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A bouquet of smell: How many types of body odor are there?
Armpit sweat: The usual scenario entering the mind of someone when thinking about the types of body odor which exist. Certainly if your boss or lecturer is waving his arms in the air in a meeting or lecture theater on a hot day, this may be the first image that comes to mind.
If you are a commuter who travels during rush hour, there may be images of being forced to bury your nose in the wet armpits of the person ahead as the other person behind you nudges his elbow out to grab the support handle and you are left with a catch-22 of either this scenario or a painful elbow in the eye.
Although this may be a vivid, resistant image in your mind, have you considered that there are many types of body odor? There is a plethora of odors you may not have thought of including underarm odor, and also includes halitosis, sweat odor, urine odor, puberty body odor, flatus, hyperhidrosis, vagina odor, fish odor (also known as trimethylaminuria) as well as odor from smelly feet. Some of these causes are explored in more detail below:
Halitosis or bad breath, is very common and occurs due to the bacteria that reside in your mouth, on your tongue, between your teeth and on the surface. These bacteria by themselves can cause bad breath as they break down proteins into smaller fatty acids.
Often, this is as a result of people not brushing their teeth or flossing between them thoroughly enough. This causes particles of food to remain in the mouth and rot, which emits a foul smelling odor. It also provides food for oral bacteria, which release their own waste products to create a small.
Foods with a strong smell can also contribute to bad breath, because these foods are absorbed into the blood. These foods include garlic, spices, cheeses, fish and beverages which are acidic, such as coffee. The lungs contain a thin layer of cells separating the blood from oxygen carrying air and transfer these fetid odors through breath. These odorous foods may also cause gastrointestinal disturbances. Smoking, aside from being harmful and containing over 400 different chemicals, can seep into clothing and produce a musky smell.
Tips for alleviating bad breath
Brush your teeth for at least two minutes, and make sure to floss between your teeth regularly, at least once a week.
Avoid eating smelly foods where your breath will be noticed, alternatively use a mouthwash or mints designed to remove odors, such as those containing xylitol.
If you suffer from ketone breath, improve your carbohydrate intake, including foods such as cereals, bread, pasta, rice and fruits such as pineapple, strawberry, grapes and figs. Also consider beans, carrots, corn, peas and don’t forget potatoes.
A dry mouth can also cause bad breath because it is restricting the flow of your saliva. Saliva tends to remove particles which cause odor and a lack of this important enzyme containing fluid can lead to stale odors.
If you smoke, either consider quitting smoking, or using a fabric odor neutralizer, available from your nearest supermarket.
‘Fish odor’ or trimethylaminuria (TMAU) is a genetic condition which causes those afflicted to smell like fish from most parts of the body, including the skin surface, breath, their seat and even their urine. It is quite a rare metabolic disorder caused by a defect of the enzyme Flavin containing monooxygenase 3, or FMO3. There is no known cure, but treatment is dietary:
- According to a 1995 based study published in the Journal of Inherited Metabolic Disorders, by Treacy, Johnson & Danks, using low doses of antibiotics such as metronidazole to reduce gut residing bacteria can alleviate trimethylaminuria symptoms.
- Avoiding certain foods, for example fish, legumes, eggs and those which contain choline, sulfur, lecithin, nitrogen and carnitine.
Everyone knows what flatulence is. By that, what is meant is quite literally everyone. One of the most common types of body odor, it is no laughing matter: despite the often puerile reaction to an offence. It is caused by the same mechanism which causes feces to descend the large intestine, ready for expulsion.
Contrary to popular belief, it is not methane which causes this odor, as it is in fact an odorless gas, but instead compounds such as indole, skatole and sulfur containing compounds such as hydrogen sulfide (which is responsible for the rotten egg component), dimethyl sulfide and methanethiol.
Flatus is caused in various ways, for instance by ingesting air through the nose and mouth where it enters your stomach to be subsequently processed by your intestines, additionally it can be produced endogenously in the intestine itself by gut-residing bacteria. It can be caused by foods which have a high level of polysaccharides, especially those containing high levels of inulin. These foods should be avoided. Food intolerances can also be responsible. If you are allergic to milk, it can cause irritation in the bowels and discomfort, causing flatus and problems with body odor.
Flatus can be reduced
- Reducing the intake of high polysaccharide foods, such as dairy products, beans, lentils, leeks, turnips, potatoes, oats and cashews with those of an equivalent nutritional value such as replacing potatoes with rice: which is a starch which does not produce gas. Probiotics restore the balance of intestinal flora and can help reduce flatulence. Papain or bromelain containing supplements may also help.
- According to a 1994 study by Ganiats and company in the Journal Of Family Practice, the enzyme alpha-galactosidase can reduce flatus. It is available as an enzyme supplement alongside lactase, lipase, amylase, protease and other helpful enzymes involved in the breakdown of foods.
- Odor caused by intestinal flora can be tackled with bismuth subgallate, an over the counter remedy commonly used post-surgery and for those with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
This is the most obvious type of body odor. Sweating excessively can result in body odor, especially from the apocrine glands on the surface of the skin releasing fatty acids subsequently broken down by bacteria. Bacterial waste products are often putrid smelling but can be treated quite easily:
- Frequent showers to remove fatty acid containing perspiration, limiting food for epidermal bacteria.
- Deodorant or antiperspirant to mask odors or prevent perspiration altogether. Often the problem with antiperspirants is blocking sweat glands from fulfilling their function, causing redness, inflammation and discomfort. A good deodorant is effective at masking odors which may arise throughout the day.
Clearly, there are many other causes of body odor, and many ways to tackle these problems effectively. What is important to note is that being aware of the problem is the first step towards reaching a solution, and what the various types of body odor are in order to pinpoint problem areas.