Do you have body odour?
It sounds like an insulting question in the scrubbed, deodorized and perfumed times in which we live. Yet the smells we emit are likely just another vestige of our evolutionary journey and may have once served to advertise our sexuality.
In fact, pheromones, the sex chemicals that help us attract a mate, are secreted from the same apocrine glands that are responsible for the odour. Not washing increases the amount of pheromones produced, but it also builds up sweat. Consequently, any mate-attracting benefits that might be derived from going unwashed would likely be cancelled out by the pungent smell.
Sweating is the body's way of regulating its temperature, and on average we lose over a litre of sweat per day. Exercise, hot weather and anxiety will increase this function. So does being overweight and eating certain foods including fish, onions, garlic, cumin and curry. Medical conditions such as thyroid disease and infections will also cause more sweating.
The sweat that the apocrine glands manufacture is actually odourless.
But bacteria feast on this milky, protein-rich liquid, producing the foul-smelling chemical compounds that we pick up as body odour, or just plain BO.
Soaps and Suds
The first step in combating this largely neglected and misunderstood problem is to thoroughly wash underarms and groin areas once or twice a day. Avoid antibacterial soaps, which may contain many potentially toxic or harmful ingredients. Chemicals such as ethanol can irritate the respiratory tract and cause impaired vision and loss of muscle control. Or benzyl acetate, a known carcinogen, has been associated with pancreatic cancer and is also an eye and lung irritant.
Use chemical-free natural soaps made up of plant ingredients such as olive, coconut or soy oil rather than animal products. Natural soaps also contain botanical essential oils instead of synthetic perfumes and fragrances that can irritate and cause health reactions in the sensitive.
Change your clothes at least once a day, twice in hot weather. Wear only natural fabrics such as 100 percent cotton, which absorbs the sweat better than synthetics, allowing it to evaporate more quickly.
Antiperspirants are basically drugs that reduce the amount of perspiration the body produces. Many contain antibiotics and other harmful ingredients such as aluminum chlorohydrate. Aluminum is known to damage the brain and spinal cord. High levels have been implicated in degenerative diseases such as senile dementia and Alzheimer's. Toxicity symptoms include nausea, increased perspiration, fatigue, motor paralysis, local numbness, skin ailments, twitching leg muscles, decreased appetite, constipation, colic, and the fatty degeneration of kidneys and liver.
Try using sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) instead. Apply it directly to your armpits after bathing as a very good safe and natural alternative. This simple, non-irritating and inexpensive product absorbs sweat well, and kills off the odour-producing bacteria too. Other products that don't contain aluminum are also available.
Supplementing with antioxidant vitamins such as vitamins C and E may also be beneficial to skin. They help to limit the odour of apocrine sweat but will not reduce the amount of sweat produced.
This deodorizing action can also be obtained from antibacterials such as spruce, fir, benzoin and rosewood. Cypress, geranium and lemongrass are astringents as well as deodorants that actually decrease the amount of sweat produced by occluding or shrinking pores. Place one or two drops on a moistened deodorant crystal (available at health food stores) and apply.
To avoid possible skin irritation, always do a patch test when trying any new product. Simply apply the extract to an adhesive bandage and leave it on the skin for 24 hours. If the skin starts to itch or hurt the patch should be removed immediately. Any reaction beyond a slight reddening is unacceptable.
Sage remains one of the most highly recommended antiperspirants in use today and is prescribed for nervous conditions as well. Steep one teaspoon (5 ml) of dried leaves in a half-cup (125 ml) of water for 30 minutes. Take one cup (250 ml) a day, a tablespoon (15 ml) at a time. Sage will reduce perspiration about two hours after it is taken, and the effects may last for several days.
Nothing increases perspiration more than agitation and stress. Stay as calm as possible and avoid upsetting situations. There are also many calming herbal remedies other than sage available at health food stores everywhere. Products such as chamomile and St. John's wort have a well-documented soothing effect on ragged nerves.
As an added precaution, always check with a naturopathic physician or qualified herbalist before embarking on any course of treatment.
Eyes on Eating
Watch what you eat. Dr. Mark Cousins of the North Shore Naturopathic Clinic in BC cautions that excessive odour on the outside may mean you are toxic on the inside. He recommends a clean, well-balanced diet with a high water content as found in grains, beans, vegetables and fruit. "On a clean diet, you may still have excessive perspiration," says Cousins. "But there will not be an unpleasant odour."
The pesky problem of body odour and sweat even has its advantages, as recent research has shown. It seems that sweat contains a natural antibiotic called dermcidin, which may hold our skin-dwelling bugs in check and keep more harmful organisms at bay. Reason enough to avoid harsh deodorants and medicated soaps that kill all bugs, thereby upsetting the skin's natural bacterial balance and leaving it vulnerable to opportunistic infections.
Body odour can be embarrassing, but there are many natural methods to ensure you don't sweat it too much.
Body odour is often a result of improperly eliminated waste in the body. The B vitamins are especially important in the removal of waste. Zinc reduces strong body odour. Chlorophyll tablets or the chlorophyll in many green food supplements also help reduce body odour by supporting the liver and detoxifying the body.
Source: Encyclopedia of Natural Healing (alive Books, 1999).
Give BO the Boot