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What's that SMELL?

Every person has aunique body odour that can be used as an 'odourprint' to identify them just like their fingerprints

THERE'S NOTHING worse than sitting beside a smelly person.

Unfortunately, we can't always avoid the company of someone with a bad body odour ( BO) or foul breath. Considering how many varieties of perfumes, deodorants and toothpastes are available in the market, it's difficult to understand why some people have bad BO. Recent research has shown that people with body odour have a lower than normal confidence level, which ultimately affects their personal and social relationships. Their educational and professional performance may also be impacted by teasing and bullying by peers. Good hygiene is generally the right solution but sometimes various health reasons may be to blame. Tackling the cause then becomes crucial to ridding yourself of the smells.


BODY ODOUR results when bacteria present on the skin acts on sweat. Sweat or perspiration is a salty liquid, which oozes out of the pores in our skin and helps regulate body temperature. Two types of glands produce sweat and are dispersed throughout the body. These glands are concentrated in some parts of the body like the groin and the armpits and respond to conditions such as sexual arousal, nervousness and anger as well as heat and exertion. The sweat produced in these areas is rich in proteins, oils and organic substances that attract bacteria and produce a stronger odour than other parts of the body. "An erratic lifestyle or emotional stresses during ovulation or menopause can push the hormones to trigger the glands to produce the characteristic smell," says Dr Atul Gogiya, consultant internal medicine, Sir Gangaram Hospital.

Some people also suffer from excessive sweating, or hyperhydrosis which can increase the problem of BO. The feet produce a characteristic odour since we tend to wrap them in socks and shoes, creating humid conditions that are ideal for fungi and bacteria. Body odour may also be influenced by diet. "Certain foods, such as curry, garlic and strong spices, contain chemicals that may be excreted in the skin.

The smell almost always disappears with a shower or bath, but can return rapidly, especially if a person puts on unwashed clothes covered in old sweat and bacteria," says Dr Harish Sidhwa, senior consultant internal medicine, Fortis Hospital. Lung and skin infections, gastrointestinal disorders and diabetes may also cause BO.

intake, stress, lack of salivary flow and exercise. " Those who smoke and don't brush their teeth properly have this problem as the bacteria in the mouth linked to bad breath flourish in these conditions," says Dr Gogiya. For many, though, no amount of brushing or mouth spray helps. That's because their problem is triggered by a little known but surprisingly common condition called tonsil stones.

The tonsils protect us against infections of the throat and upper airways, but their location also makes them a potential trap for food particles.

Tonsil stones, or tonsilloliths, as they are also known, are actually lumps of calcified food, mucus and bacteria, explains Dr Gogiya. " Once bits of debris get trapped, they attract bacteria, harden and start to decay, which is why sufferers can have bad breath," he says. Adults are more at risk of developing these stones, simply because they have bigger tonsils; the tonsils have a naturally pitted surface like the moon and, with age, these crypts enlarge, making them more likely to harbour food.

Anyone with a history of tonsillitis is also at risk, as the illness can scar the tonsil. Certain prescription medicines, such as high blood pressure tablets, painkillers and antidepressants also cause a dry mouth. If you don't secrete enough saliva to wash food and bacteria away, this may trigger the development of tonsil stones or exacerbate them.


IDENTIFYING the cause of your smelliness is the key to finding a way to get rid of it.

" Body odour is often easily treated and a medical diagnosis isn't usually necessary. Take regular baths or showers, at least once a day," says Dr Sidhwa.

After puberty, using a deodorant is advisable. This redcues the smelliness of sweat. Changing clothes regularly and washing dirty clothes in warm water is essential to maintain hygiene. Wet clothes should be dried as quickly as possible, since bacteria can survive in damp clothing and produce a characteristic mouldy smell. Feet should be washed and dried thoroughly and dusted with antifungal powder if necessary. Avoid closed, sweaty shoes such as trainers, and wear fresh cotton socks or keep feet bare in open sandals as much as possible.

Avoiding very spicy and pungent food may also help.

Those who swear excessively may need a more advanced solution.

" For hyperhidrosis sufferers, injecting botulinum toxin ( Botox) into the skin near the armpit, the removal of some sweat glands from the armpit, or destroying nerves that control armpit sweating, may be recommended," says Dr Gogiya. To combat unpleasant mouth odour brush, watch what you eat and brush your teeth twice a day.

Irregular mealtimes result in acid reflux and gas in the stomach which causes bad breath.

Get regular dental checkups and eliminate the possibility of tonsil stones. Drinking plenty of water ensures that the saliva doesn't stagnate in the mouth.

Also, do ask your doctor if any medication you are taking may be the cause: Synthetic hormones, oral contraceptives, steroids and some asthma medications stimulate sweat production.

Curb daily caffeine intake as it can stimulate the autonomic nervous system, which regulates sweating. Avoid alcohol as far as possible to reduce the perspiration it causes by dilating the blood vessels.

rituparna. mukherjee@ mailtoday. in

BO Cures

Rub the juice of a red radish or potato slices on your underarms or your feet after a shower. Add a few cups of tomato juice or honey to your bath water or some lavender essence. Baking soda combined with lemon can be rubbed on the underarms or between the toes to combat BO.

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Publication:Mail Today (New Delhi, India)
Date:Dec 8, 2009

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