As we've seen, despite our use of sprays, sticks and powders, our bodies smell. It's normal. And, even though the scientific name for body odor -- bromhidrosis -- sounds like something to be concerned about, it can usually be handled by the methods previously discussed. But sometimes, when the body gives off a strong odor, it can be a sign that something is medically amiss.
Diabetes can give the breath a fruity smell and the body a distinctive odor akin to nail polish remover due to a condition known as ketoacidosis. An unusual body odor can also be a sign of liver or kidney distress. Some infections also produce foul smells; for example, a mouth abscess could cause bad breath, while a vaginal yeast infection would have an accompanying odor. Scientists have even developed a method for identifying lung cancer through breath analysis [source: Alvarez].
Occasionally, a strong body odor can be a sign of a metabolic disorder and is usually discovered in childhood. Individuals suffering from primary trimethylaminuria lack the ability to metabolize a substance known as TMA and emit a smell that has given the disease its more common name: fish-odor syndrome [source: Reuters]. Children who suffer from maple-syrup urine disease lack an enzyme to break down certain amino acids and may smell like the disease's namesake, while adults with the condition have urine that smells like burnt sugar. People afflicted with phenylketunuria are unable to break down the protein phenylalanine and can emit a musty or barn-like smell.
Another disease that is linked to excessive body odor is hyperhidrosis, a condition marked by abnormally high perspiration -- even if the individual experiencing it is cool or at rest. If prescription antiperspirants aren't enough to bring the condition under control, more severe methods may be employed. These include anti-sweating drugs; iontophoresis, the use of an electrical current that disables sweat glands; botox injections in the armpits that temporarily block sweat-stimulating nerves; and an endoscopic surgery procedure known as ETS where the nerves that cause the excessive sweating are removed.
Metabolic disorders and hyperhidrosis affect only a small portion of the population, so chances are good that the musk you make is simply your unique odor type and not a cause for alarm. However, if you try normal odor-obliteration techniques with no results, it might be time to see your doctor.
More Great Links
- Alex. "The Armhole Odor Test." WeirdUniverse.com. (Dec. 14, 2011) http://www.weirduniverse.net/blog/permalink/the_armhole_odor_test/
- Alvarez, Dr. Manny. "Breath Odor Can Be The Key To Detecting Cancer." Fox News. Feb. 28, 2007. (Dec. 14, 2011) http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,255041,00.html
- BodyOdor777.com. "Odor originating from Metabolic Disorder." (Dec. 14, 2011) http://bodyodor777.com/causes_metabolicdisorder.html
- Burr, Chandler. "Display It, Don't Spray It." The New York Times. May 1, 2005. (Dec. 14, 2011) http://www.nytimes.com/2005/05/01/magazine/01PERFUME.html
- Hyperhidrosisweb.com. "Eliminate Underam Odor Naturally." (Dec. 14, 2011) http://www.hyperhidrosisweb.com/underarm-odor.html
- Jackson, Holly. "Deodorant duds for sweat-prone professionals." CNET News. Aug. 11, 2008. (Dec. 14, 2011) http://news.cnet.com/8301-17938_105-10013441-1.html
- Keville, Kathi; Green, Mindi. "Aromatherapy: A Complete Guide To The Healing Art." Berkeley, Calif.: Crossing Press. 2009.
- Levine, Joshua. "Eliminate Body Odor For Good." AskMen.com. (Dec. 14, 2011) http://www.askmen.com/sports/health/43_mens_health.html
- Lynn, Sharon. "Do Members of Different Cultures Have Characteristic Body Odors?" A Taste of Smell. Dec. 6, 1995. (Dec. 15, 2011) http://zebra.sc.edu/smell/ann/myth6.html
- Medline Plus. "Hyperhidrosis." (Dec. 14, 2011) http://www.nlm.nih.gov/MEDLINEPLUS/ency/article/007259.htm
- National Cancer Institute. "Antiperspirants/Deodorants and Breast Cancer: Questions and Answers." (Dec. 14, 2011)
- Park, Alice. "The War on Sweat." Time. Aug. 7, 2008. (Dec. 14, 2011) http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1830409,00.html
- Patent Storm. "Antibacterial agent and cosmetics and clothing containing the same." May 2, 2000. (Dec. 14, 2011) http://www.patentstorm.us/patents/6057372/description.html
- Reuters. "Fish-odor Syndrome Gene Found." PersonalMD.com. (Dec. 14, 2011) http://web.archive.org/web/20090424022243/http://www.personalmd.com/news/a1997120305.shtml
- Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media.. "Q. Who invented Body Odor?" Sidelights. 2011. (Dec. 14, 2011) http://chnm.gmu.edu/sidelights/who-invented-body-odor/
- Science News. "Women May Be Sniffing Out Biologically-relevant Information From Underarm Sweat." Science Daily. April 7, 2009. (Dec. 14, 2011) http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/04/090407074945.htm
- Science Watch. "The Key Role of Smell in an Infant's Bonding." The New York Times. April 30, 1991. (Dec. 13, 2011) http://www.nytimes.com/1991/04/30/science/science-watch-the-key-role-of-smell-in-an-infant-s-bonding.html
- Sims, Calvin. "Behold, the Fragrant Japanese Man!" The New York Times. March 17, 2000. (Dec. 14, 2011) http://www.nytimes.com/2000/03/17/world/behold-the-fragrant-japanese-man.html
- Solan, Matthew. "Smell talk: conquering body odor." Men's Fitness. May 2003. Vol. 19, Issue 5. p. 58.
- Solan, Matthew. "Sweat It: perspiration is nature's way of cooling hot muscles. But it can also leave you physically depleted and socially undesireable." Men's Fitness. March 1, 2003. (Dec. 13, 2011) http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1608/is_3_19/ai_97390090/
- Stacey, Kevin. "Choosing A Mate: Female Mammals Follow Their Noses." March 19, 2009. (Dec. 13, 2011) http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/142746.php
- Sullivan, R.M; Toubas, P. "Clinical usefulness of maternal odor in newborns: Soothing and feeding preparatory responses." Biology of the Neonate. 1998. (Dec. 13, 2011) http://cat.inist.fr/?aModele=afficheN&cpsidt=1584122
- Thompson, Andrea. "Your Odor: Unique as Fingerprint." LiveScience. Nov. 5, 2008. (Dec. 13, 2011) http://www.livescience.com/strangenews/081105-odor-prints.html
- Wighton, Kate. "Why do women always feel colder than men?" The Times. Nov. 8, 2008. (Dec. 14, 2011) http://www.thepositiveobserver.com/index.php?option=com_content&Itemid=109&id=173&lang=en&task=view
- Wysocki, Charles J; Louie, Jennifer; Leyden, James J; Blank, David; Gill, Manjindar; Smith, Les; McDermott, Keith; Preti, George. "Cross-adaptation of a model human stress-related odour with fragrance chemicals and ethyl esters of axillary odorants: gender-specific effects." Flavour and Fragrance Journal. Vol. 24, Issue 5. pp. 209-218. September/October 2009.
- Yadegaran, Jessica. "Sweat It! Perspiration: It's A Hot Topic." Contra Costa Times July 5, 2007. (Dec. 14, 2011) http://www.seacoastonline.com/articles/20070705-LIFE-707050355
- Zeng, Xiao-nong; Leyden, James J; Lawley, Henry J; Sawano, Kiyohito; Nohara, Isao; Preti, George. "Analysis of characteristic odors from human male axillae." Journal of Chemical Ecology. July 7, 1991. (Dec. 14, 2011 2009) http://www.springerlink.com/content/r4r46p2q5n8415u5