Body odor is a mysterious thing. We know everyone has it to a certain degree, but why does it affect some people more than others? Why are some people more prone to it, what causes it and why can it be so difficult to get rid of? No doubt we've all asked ourselves these questions at some point. Today we'll look deeper into body odor causes and why it can affect people differently.
Body odor is a result of both internal and external factors. Bacteria that live on the surface of our skin interacts with proteins in sweat, but not just any sweat. Our bodies have two types of sweat glands, apocrine and eccrine. Eccrine glands are found over the majority of the body. The sweat produced from eccrine glands have a high water content is primarily used to cool the body. Apocrine glands on the other hand produce a thicker, fatty type of sweat. They are located in specific areas such as the underarms, perianal area, eye lids and the inner ear. Apocrine sweat contains proteins and lipids, and unlike eccrine sweat is not secreted directly onto the skin. Rather is first passes through hair folicles and then is released onto the skin.
Because of the high protein and lipid content of apocrine sweat, this makes it ideal 'food' for bacteria. As they break down sweat they release odor compounds that cause body odor. This means that the more a person sweats or the more apocrine sweat glands a person has, the more they are likely to stink. Interestingly enough, not everyone has the same amount of glands. For example, people of East Asian descent genetically have fewer aporcrine sweat glands than any other race. For this reason they are generally less prone to having body odor.
In addition, the amount of hair can influence body odor. Hair provides a greater area on which bacteria can live. More bacteria also means more odor compound being produced.
Another cause of body odor is from our diet. Different foods contain different amounts of compounds, namely sulfides. Foods high in sulfides include meat, seafood, egg yolk, galric and onions. As your body digests these foods, the sulfide compounds are absorbed into the body. They eventually get released through sweat, skin and other openings in the body.
These compounds are known as volatile sulfur compounds and generally have an odor similar to that of rotting eggs. They are also a primary cause of bad breath odor as well.