Scent Signals

"What your body odour says about your health"

By Jason Santerre

Humans stink. That is, we all have the ability to produce body odour. Want proof? Take a ride on public transit in July. Indeed, your sweaty sojourn will prove two things: body odour is caused by a combination of sweat and bacteria, and air conditioning on the city’s fleet of buses would certainly be a welcome luxury.

There are several reasons why we smell. Certain foods (hello, garlic, and smell you later, alcohol), hygiene, genetics, physical exertion, and the bacteria present on our skin. The combination of these factors creates a signature scent for every one of us. There’s a reason why smelling your partner’s pillow can comfort you when they’re away.

And while individual scents vary from strong to mild, intense body odour may be a cause for concern. Trimethylaminuria is, thankfully, a very rare metabolic disorder that occurs when the body is unable to break down certain nitrogen-containing compounds like trimethylamine. As a result, people with this disorder emit a rotting-fish smell. Other concerns to keep an eye (and nostril) open for are thyroid imbalance, liver dysfunction, hyperhidrosis (excess sweating), and zinc deficiency. If you exhibit symptoms of any of the aforementioned, be sure to consult a trusted medical expert.

Evolutionarily speaking, sweat used to come in handy. Like any animal, humans produced sweat to help mark territory and send out pheromones. In our modern world, sweat is seen as gross, off-putting.

However, sweat is a natural process that not only regulates our internal temperature, it helps eliminate toxins. But if you’re ever concerned about your own body odour, take a whiff of these minor tweaks you can make to your lifestyle.

Replenish good bacteria. Soak your feet in a solution of one part apple cider vinegar to three parts water. This can help reduce foot odour by lowering the pH level of your skin so odour-causing bacteria cannot survive. Beware of harsh soaps. They will most likely destroy the fragile microbiome living on your skin.

Drink liquid chlorophyll. This detoxifying supplement prevents odour from the inside out. Think of it as an internal deodorant that continues to work over time. For full effect, drink daily, but know that there are potential side effects. Chlorophyll is safe for most when taken orally, but it can cause skin to become extra-sensitive to the sun. Wear sunblock outside, especially if you are light-skinned.

You are what you eat and drink. Remember that last time you had one too many lager and ales at your best friend’s wedding? You could smell every ounce of alcohol coming out of your pores. That’s because we sweat out whatever we consume, digest, and break down.

Detox the body. Herbal teas can help. A cleaner, leaner diet will, too. You can also take activated charcoal to help bind toxins and excrete them from your body via bowel movements. Of course, you should be cognizant of the various side effects, like a black tongue and black stool to vomiting and diarrhea. Please be sure to consult your physician before resorting to activated charcoal.


Winter 2019, Vol 11 N°1

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