Sweating or perspiration is a normal body mechanism that helps get rid of waste substances. It is common to have slight smell in sweat, however if sweat smells like vinegar or has strong odor, it can be imperious and embarrassing to people around. Body odor causes may vary but mostly it is due to the smell of compounds released through skin and sweat. The odorous compounds may be due to external and internal factors.
While sweat itself may be odorless, when bacteria covering the skin surface break down the sweat, it is the byproducts of the reaction which result in distinctive odors. A number of compounds are released when bacteria break down sweat. The compounds are mostly acids and they tend to produce different smells.
The common acid compounds that are associated with odor are propionic acid, which smells like vinegar, and isovaleric acid, which smells like cheese. The body consists of two main types of sweat glands. These produce different kinds of sweat.
For example, eccrine sweat glands are found in many parts of body and they produce sweat that helps in cooling the body. Eccrine sweat glands release sweat onto the skin and the sweat typically consists of water. Apocrine is another sweat gland found under groin, armpits, around eyelids, and areola.
Apocrine glands produce thick sweat containing substances that bacteria feed on when it is being secreted. The apocrine glands tend to be larger than eccrine glands and they remain dormant in body through childhood and become active in puberty. Apocrine sweat, when it is broken down by bacteria is what causes body odor.
Causes of sweat smelling like vinegar
Propionibacteria are found living in sweat glands of skin. These bacteria are named so because of their ability to break down amino acids thereby turning them into propanoic or propionic acid. This acid has a smell of vinegar.
A person may have sour-smelling sweat whenever there is change in bacteria flora within the skin and in gut. Diet, for example, may alter the bacterial flora in gut. Weather may also cause changes in bacterial flora in skin because bacteria tend to thrive in different weather such as dry, hot, and cold.
Lack of personal hygiene may also attribute to vinegar smelling sweat. When an individual does not shower regularly, sweat begins to accumulate on skin. The body excretes wastes by sweating, and when you don’t remove the waste from skin, it will cause odor due to increased action of bacteria.
What people eat may have a role in determining body odor. It also determines bad breath and foot odor. Some nutrients and compounds you may find in food, particularly in large amounts, may result in odor. Organic compounds like sulfides tend to have pungent odor and they may be released in body at time of digestion and absorption. When they are absorbed, they can be released in sweat through skin.
Foods like yogurt, onions, garlic, red meat, cabbage, spices like coriander, and asparagus may result in increased body odor when consumed in large amounts. When you have a diet rich in proteins, you may have vinegar like smell on sweat.
People with diabetes are reportedly said to have sweat smelling like vinegar. The increased sugar content in body may cause the smell in patients with diabetes. The breakdown of sugar results in acidic compounds such as those found in vinegar; thus the smell.
When diabetes is left untreated, a patient may have diabetic ketoacidosis. In diabetic ketoacidosis, the body is unable to use sugar or glucose for fuel. Since there is insufficient insulin, the body will begin breaking down fat to get energy or fuel for the body. This eventually leads to formation of ketones in body. The building up of ketones results in change in body odor.
Hormonal changes may affect the amount of sweat released on skin. Menopause is a common hormonal change which tends to be associated with body odor. Hot flashes are common side effects of having menopause and they can lead to increased sweating. When there is more sweat being produced, it means that more acidic compounds are being released due to bacterial break down of additional sweat. This may result in increased body odor such as vinegar smelling sweat.
Dealing with vinegar like sweat
When you find out that you are having vinegar like sweat, you may want to determine what is causing it. Getting rid of this kind of odor may be as simple as taking frequent showers or limiting the use of food items that may increase this odor, such as increased protein intake.
You may also want to seek help of a doctor to be examined for diabetes because it is a possible cause. You may want to avoid using products that alter bacteria flora on skin. Talk to a skin care expert to find out how you can reduce the bad odor on skin.
Filed in: Conditions