If you wake up with bad breath, or get smelly armpits after working out, then consider it common. These odors are nothing to worry about, and are usually cleared up with a quick toothbrushing or swipe of deodorant. But some body odors can be a sign of a health problem, and therefore shouldn't be passed off as typical, or ignored.
If you notice a smell that is stronger than usual, or seems to have come out of nowhere, it's a good idea to let your doctor know. "When the body is out of balance ... we lose our natural ability to fight odors," Dr. Harold Katz, the developer of TheraBreath, tells Bustle. If you smell offensive orders more than usual, Dr. Katz says that may be cause for concern, and t could mean something in your body isn't right.
This might mean infections, like some STIs, and even certain diseases that can present themselves in the form of bad breath or body odor, like diabetes. Read on below for more prime examples, so you'll know just what to point out the next time visit your doctor. Because, while some odors are totally normal, others can be a sign of an underlying health problem — and possibly one that needs to be treated ASAP.
1. Fruity Odor On Your Breath
Morning breath is one thing. But if your breath smells fruity or sweet, it could be a sign of a problem. "If you notice a fruity odor on your breath, this symptom cannot be ignored," attending physician Nesochi Okeke-Igbokwe, MD, of the NYU Langone Medical Center, tells Bustle. "It may be indicative of diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), a metabolic condition that has the potential to be deadly and may arise as a complication of uncontrolled diabetes."
If you have diabetes, or suspect that you might, this is definitely a "weird" side effect to watch out for, and point out to your doctor right away.
2. A "Fishy" Vaginal Odor
While odor in your vaginal area is totally normal and usually there's nothing to be concerned about, you may want to see a doctor if the scent is strong or becomes "fishy."
"A 'fishy' odor coming from the vagina can be a sign of bacterial vaginosis (BV)," Caroline Mitchell, MD, MPH, faculty member in the Vincent Center for Reproductive Biology at Massachusetts General Hospital, tells Bustle. "BV is a change in the vaginal bacterial community that can lead to increased discharge and odor, especially after sex."
Since it can lead to other gynecological health issues, it's important to treat BV as soon as possible.
3. Vaginal Scents That Aren't Normal For You
Again, everyone's vulva has an odor, so no need to panic if you notice a scent coming from down below. Do take note, however, if it's a new smell for you.
"If there is a change in the vaginal odor that seems concerning, an exam by a physician should be able to tell whether there is a problem," Dr. Mitchell says.
You can also ensure that things stay healthy down there, by avoiding certain habits that actually do more harm than good. As Dr. Mitchell says, "it is best to avoid [using] products that include perfumes or scents that try to cover up these normal odors, as they can cause vulvar or vaginal irritation."
4. Skin Issues That Smell Extra Bad
There's a difference between normal body odor and odor that might be a sign of a skin disease — and that's usually the strength of the smell. While it's common to have a sweaty, bacterial odor in your armpits after going to the gym, for example, anything more pungent than that can be cause for concern.
For example, certain skin infections "can present with a putrid odor from the byproducts of bacterial growth," Dr. Jennifer Stagg, author of Unzip Your Genes, tells Bustle. "Gangrene, which is dying tissue, has one of the most offensive odors and smells like rotting meat."
Other skin infections can include staph infections, Athlete's foot, and fungal infections, which can all crop up for a variety of reasons. So if you've noticed a rash, or a red or swollen area on your skin, let a doctor know.
5. Unpleasant Body Odor And Breath
Some internal health issues can present with unpleasant body odors, too. When this happens, it may in some cases be due a serious condition, like liver and kidney disease. "In liver and kidney disease, people can experience both offensive body odor and bad breath," Dr. Stagg says.
Other signs of liver disease include abdominal pain and swelling, itchy skin, dark urine, and pale stool. And signs of kidney disease include nausea, vomiting, and persistent itching, though these symptoms can all be signs of less severe health concerns, so don't jump to conclusions, but instead see a doctor for their opinion.
6. Sweat That Seems To Be Smellier
As Dr. Stagg says, "People with hyperthyroidism can sweat excessively resulting in increased classic body odor." And that's thanks to the extra moisture on the skin, which can mix with your natural bacteria and increase chances of body odor.
Other symptoms of hyperthyroidism, along with sweatiness, include nervousness, brittle hair, changes in bowel patterns, rapid heart rate, and fatigue.
7. Bad Breath After You've Been Sick
"Chronic bad breath can be a sign of overgrowth of bacteria in the gums, and even an acute or chronic sinus infection," Dr. Stagg says. If your breath as been noticeably worse after a cold, it could be a sign that an infection is lingering on.
It's not uncommon for head colds to turn into something more, and odor can be a symptom. So if you were sick recently, and have had smelly breath ever since, this may be why.
8. Other Strong Vaginal Odors
A fishy vaginal odor may be a sign of BV, but other strong smells might mean you have a different type of infection. As Dr. Stagg says, "Vaginal odors can also be a sign of a vaginal yeast infection or STD." Though those are nothing to be ashamed of, they are a few more issues that will need to be treated by your doctor.
9. Bad Breath That Won't Go Away, Even After You Brush
As you know, most cases of bad breath can be cleared up with better oral hygiene. But if it seems like the odor won't go away, it might mean it's actually emanating from your gut. "Bad breath primarily stems from hypochlorhydria, or lack of stomach acid," nutritional therapist Carley Smith, NTP, CGP, tells Bustle. "If your food is not being properly digested, then it will affect gut health." And thus your breath.
10. Pee That Smells Super Strong
As Smith says, more smelly symptoms can arise from poor gut health, like the aforementioned bad breath, as well as stinky sweat and smelly urine. This may be due to toxins making their way out of your body, which is a process that won't necessarily smell great.
11. Strong Sweat Odor After Stress
While anyone can get sweaty during a stressful moment, excessive sweating is particularly common for people who have an anxiety disorder, which can leave you coated in a layer of extra pungent "stress sweat."
This type of sweat comes out of entirely different glands than normal sweat and can even have a stronger odor. If you think anxiety may be the source of your sweat, it may help to speak with a therapist to learn ways to rein in stress and calm your nerves.
And keep in mind all the other ways body odor can tip you off to a problem. Because, while the added benefit may be fewer body odors, the most important thing is your health.
This post was originally published on 5/7/2018. It was updated on 6/4/2019.
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