Healthy living: Stay fresh, smell good

October 24, 2009


Back in my school days, I had a class mate we tried to stay away from or talk at least from a good distance. Why? Because she had a serious body odour problem. Well let's face it. There is not a single person on the face of the earth who doesn't sweat and doesn't have a bit of body odour. This is a very common problem in countries where hot weather prevails.

It is only that some people sweat less while others get drenched in no time. Similarly, some people have unbearable body odour while others come in the bearable category. So do you have the problem of bad body odour? If yes! Then we have some solutions for you to be fresh.

What is body odour?

Body odour happens due to the smell of bacteria that grows on the body. The popular concept that body odour is the smell of sweat is not true. We actually produce two kinds of sweat eccrine, a clear, odourless sweat that appears all over our bodies, performing the vital role of the regulation of body temperature; and apocrine, a thicker substance that is produced by the glands in the underarms and groin areas. Apocrine sweat serves no apparent purpose. It, too, is odourless until bacteria on the skin's surface act upon it. The result of this harmful union creates odour.

Sweating isn't bad!

Sweating is a fundamental body function which cools down the body temperature. Those who don't sweat face a higher risk of overheating.

Where does the smell come from?

• As mentioned earlier, sweat by itself does not have much of an odour. Most of the smell is caused by bacteria, which lives on the skin and in clothing. These bacteria use the sweat to grow and create smell. The sweat on most of our body is not full of nutrients (food) for bacteria, so the bacteria there do not cause a lot of smell.

• The places where one usually smells are the body-fold areas such as the underarms, groin and feet. For example, when the feet are enclosed by socks and shoes, bacteria starts to work and produce a lot of unpleasant smell. If your feet are damp, yeasts can grow as well as bacteria and they can make a different unpleasant smell leading to fungal infection.

• Hormonal imbalance causes more discharge of sebum that is the stuff which makes skin oily.

• Another reason can be hyper anxiety. Individuals who are more anxious tend to sweat a lot and they sweat more on their palms and the soles of their foot.

• Illnesses also cause body to odour. It can even lead to 'coloured' sweat.

• Some foods, such as garlic and spicy stuff, can also become the reason to smell awful.

Stop the stink

• Take showers, up to three times a day in summer. Wash your body regularly, especially underarms, groin and feet. Dry your feet completely after you have washed them.

• Change and wash your clothes every day.

• Let your shoes dry completely before wearing them again. If possible, wear different shoes on alternate days.

• Drink plenty of water.

• You can also try an antibacterial soap when you wash your body.

• You can also apply baking soda to your armpits as well as to your feet, to reduce body odour.

• While bathing, add white vinegar to a mug of water and use it to rinse the armpits.

• One of the simple home remedies to reduce body odour is to put a few drops of rose water or tea tree oil in the bath tub, before taking bath.

• You can also add a teaspoon of alum (phitkari) to your bathing water.

• Apply talcum powder to your armpits, in place of deodorants.

• Eat healthy food that contains loads of fibre, whole grains, wheat, soy products and leafy veggies. Also remember to eat less meat and dairy products; avoid spicy food, more garlic and cumin seeds (zeera) because they can cause odour often up to 24 hours after consumption.

• Underarm deodorants make the sweat acidic which stops bacteria from growing. We still make the same amount of sweat, but there are fewer bacteria to create the smell.

• Antiperspirants block the sweat channel with aluminium salts, so that less sweat is produced. Less sweat equals fewer bacteria and also less smell. So use them only in underarms, as you need to be able to sweat from the rest of your body to keep yourself healthy.