Let's talk body odor. I know, it's not exactly the sexiest topic in the world, but it's still super important because what your body odor means can tell you a lot about your overall health. And let's be clear — we all smell. According to Live Science, all mammals (including us humans) have a unique body odor, or "odorprint," which helps distinguish us from others and even can help us pick out a mate. Our odor type is genetically determined and transmitted through our body fluids like sweat and urine. Odorprints are so unique that researchers at Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia say they can identify individuals as well as their DNA.
However, the researchers also speculated that certain health conditions could potentially be discerned through changes to our personal scent — meaning that the future could hold early diagnoses for a variety of ailments, both big and small.
So if you've noticed a change in your body odor — and it doesn't necessarily have to be a bad change — just a change — there could be a legitimate health reason behind it, so it's important to be aware of what it means. For those of you concerned, or just plain curious, here are seven signs that your body odor isn't normal.
1. When It Smells Really Bad Down There
According to Dr. Natasha Johnson, M.D., director of the Vulvovaginal Center at the Brigham Women’s Hospital in Boston in a piece for Lifescript, "an overpowering, foul odor" coming from your vagina can mean a forgotten object was left there. “Occasionally, a woman just forgets she already has a tampon in,” said Miriam Greene, M.D., associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at NYU in the same piece. She said this usually becomes apparent within 24 to 48 hours because the bacteria in your vagina has time to multiply.
If this is the case, Greene advices you not to be afraid to "dig too deep" and instead conduct a thorough search of your vagina, and if you're still not sure she said to schedule an appointment with your doctor ASAP.
2. A Sweet Or Fruity Smell To Your Urine
In the same piece, Greene said that sweet-smelling pee could mean you're leaking sugar into your urine, which is a possible sign of diabetes. If you've noticed this along with a constant thirst and frequent need to pee, you should definitely check in with your doctor. It's also worthing noting that between three and eight percent of pregnant women develop something called gestational diabetes which lasts the duration of the pregnancy, so if you're pregnant and have been noticing this scent, definitely see your doctor!
3. Gross-Smelling Feet
According to FootSmart's Health Resource Center, if you notices a strong, pungent odor every time you take off your shoes you could have a condition known as bromhidrosis — or what comes down to sweaty feet. The thing is, sweat on it's own doesn't smell bad — it's when it's combined with the damp, dark environment of your shoe that bacteria is able to multiply to create a foul-smelling odor. If you have this problem it's recommended that you shower and scrub your feet daily and use powders in your shoes to help keep them dry. You may also want to consider purchasing shoe insoles that you can switch out regularly. And my personal recommendation is a little bit of bleach and water sprayed into your shoe and left to dry.
4. A Change In Your Poop
In a piece for EveryDay Health, Dr. Chris Iliades noted that it's normal for poop to have an unpleasant odor, but you should take note if you notice a dramatic change in that odor and it persists for more than a few days. "In most cases, this is just due to a change in your diet, but very foul-smelling feces can be a sign of a medical condition, like celiac disease, Crohn's disease, pancreatitis, ulcerative colitis, infection or malabsorption," Iliades wrote. He noted to take especial note if this change also coincides with painful or uncomfortable bowel movements.
5. Really Bad Breath
While a lot of times bad breath honestly just comes down to bacteria in the mouth and can be remedied by a professional teeth cleaning and good dental hygiene, according to George Preti, an organic chemist at the Monell Chemical Senses Center, severe bad breath can sometimes mean late stage kidney or metabolic diseases. However, you likely will already have noticed that something is up by the time your breath gets to this point if you're suffering from one of these more serious problems, so this is one you likely won't have to worry too much about on it's own.
However, according to DentalHealth.org, if bad breath is literally your only symptom and you brush and floss regularly and generally take good care of your teeth, you could be suffering from gum disease. If this is the case, schedule an appointment with a local periodontist (or gum doctor) asap!
6. When Your BO Suddenly Gets Worse
Preti noted that, "stress-related odor will be a normal odor on steroids." This is because when you're stressed, your body produces more of the kinds of sweat secretions that smell "bad." So if you're having a particularly anxiety-inducing week at work, make sure you grab a stick of extra strength deodorant and consider keeping an extra in your bag just incase you need a refresher.
7. When You Smell Like Fish
This is another "down there" odor us ladies need to be aware of. In a piece for Redbook, Scott Sullivan, MD, a professor of OBGYN at the Medical University at South Carolina, "most women have a very subtle, sort of acidic or vinegar-y odor, and it's usually one you wouldn't notice from a distance; you'd have to be very close up." However, if you notice a sour, fishy smell coming from you vagina you likely have a bacterial infection known as bacterial vaginosis and should see you doctor to get antibiotics.
Body odor can tell you a lot about your overall health and serve as a super helpful warning sign when something serious is afoot. Just remember: we all smell (whether we like to admit it or not), and it's usually not something to worry about, so try not to stress too much and keep that deodorant at the ready!
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