Body odor, from head to toes, can alert doctors to potential health issues—even cancer. Find out what those distinctive smells may signal.
Foul body odor
If a shower can’t cut the odor being emitted from your pits, it could be a sign of a magnesium deficiency. “The mineral magnesium helps in ‘deodorizing’ our internal organs and also helps with our body odor,” says cardiologist Robert Segal, MD, founder of LabFinder. When we consume too much caffeine and sugar and processed foods, it can deplete magnesium levels. If you’re not smelling so fresh and have other symptoms like muscle cramping, twitching or numbness, and tingling, ask your doc about a simple blood test to check your magnesium levels. Read more about what your body odor is really trying to tell you.
If you have a digestive disorder such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, you could be short on zinc. This mineral helps your body manage waste and toxins, says Dr. Segal; when a digestive order is present, the body may not absorb zinc as it should. Too little zinc—you might stink. A blood or urine sample can test levels, but zinc has a pretty low presence in the body to begin with. Since it’s related to a digestive order, talk to your doctor about how to manage the odor. Learn about 6 more sneaky reasons you might smell worse than normal.
If a floss, brush, or piece of minty gum can’t cut the odor, you may have a bacterial infection, Dr. Segal warns. A common bacteria called H. pylori that can take up residence in your digestive system could be to blame. For some, the bacteria doesn’t cause any noticeable symptoms; for others, it can lead to GERD, celiac disease, stomach ulcers, and even gastric cancer. Your doctor can test you for the bug; antibiotics can wipe it out.