Body odour, just like mouth odour, is an unpleasant thing that anybody can grapple with. Medically referred to as bromhidrosis, experts say body odour occurs when the bacteria on the skin’s surface breaks down sweat into acid, releasing malodorous chemical compounds in the process.
They note that the most active regions of perspiration include the hands, feet, armpits and the groin area because of a relatively high concentration of sweat glands in those areas. Consequently, they aver, body odour is most likely to occur in those parts of the body and on the rest of the skin in extreme cases.
They are of the view that body odour is caused by a number of factors working in combination. These include chemicals in sweat, wastes excreted through the skin, the actions of bacteria that live on the skin, and dirty clothes.
Physicians say no one is born with body odour, but that if a newborn wasn’t cleaned properly at birth, it could result in skin issues that can lead to body odour.
“As far as we know, body odour happens at puberty because of increasing hormones called androgens. These hormones are not active until puberty, which is why body odour is never a problem among young children,” scientists say.
Dermatologist and Medical Director of Skin Health Centre, Dr. Kunle Owoeye, notes that body odour usually becomes evident among pubertal female of between 14 and 16 years, and among males ages 15 to 17.
Owoeye says this is so because most cases of excessive sweating tend to start during a person’s teenage years, and that in order to ward off possible negative consequences such as body odour, the adolescent must be scrupulously hygienic, especially because of the various, progressive and unrelenting biological and hormonal changes that attend that important decade of a growing youngster’s life.
“The truth is that the crucial steps that individuals take at this point in time may determine their overall skin health as time goes on,” he says.
Another Lagos-based skin specialist who doesn’t want his name in print explains that individuals with certain medical conditions, such as diabetes, are also susceptible to having body odour.
He says diabetic patients may develop body odour when their blood sugars are poorly controlled, as it may lead to the development of a condition called ketoacidosis.
“This condition not only gives the breath a fruity smell, it can also cause a distinctive body odour. Should this happen, it should be considered a medical emergency and medical help should be sought without delay,” he warns.
Physicians also warn that body odour can be a sign of serious liver or kidney disease, whereby the body is incapable of processing and removing certain toxins due to the diseased state of any of these organs. They recommend doing a blood test to ascertain how well the kidneys and liver are functioning.
A nutritionist, Dr. Remi Omotunde, also advises that when eaten over a long period, fatty foods, oils, or strong-smelling foods such as garlic, curry, and onions, can seep through the pores of the skin and cause body odour.
He also says people who are obese can develop body odour. Owoeye adds that this is because the extra energy exerted by obese people can increase the production of sweat and lead to the ideal environment for odour-causing bacteria to form and thrive.
“Obese people have more skin surface as a result of the crevices that come with rolls of body fat. The crevices serve as avenues for moisture to accumulate, with the attendant increased possibility for bacteria growth in those rolls of flesh,” the dermatologist says.
Experts also say that, occasionally, an overactive thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism) can lead to body odour due to the tendency of the patient to sweat excessively as the thyroid gland hyperfunctions. They advise people who notice this problem to go for physical examination and blood test in order to rule out any health problem.
So also can sweat gland disorder cause body odour, experts say. Owoeye explains that when this happens, an individual may experience excessive sweating, medically referred to as hyperhidrosis. “Excessive sweat aids bacteria to convert the skin surface to a breeding ground, resulting in body odour,” the doctor enthuses.