Besides the discomfort of hot flashes and night sweats, women undergoing menopause have to suffer through the changes in body odor that occur as a result of these symptoms. Higher levels of perspiration most likely will result in body odor. While perspiration is natural and healthy for the individual, it can cause great distress if accompanied by an unpleasant body odor. Anaerobic bacteria created by menopause-related sweats will also cause body odor. While the sweat itself is odorless, the bacteria on your skin or in certain parts of your body, such as the groin and armpits, releases unpleasant smelling chemicals.
Another reason for changes in body odor is when one’s metabolism isn’t working right, it produces odors as means of ridding themselves of waste products. Any difference in one’s metabolism will make the odor stronger. Toxins, poor diet, tobacco, caffeine and medications are all symptoms that can cause body odors. The good news about body odor is it can be corrected if treated correctly.
What is Body Odor?
Body Odor, also known as bromhidrosis or B.O., is a perceived unpleasant smell one’s body gives off when bacteria that lives on the skin breaks down sweat into acids. While there are a number of factors that cause body odor, it is important to understand that body odor is a byproduct of sweat. The two sweat glands on the skin that cause body odor are the eccrine glands and the apocrine glands. When the body’s temperature increases, one’s nervous system signals the eccrine glands to produce odorless sweat on the skin. The eccrine glands are found on almost all areas of one’s skin. Aprocrine glands are present in areas of the skin that contain abundant hair follicles, including the groin, armpits and scalp. The apocrine glands secrete a fatty sweat that contains pheremones. Aprocine glands respond solely to emotional stress, anxiety, exercise and sexual activity. When the bacteria breaks down apocrine sweat, an unpleasant odor created from waste and fatty acids is produced.
Menopause-Related Body Odor
For women experiencing menopause, hot flashes and night sweats play a large contributing factor in body odor. Hot flashes cause the skin temperature to rise, accompanied by extreme bouts of sweating and feelings of intense heat. The night sweats, which are also caused by a decline in estrogen levels, can awaken women during the night by soaking sweats, accompanied by chills. Other menopause-related symptoms that can lead to body odor are depression, anxiety, irritability, panic disorder, vaginal dryness and digestive issues.
Causes of Body Odor
Fluctuating hormones are the culprit for changes in body odor during menopause. When a woman’s estrogen levels drop, it affects the hypothalamus, an area of the brain that closely regulates body temperature. The hypothalamus senses that the body is too hot, due to mixed signals, and tells the body to release the excess heat. The body dilates the blood vessels near the skin, face, head, neck and chest. One’s heart begins to pump much faster and the hypothalamus amplifies sweat production, resulting in body odor.
Other non-hormonal causes of body odor can be related to diets, stress, diseases, synthetic fabrics and lack of essential vitamins. Excess proteins, carbohydrates and lipids can cause body odor. Stress can cause the limited estrogen your body has to go into overload mode, which can cause an unpleasant odor. Excess sugar can cause bacteria and fungus to surface on your skin. Some other causes of body odor that aren’t due to a hormonal imbalance are:
- Hot beverages
- Red meat
- Spicy food
- Low blood sugar (Hypoglycemia)
- Heart attack
Managing Body Odor
Daily Lifestyle Changes
You can easily change your lifestyle to improve your body odor. Also, if you attempted to make any of the listed lifestyle changes and your symptoms don’t disappear, it is recommended to get regular check-up’s with your healthcare provider to help identify any health issues that might be occurring or that will need to be taking care of.
- Bathe Daily – Taking a bath daily will reduce bacteria on your skin and reduce body odor.
- Use a Deodorant Soap – Use an anti-bacterial soap, at least twice a day, to scrub away the bacteria.
- Completely Dry Yourself - If you do not dry yourself completely after taking a bath, bacteria and fungi tend to thrive in moist environments, especially your toes, armpits and groins, which can cause a bad odor.
- Talcum Powder – Using Talcum Powder helps to absorb sweat and unwanted moisture and dampness in skin.
- Wear Cotton Clothing - Cotton clothing socks absorb sweat better than synthetic material. Cotton breathes the most effectively out of all of the fabrics.
- Change Your Shoes – It is important to change your shoes and socks daily. Try not to wear the same pair of shoes and socks for more than two days in a row.
- Antiperspirants and Deodorant – Deodorant aims to reduce body odor by neutralizing the smell of the sweat. Antiperspirants aim to reduce perspiration by clogging, closing and blocking the pores with astringents, so they can’t release sweat.
- Wear Loose-Fitting Clothes – Wearing loose-fitting clothes will allow your skin to breathe better. Tight clothes allow for a breeding environment for bacteria.
- Plant-Based Diet - Research has shown that adopting a plant-based diet that includes phytonutrients and chlorophyll can act as a natural deodorant. Whole grains, leafy green vegetables, nuts, soy products, seeds and fresh fruits can help to reduce body odor in as little as two to three weeks.
- Avoid Spicy Food - Avoiding spicy and strong pungent food, like onions, curry, garlic and ethnic food may be causing your body to give off offensive odors.
- Eliminate Tobacco - Many people are surprised that if they eliminate smoking, within three-four weeks, they can completely rid their body of odors.
- Chew on Neutralizers – Chewing on neutralizers like alfalfa, parsley and many other leafy greens helps to neutralize strong scents.
- Vitamins - Take chlorophyll or wheat grass supplements with your meals, since they both are natural body deodorizers. Adding magnesium and zinc through vitamins.
- Alternative Medicine – Although many people can treat body odor through making certain adjustments to their diets and lifestyle, some people may have persistent symptoms that can only be cured with alternative medicine. Chinese medicine and acupuncture are successful in treating sweating. It is said that how one sweats is a key factor in identifying disharmony within the body. Chinese medicine and acupuncture aims to treat each individual uniquely, depending on their pattern and symptoms of body odor. Because sweat is considered an essential substance in Chinese medicine, different types of acupuncture can be administered based on the type of body odor one is experiencing.
- Black Cohosh One of the most commonly used herbal remedies is Black Cohosh, a perennial plant that is a member of the buttercup family. It provides powerful phytoestrogens that mimic the hormone’s effects and bind to hormone receptors in the uterus and other parts of the body, alleviating hot flashes. Black Cohosh is also known to relieve hot flashes efficiently and is a good alternative to HRT. It is also used effectively for treating PMS, arthritis and lowering blood pressure. Red Clover, Dong Quai, Ginseng, Kava and evening primrose oil can be used as natural therapies, although there are some risks involved. Herbal supplements are not as closely regulated as prescription drugs and the amount of the herbal product, quality and safety may vary between brands.
- Herbal Remedies – Some common herbal remedies are applying diluted rosemary or tea tree oil to the underarms for a little deodorizing action. Also, many people experience relief from applying witch hazel and apple cider vinegar to one’s underarms. This application changes the pH of the skin, so the bacteria simply cannot grow. Two of the most common types of herbs that can be used for managing menopausal body odor are phytoestrogenic and non-estrogenic herbs. Some of the most common phytoestrogen herbs are Saint Johns Wort, Black Cohosh and Dong Quai – all which contain estrogenic components produced by plants and replace some of the missing estrogen hormones experienced as a result of menopause. Although these herbs are known to maintain the balance of key neurotransmitters in the brain, they can also make your body less responsive to producing its own hormones, causing a further decrease of one’s hormone levels. Non-estrogenic herbs are known to nourish one’s hormonal glands into producing its own natural hormones. By stimulating one’s own hormone production, non-estrogenic herbs, such as Macafem. Macafem is grown in the Andes of Peru and has achieved great success in naturally increasing one’s hormone levels.
- Hormone Therapy Treatments (HRT) - For more severe cases of menopause, women may seek surgical or pharmaceutical treatments, although it is important to keep in mind that there are many studies showing hormone replacement therapy (HRT) increases a woman’s risk of elevated blood pressure, endometrial and breast cancers, strokes, blood clots and gallbladder disease. It is advised to speak with your doctor or healthcare professional regarding the negative side effects before you begin treatment.