Body Odour: What Does It Say About Your Health?

Body odour is natural, and it’s nothing to be ashamed about. Your overall health can impact how your body smells. Here’s what you need to know about body odour and what it can say about your health.

By URLife Team
01 Mar 2023

Body odour isn’t necessarily anyone’s favourite topic to talk about, and it can sometimes feel icky to even be discussing it among your friends. It is something that happens to everyone, but not all sweat is the same. Body odour can determine many aspects of your life, including who you end up seeing romantically. It might sound primal, but for everyone from friends to lovers, body odour can play a role in determining how close you are to them.

A 2017 study published in Chemical Senses reports the development of a ‘Body Odour Disgust Scale’ (BODS), which perceives a person’s vulnerability to disease depending on their body odour. Body odour can change when exposed to a pathogen, and it can lead other people to feel increased disgust (unconsciously). It shows that our immune systems and mind can detect when body odour changes, and when it is linked to a disease. Keep reading to understand how body odour can be determined by various factors and what it says about your health:


Need all your wellness solutions in one place? A whole new world awaits just a click away.


Related Story: Foods That Can Make Pee Smell Bad


What Causes Body Odour?

Body odour is caused by the interaction between sweat produced by the apocrine glands and the bacteria that live on our skin. Sweat itself is odourless, but when it is secreted by the apocrine glands, it contains proteins and lipids that bacteria love to feed on. When bacteria break down these compounds, they release volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are responsible for the unpleasant smell.

The apocrine glands are located in areas of the body that have a high density of hair follicles, such as the armpits, groin, and scalp. Emotional or physical stress activates these glands and is responsible for producing the type of sweat that is most associated with body odour.

In addition to the interaction between sweat and bacteria, other factors can contribute to body odour. For example, certain foods can cause body odour. Foods containing sulfur compounds, such as garlic and onions, can cause a strong odour when they are broken down by the body. Alcohol consumption can also cause body odour because the body excretes alcohol through the sweat glands.

Hormonal changes can also contribute to body odour. During puberty, the body produces more sweat, and this sweat contains more lipids, which bacteria love to feed on. Hormonal changes during pregnancy and menopause can also lead to changes in body odour.

Medical conditions, such as diabetes, kidney disease, liver disease, and hyperthyroidism, can also cause body odour. These conditions can cause changes in the body's metabolism, leading to the production of certain compounds that can cause body odour.


Related Story: Is Salt Really Bad For You


Reasons For Bad Body Odour

Body odour is a common phenomenon experienced by most individuals at some point in their lives. It is an unpleasant smell produced by the body, usually from the armpits, feet, and groin area. Sweat, bacteria, and hormones are the main culprits responsible for bad body odour.

Although it is common to experience some degree of body odour, some people may experience it more than others due to various factors. Here are some of the reasons why some people may have a bad body odour:



Regular physical exercise is essential for maintaining good health, but it can also contribute to body odour. When you exercise, your body produces sweat, which helps to regulate body temperature. However, if you don't shower or change your clothes after exercising, the sweat can accumulate and create a foul smell. This is because bacteria feed on sweat and produce a byproduct that creates the odour.



Menopause is a natural part of the ageing process that affects women. During menopause, there is a decrease in estrogen levels, which can lead to hot flashes, night sweats, and changes in body odour. As a result, some women may experience more intense body odour during menopause.



Gout is a type of arthritis that occurs when there is a buildup of uric acid in the body. This build-up can lead to inflammation and pain in the joints, as well as an increase in body odour. This is because uric acid is excreted through sweat, and when there is an excess of it in the body, it can create a foul smell.


Thyroid problems

The thyroid gland produces hormones that regulate metabolism and energy levels in the body. When the thyroid gland is not functioning correctly, it can lead to overproduction or underproduction of these hormones. This can result in changes in body odour, as the body's metabolism and sweat production are affected.


Liver or kidney diseases

The liver and kidneys play an essential role in filtering toxins from the body. When these organs are not functioning correctly, toxins can build up in the body, leading to bad body odour. Liver and kidney diseases can also cause changes in sweat production, which can further contribute to body odour.


Infectious diseases

Certain infectious diseases, such as bacterial infections, can lead to bad body odour. This is because bacteria feed on sweat and produce a byproduct that creates the odour. In addition, some infectious diseases can cause changes in the body's metabolism, which can further contribute to body odour.


Related story: What Your Cravings Are Telling You About Your Body (And Mind)


Foods That Can Cause Bad Body Odour

What you eat can determine how you smell, and making healthy eating choices can have a positive effect on your health. There can be many reasons why you may be suffering from bad body odour but eating certain foods/drinks in excess can also lead to a change in smell.,here are some foods and beverages that cause body odour are:

  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Cabbage
  • Caffeine
  • MSG (monosodium glutamate)
  • Cumin, garam masala, curry powder, among other spices
  • Spicy foods like hot sauce, serrano pepper, etc.
  • Alcohol and related products

If you’re consuming any of these foods/beverages in moderation, you shouldn’t notice a significant change in body odour. But it might be time to consult a medical professional if you’re not consuming these foods/drinks in excess and still notice a change in body odour.


Need all your wellness solutions in one place? A whole new world awaits just a click away.


Come To UR.Life OHC For A Holistic Health Check-Up

Your body odour may be affecting your confidence and making you extremely self-conscious. It might also be an underlying symptom of a disease you are suffering from, and consulting an expert is crucial for diagnosis. At UR.Life OHC, we help employees feel their best at and outside work, and can help you find the reason behind your body odour.

Our in-house OHC doctor may recommend a health risk assessment for better analysis and diagnosis of the condition. Conducting a preliminary observation by yourself so you can report other symptoms to our doctor is essential for quick resolution. Ensure that you are ruling out other factors that can be causing a change in your body odour before you head to UR.Life OHC for a check-up. 

With the UR.Life Corporate Wellness programme, we help you to invest in your well-being through seamless interventions and targeted medical treatments. Our holistic wellness approach caters to all aspects of your well-being. We ensure that you are able to bring your whole self to work.

With our medical professionals by your side, routine health check-ups will never be an issue. Advanced laboratory technologies back UR.Life’s Occupational Health Centers (OHC), and with highly qualified experts/technicians, we’re committed to delivering trusted and quality recommendations, modifications and advice to you.

Click here to learn more about the UR.Life Corporate Wellness programme and unlock better health.






Sravs 07 Aug 2023


Follow Us On Instagram