Foods that Make You Sweat and Smell

Is it true that you are what you eat? Your body odor may provide the answer.

Most of the time, off-putting body odors and bad breath are normal conditions that clear up once you take a shower or brush your teeth. Some smells that emanate from within signal a medical problem, however, while others simply reflect the contents of your last meal. Even when body odors have nothing to do with health or hygiene, they most certainly put your social life at risk.

You have your very own, unique body odor, just like you have your very own, unique fingerprint. No two people smell exactly the same. When you're clean and healthy, your normal body odor, including your breath and sweat, pretty much carries a neutral scent. Spice up your diet with too much garlic, onion, curry or other strong seasonings, however, and your personal fragrance may become malodorous.

Eating spicy foods in excess, or drinking too many alcoholic or caffeinated beverages, can make you sweat more than usual. Excessive sweat on your head, under your arms or near your genitals creates an environment where bacteria feed and thrive. These bacteria break sweat down into its chemical components and these are responsible for the odor that often accompanies excess sweat.

Some people have a rare enzyme disorder that gives them a fishy body odor. Known as Fish Odor Syndrome, the symptoms worsen when foods high in the nutrient choline-egg yolks, organ meats, and saltwater fish, for example—are consumed. People with this syndrome cannot properly digest these foods and need to restrict them in their diets.

The type of meat you eat can change your innate body odor. A clinical study published by Czechoslovakian researchers in the journal Chemical Senses found that the body odors of men who ate a non-meat diet were less intense and more attractive to women than the odors of those who ate meat. When the meat-eating men switched to a diet that included no beef, pork, or other red meat, the odor formed by their sweat was perceived as more pleasant.

Not all body odors are related to food, however. A condition known as hyperhydrosis, in which unprovoked and excessive sweating occurs under the arms or on the palms of the hand or soles of the feet, and may be accompanied by noticeable odor, is a sweat gland disorder, most likely due to a genetic quirk in the nervous system. If you have this or a similar condition, and strong antiperspirants and powders don't help, your doctor can help you find medical solutions.

Bathing daily, drying your skin after bathing, changing your clothes regularly, choosing natural fabrics that "breathe" well and don't promote excessive perspiration, and maintaining good oral hygiene by brushing your teeth after every meal, flossing and if, necessary, using mouth rinses, can go a long way to preventing and offsetting offensive body odors. Relaxation techniques can help decrease stress that may be causing you to perspire more than usual.  If your body odor problem is merely a result of your eating (or drinking) habits, however, you may have to change your diet or at least cut back on some of those disagreeable foods and beverages.


Havlicek, J and Lenochova, P. "The Effect of Meat consumption on Body Odor Attractiveness." Chemical Senses 2006 Oct; 31(8):747-52

Vemuri, V. "Odor" University of California Davis. 1997 Web 18 Jan 2011

The University of Chicago Medical Center: Questions and Answers About Hyperhidrosis