Things that make you stink

Showering and brushing your teeth isn’t always enough to keep your body stink-free.

Sometimes, other body odor culprits – such as food, medications and health conditions – sneak in to create stink.

What’s even worse than stinking? Not realizing you stink.

“When you’re exposed to a new odor, you notice it right away,” George Preti, an organic chemist and smell researcher at the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia told MSN Healthy Living. “But after continual exposure you develop a type of smell-specific anosmia, or an inability to detect that smell. Once you’ve adapted to the odor you no longer perceive it, even though it is still present.”

MSN Healthy Living took a look at the 12 surprising sources of body odor. Here’s what they found:

  1. Gum disease: Built-up plaque causes gum disease. That plaque allows bacteria to thrive and flourish, thus producing a “volatile sulfur compound that causes bad breath,” Iowa dentist Richard Downs told MSN.
  2. Paleo or low-carb diets: By drastically reducing the amount of carbs consumed, the body is triggered to enter the semi-starvation state of ketosis, where fat is metabolized to provide fuel that the brain needs to survive. Smelly ketones, a byproduct of the process, are expelled by the body in breath and urine, according to MSN. Prescription meds:
  3. Anti-depressants and other drugs can increase how much you sweat. More sweat means a greater chance odor-causing bacteria will flourish. Meds that cause dry-mouth can also lead to bad breath, since saliva helps flush the mouth to keep it clean, according to MSN.
  4. Tongue plaque: Brushing and flossing is great, but don’t forget the back of the tongue, which can harbor plaque and bacteria. Thick tongue plaque = stink.
  5. Eating too few greens: Chlorophyll is what makes plants bright green. It’s thought to also act as an internal body deodorant, according to researchers at Oregon State University.
  6. Eating too much meat: Apparently, people who follow meat-heavy diets have a more “repugnant body odor,” according to Canadian nutritionist Brenda Davis. A study that involved women smelling cotton pads soaked with male armpit sweat backed up the nutritionist (seriously, check out the MSN story for details).
  7. Curry, cumin and other spice: Sometimes, spicy spices give bodies a spicy smell. Anecdotal reports (there’s not a whole lot of spice research) indicate people who eat lots of curry and cumin have spicy smelling B.O.
  8. Alcohol: While a little wine or beer doesn’t appear to alter body odor, some people experience “noxious morning-after breath” or a little more sweat after drinking one too many the night before, according to MSN.
  9. Kidney disease, liver malfunctions and other health conditions: The liver and the kidneys are the body’s two main detoxifying organs. When their function is impaired, so is their ability to remove toxins. Built-up toxins can lead to stinky B.O., according to MSN.
  10. Asparagus: I’m sure everyone has heard this one. Most people who eat asparagus experience stinky urine soon after the meal.
  11. Milk, cheese and other dairy: People with lactose intolerance (low in the enzyme that digests dairy products) can cause them to be gassy after consuming milk, cheese or other dairy foods.
  12. Garlic and onions: As many people already know, garlic and onions can create some pretty stinky breath. But the odor is so strong, especially when eaten raw, the smell is believed to permeate deeper to produce “an all-encompassing garlic- or onion-infused body odor,” according to MSN.
Marissa Harshman

Marissa Harshman

I'm the health reporter for The Columbian newspaper in Vancouver, Wash. I started at The Columbian -- my hometown newspaper -- in September 2009. Reach me at or 360-735-4546.

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