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MissAnthrope's avatar

Why would one's body odor change suddenly?

Asked by MissAnthrope (21399 points ) June 18th, 2009

I’m hoping some sciencey types can help me figure this one out..

Okay, so when I’m in the U.S., I work a job that is generally very physical (and hot in the back areas) and I often sweat a lot. Like, a month ago, at the beginning of summer, I would go home with my clothes damp. Gross, I know.. but if you’re still with me, let’s carry on to my question!

I was actually pretty impressed with my deodorant because, despite my perspiring, I did not stink at all, other than smelling of plain sweat and parfum de restaurant. No B.O., yay!

Now, I came to Italy to visit my mom and almost immediately even the smallest amount of perspiration and I find I’m stinky. I realized this trip that it’s pretty much always so, at least in the warmer months, requiring multiple showers a day. I hate being stinky and I’m really confounded as to why it happens. I maintained similar hygiene patterns as back home, the same antiperspirant I was using while working, same clothes, etc.

The only thing I can think is diet (fresh foods, hardly any processed) or the water here being different. Anyone have any theories or perhaps can explain why this is?

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12 Answers

RedPowerLady's avatar

It’s what you put in your body. It can be an illness or fungus as well. But typically your body odor changes according to what goes into it. After hubby has been drinking coffee all day I can’t stand it. Ick.

Now that you are in a different country you are probably consuming different foods and beverages. Your body is reacting to that. It doesn’t mean it is negative though, sometimes smell means you are positively ridding yourself of toxins.

Harp's avatar

Let me just throw out the most obvious possibility…garlic.

DarkScribe's avatar

It can be diet. Major changes in diet can do this, as can tension, emotional upset etc. My wife and I eat a large amount of garlic – it doesn’t have any effect on body odour, but some spices can, increasing fat, the type of clothing (synthetics make you sweat more than natural fibres) or your own perception might be more oversensitive than normal. Lots of possibilities.

Darwin's avatar

Diet is indeed a possibility, as it is well known that a diet high in meat changes the way one’s body smells, as do diets high in certain foods, including onions, garlic, curry, certain spicy foods, coffee and alcohol. Different people also have differences in metabolism and food tolerances that can intensify this effect. Thus garlic may not effect one person but another will develop a strong body odor from it.

Body odor actually results primarily from the effect of bacteria on the proteins in your sweat, so possibly it is the effect of different fauna in the local water that you are using for bathing. Stress and “that time of the month” can affect body odor, too, and apparently an imbalance in intestinal flora (which often happens with travel as well as from taking antibiotics) can also change or increase body odor.

Try finding a good local yogurt with Lactobacillus acidophilus in it to try to rebalance your intestinal flora, attempt to eat as close to the way you would at home as you can, and consider trying to bathe with bottled water, just to see if the water is a cause of the problem.

DarkScribe's avatar

@Darwin Try finding a good local yogurt with Lactobacillus acidophilus in it to try to rebalance your intestinal flora

There is a good point. Considering the huge amount of garlic my wife and I eat, it has always surprised me that it is not noticable in body odour, but we also eat a litre or so of yogurt per day. When traveling and unable to have our (homemade) yoghurt, there is a noticable increase in odour if we eat very spicy food, but not when the yoghurt is part of everyday diet. I had always assumed that we had simply adapted to it.

arnbev959's avatar

I’ve had deodorants that have always worked well suddenly fail me. Sometimes if you just switch deodorants for a while it can solve the problem.

MissAnthrope's avatar

Thanks for your replies, very interesting to ponder.

I don’t think it’s the garlic, as my ex, as a chef, was really fond of cooking with garlic, so I doubt the level consumed has changed that much.

Stress is a possibility, as is the difference in fauna in showering water. Intake-wise, the main differences that I can think of are a better diet, less fast food, less processed food, more wine, and probably less fat on the whole (or at least a lot less butter).

wundayatta's avatar

I’m with @Harp on this one. It is probably food, and there may be different kinds of garlic in Italy than in the US.

RedPowerLady's avatar

@AlenaD If you are eating healthier I would consider the possibility that you are thus flushing toxins from your body and those toxins stink.

MissAnthrope's avatar

So, I’ve been here for over a month now and I’ve noticed things have returned to normal.. for example, I worked on the farm for 8 hours yesterday and was completely drenched with sweat all day (drank about 2 liters of water), but when I got home to shower, I really wasn’t stinky at all.

It may very well have been the toxin thing or perhaps my body has grown accustomed to the water I’m showering in. Either way, I’m very glad. :P

tdog's avatar

When I work out hard and sweat a lot, I usually do not smell. It’s when I am sitting all day at work, with the heater next to me that I smell (even when I don’t sweat). I think the fact that you are working out, sweating releases the toxins to the point where you don’t smell anymore.

Just_Justine's avatar

I have no idea, but I do know when I am “out of balance” or stressed my body smell changes. I think ayurvedic medicine talks a bit about it. . Here

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