Overview Two types of glands produce perspiration. The eccrine glands cover most of the body and produce odorless sweat, while the apocrine glands at the underarms, genitals and scalp release fatty perspiration. Bacteria feed on this fatty sweat, and the chemical breakdown process can result in body odor. If you have disagreeable body odor, Health Services at Columbia recommends eliminating certain foods, spices and beverages one by one to see if this resolves the problem.
Strong-smelling foods Spices and vegetables with strong smells can cause body odor as well as bad breath. For instance, these effects are commonly linked to eating garlic, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health at its MedlinePlus website. Other culprits include onions and curry.
Meat A study published in the August 2006 issue of "Chemical Senses" found that eating meat can lead to unpleasant body odor, at least as judged by women. Seventeen men ate both a meat and a non-meat diet for two weeks, and wore pads to collect body odor on the last day of each diet. The odor samples were evaluated by 30 women not taking hormonal contraceptives. They generally considered the odor of participants on the non-meat diet as significantly more attractive and pleasant, and less intense. CBSMoneyWatch.com quotes medical doctor Dean Ornish explaining why eating meat can cause body odor. Ornish says large amounts of meat take a long time to travel through the digestive tract, and it decays along the way. This leads to bad odors in the person's breath, perspiration and bowel movements.
Alcohol and caffeine Alcohol and caffeine consumption can lead to disagreeable body odor, as noted by Health Services at Columbia. Try avoiding alcoholic beverages if you suspect that might be the problem. Otherwise, eliminate coffee and caffeine-containing teas and colas, as well as chocolate, and see if that helps.
Trimethylamine foods Some people have a genetic disorder called trimethylaminuria in which the body cannot break down the amino acid trimethylamine. This causes a fishy body odor when trimethylamine builds up in the body. Although the condition is rare, if you have this type of body odor, you might try avoiding foods containing this amino acid and its precursors. Some of these foods include eggs, liver, kidneys, seafood, fish oil, milk from wheat-fed cows, peas, beans, soy and soy products, peanuts, and vegetables from the cabbage family. Besides cabbage, these include broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower.