate with body odor. Different bacteria produce different types of odor.

In relation to this is sweat. The human body has two types of sweat glands; apocrine and eccrine. Apocrine glands are located primarily under the arms and secrete a thick, fatty sweat in comparions to eccrine glands that secrete a more watery sweat. Because apocrine sweat contains proteins and lipids, it makes for a good source of sustinance for bacteria and in turn they love to fed on it.

One can reasonably guess that the more you sweat throughout the day, the more you will be prone to smell.

That being said, we are not all designed the same. Bacterial activity and concentration can vary from person to person. In addition, the amount we sweat can vary. For instance, certain ethnicities have less apocrine sweat glands.

Another commonly less known source of body odor is from food. Meats, garlic, beans, fish, shelfish, spices, asparagus, cauliflower and broccoli contain high amounts of volatile sulfur compounds. These compounds get released as food is digested and make their way out of the body via sweat and pores in the skin. Depending on lifestyle habits, cultural preferences and other factors, a persons diet can consist of large amounts of these types of foods. In turn, this makes them more prone to smell.

Understanding what causes body odor certainly doesn't make it any easier on the nose. However, knowing some of its sources can help people adjust their daily routines to help reduce the power of it. In turn, the person you pass on the street might be more thankful to you than you realize.

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