Sweating and Body Odor

What is Sweating and Body Odor?

Sweating is a natural process of the body and it occurs due to the eccrine and apocrine glands in the body. The eccrine glands work to cool down the body when a person gets too hot or engages in a physical activity. The apocrine glands produce sweat that has a high protein content and they are active when an individual becomes nervous or is under stress.

When sweat is released from the sweat glands, it mixes with the various kinds of bacteria that are present on the skin and forms acids. The result of this process is often the unpleasant smell of body odor. Some individuals have medical conditions that cause them to sweat profusely or have a distinctive body odor.

What are the Symptoms of Sweating and Body Odor?

The symptoms of sweating are the presence of a watery substance on the skin when a person gets hot or feels nervous. Because of the apocrine glands, every person has their own identifiable body smell and with good personal hygiene, body odor will rarely become offensive.

Symptoms of medical conditions that can cause changes in sweating and odor include hyperthyroidism, menopause, diabetes, and kidney and liver disease. Symptoms that may indicate a medical problem include an increase in sweating, cold sweats and waking up at night due to sweating. Individuals who notice they have an odd or different body smell should also visit their doctor.

Sweating and Body Odor Causes

Sweating is a natural bodily function which primarily works to cool the body down. When our bodies are too hot, glands in the skin produce a liquid which sits on the surface of the skin and evaporates in order to cool us off.

The two kinds of sweat glands in the body are eccrine and apocrine. Eccrine glands, which are found across most of the skin all over the body, open out directly onto the surface of the skin and produce sweat made up primarily of water and salt.

Apocrine glands are instead usually found in areas where lots of hair grows, such as the armpits and groin. They produce a type of sweat which contains proteins which can more easily be broken down by bacteria which naturally lives on the skin. Sweat from apocrine glands is odorless until it meets bacteria, which then causes body odor.

Body odor can be made worse by certain factors, such as:

– Being overweight
– Consuming foods like garlic and spices
– Consuming alcohol
– Medical conditions such as diabetes, liver disease and kidney disease
– Use of some medications such as antidepressants

How is Sweating and Body Odor Treated?

Individuals can often treat their body odor at home by taking a shower or a bath at least once every day. Using an antiperspirant can help control odor by closing off the pores that release sweat. If store bought antiperspirants do not work, a doctor can prescribe a stronger antiperspirant that contains aluminum chloride. Wearing clothes that are made with natural fibers, such as cotton, silk or wool, will help sweat evaporate. Body odors that are present due to a medical condition will often disappear when treating the condition.

Sweating and Body Odor Prevention

Sweating is a natural bodily function and important for regulating body temperature. However, if you feel you sweat excessively, you should use an antiperspirant which contains aluminum chloride to reduce the production of sweat. Those who find store-bought antiperspirants to be ineffective may be prescribed stronger varieties by their doctor.

To prevent body odor, it’s important to remove as much bacteria from the skin as possible. Showering or bathing every day will help with this, and using antibacterial soaps on the armpits may be particularly useful.

It may also be helpful to shave the armpits, which will allow sweat to evaporate faster in order to reduce the bacterial breakdown of the sweat and prevent odors. Wearing natural, breathable materials like wool or cotton will also help skin to breathe and sweat to evaporate faster.

Last Reviewed:
October 09, 2016
Last Updated:
November 30, 2017