Learn About Ailments | Body Odour (BO)

Body Odour (BO)

Body odour, or BO, is the smell of bacteria feeding on sweat. Body odour develops from sweat produced by the apocrine glands in the armpits and groin. This sweat contains proteins and fats that bacteria feed on. Sweat produced in other areas of the body is produced by the eccrine glands and doesn't smell as it is salty and bacteria can't thrive. Treatment of body odour includes regular washing, antiperspirants, antibacterial preparations or surgical treatment for cases of severe sweating.
Body Odour (BO)

In This Article
Did you know? Causes of body odour
Symptoms of body odour Diagnosis of body odour
Related Terms

  • 59% of single people agree that body odour is the biggest turn-off on a date
  • There are 3-4 million sweat glands on the body
  • 80% of the body's sweat glands are under the armpit
  • Body odour is as unique to an individual as a fingerprint

The body sweats using two types of sweat glands: the eccrine glands and aprocrine glands. Eccrine  glands are found all across the skin and control body temperature by cooling the skin when temperature increases with a salty sweat. Aprocrine glands are found under the armpits, in the genital area and around the breasts. These glands produce scented chemicals called pheromones.

Pheromones are believed to influence how other people react to you on a subconscious level. Sexual attraction and arousal is often triggered by the smell of someone else's pheromones.

The aprocrine glands produce a high protein sweat which is easily broken down by bacteria. Body odour is the smell of bacteria breaking down the sweat.

After eating certain foods, the skin can excrete chemicals which may influence the extent of the body odour. Poor personal hygiene worsens body odour as does wearing synthetic clothing or not washing clothing properly.

The main symptom of body odour is an unpleasant smell that worsens in hot conditions. The smell usually disappears after washing but can return immediately especially if unwashed clothes are worn.

The majority of cases of body odour do not require a visit to the GP but a close friend may need to point out that BO is a problem as the individual can grow accustom to their own smell. Once recognised, self-care and personal hygiene will usually resolve the problem.

In rare cases there may be an underlying medical condition which affects how much you sweat and its smell. Somebody with an over-active thyroid or going through the menopause is likely to sweat more than usual. Conditions such as diabetes and liver or kidney disease can affect a change in body odour.

You should visit your GP if you experience any of the following symptoms:
  • Sweating at night
  • Sweating more than is normal and without reason
  • Cold sweats
  • A change in smell of your sweat e.g. fruity smelling sweat may indicate diabetes and a bleach smell could point to kidney or liver disease

Personal hygiene
Skin condition

Therapies to consider
Allergy Intolerance Testing Chinese Herbal Medicine Detoxification
Homeopathy Naturopathy Nutrition


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