5 body odours that could mean you have a disease

Whether you’ve just completed a
gruelling workout or chowed down on some onion in your burger or salad,
chances are at some point, you’ve been that guy who stunk up the room.
In most cases, a simple shower, swipe of deodorant, or line of
minty-fresh toothpaste could remedy the situation. But in other cases,
it’s not so simple.

That’s
because your body odour can actually speak volumes about your health.
In fact, some diseases can actually produce a unique, distinguished
odour, according to a recent Swedish study.

So which
funky fumes should you take note of? Here are 5 common body odours that
might signal a serious problem—and what you should do if the stench
arises.

1. Bad breathe is a symptom of sleep apnoea

If
your morning breath is consistently ripe—even if you brush your teeth
regularly—you could be dealing with undiagnosed sleep apnoea, a disorder
that causes your breathing to sporadically stop and start while you
sleep.

Sleep apnoea can lead to excessive snoring,
causing you to breathe through your mouth throughout the night. This can
make your mouth very dry, which is a common cause of bad breath, says
Raj Dasgupta, M.D., assistant professor of clinical medicine at the
University of Southern California.

This allows bacteria
to breed more readily—and when certain kinds multiply, they produce a
sulphurous gas that can give your breath a rotten egg smell. If you’ve
ruled out other causes of bad breath, but still wake up with a smelly
mouth and you suffer from daytime sleepiness and snoring, schedule an
appointment with your doctor. The sleeping condition has been strongly
associated with diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease, so
treating it sooner than later can spare you of its long-term health
effects, Dr. Dasgupta says.

Once you’re diagnosed, your
sleep doctor can recommend a continuous positive airway pressure device
(CPAP), a mask that rests over your nose and mouth helps that helps
keep your airways open while you snooze.

2. Fruity breath is a symptom of diabetes

Credit
a complication of diabetes called diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), which
occurs when your body runs low on insulin and your blood sugar spikes,
says Robert Gabbay, M.D., Ph.D., chief medical officer at the Joslin
Diabetes Center in Boston. People with type 1 diabetes generally
experience it more than those with type 2 diabetes do.

Here’s
what’s happening: Your body can’t create the energy it needs to
function properly, so it begins to break down fatty acids for fuel. This
creates a build-up of acidic chemicals called ketones in your blood.
One of the main acids—acetone (the same component found in nail polish
remover)—can leave a fruity smell on your breath, Dr. Gabbay says. You
might not notice it until someone else mentions it, but doctors can
smell it on you as soon as you walk into a room.

The
effects of DKA can be serious—even deadly. It can make you vomit and
urinate frequently, causing your body to lose fluids at a dangerous
rate, he says.

DKA generally occurs with other symptoms
of diabetes, like fatigue, blurred vision, and unexplained weight loss,
but in many cases, people don’t put them all together, which delays
diagnosis and treatment. So if you notice the fruity odour on your
breath along with any of those symptoms—especially if they are
accompanied by fatigue, dry mouth, difficulty breathing, or abdominal
pain, head to the emergency room as soon as possible, the American
Diabetes Association recommends.

After your doctor
tests your blood for ketones, he or she will work on replacing lost
fluids and getting your sugar levels back to normal with insulin
treatment.

3. Stinky feet is a symptom of athlete’s foot

Can’t
seem to fight funky sneakers? A fungal infection may be to blame. If
you notice dry, scaly skin around your toes, redness, and blisters, you
may have athlete’s foot, according to the American Podiatric Medical
Association (APMA).

Your feet might also emit a foul
odour, caused by a combination of bacteria and fungus eroding into your
skin and toe webs, says Cameron Rokhsar, M.D., associate clinical
professor of dermatology at the Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. And if
you scratch your feet and then touch another part of your body, you can
spread athlete’s foot to other areas of your body, like your groin or
armpit. That can potentially cause an odour to form in those areas, too.

Plus,
if you ignore athlete’s foot, the skin in between your toe webs becomes
excessively soft and moist, making it an entry point for bacteria, says
Dr. Rokhsar. You can develop more complicated conditions like
cellulitis, a bacterial infection of your skin’s soft tissue.

So
if you’re experiencing symptoms, try an over-the-counter antifungal
spray. If the problem continues to persist after two weeks, your doctor
can take a closer look and prescribe a more targeted treatment, suggests
the APMA.

Since athlete’s foot is just one of the
nasty skin conditions you can pick up at the gym, protect yourself from
picking it up again by wearing shoes in the locker room. Because fungi
tend to thrive in moist environments, try using a talcum to keep your
feet dry if they tend to get sweaty.

4. Smelly poop is a symptom of lactose intolerance 

When
your small intestine doesn’t produce enough of an enzyme called
lactase, it can’t digest lactose, a sugar found in dairy products, says
Ryan Unargo, M.D., assistant professor of gastroenterology at Mount
Sinai Hospital in New York.

So your small intestine
directs lactose directly to your colon—instead of your bloodstream—where
your gut bacteria ferment it. This can cause loose, foul-smelling
stool, bloating, and smelly gas, Dr. Unargo says.

Lactose
intolerance is fairly common: In fact, an estimated 65 percent of
people have trouble digesting dairy, according to the National
Institutes of Health. But the reaction—including painful stomach
cramping, nausea, diarrhoea, and vomiting, as well as smelly farts and
poop— can vary from person to person, says Men’s Health nutrition
advisor Alan Aragon, M.S.

For most people, though, it
only takes 12 grams of lactose—about 220 millilitres of milk or a cup of
ice cream—to set off unsettling symptoms, he says.

So
if your gas or poop smells particularly pungent after you down some
milk, you might want to check in with your doctor, says Dr. Unargo.

He
or she can diagnose the problem, or even rule out more concerning
intestinal issues, like Crohn’s disease, as a culprit behind the stench.
Then, your doctor can help you determine how much lactose you can take
in per day without causing a problem. (You can also pop a Lactaid pill,
which contains the lactase enzyme and allows you to digest dairy within
45 minutes, if you just must have a sundae, Aragon says.)

5. Strong-smelling urine is a symptom of a urinary tract infection

Urinary
tract infections (UTIs) can produce pungent, almost chemical-smelling
urine, says Jamin Brahmbhatt, M.D., a urologist at Orlando Health. This
happens after bacteria, most commonly E. coli, enter your urinary tract
and urethra. Then, they multiply in your bladder, causing an infection.

UTIs
are more frequent in women than men because their urethra—the channel
that drains the bladder—is shorter. So men often ignore their smelly
pee, since they figure they’re not at risk of one.

Not so: “Usually, men get infections if there’s something not allowing their bladder to drain” Dr. Brahmbhatt explains.

This
means your UTI could be signalling a bigger problem, like kidney
stones, diabetes, or an enlarged prostate gland, which can require
surgery to treat, he says. So if you notice your pee smells funky, check
in with your doctor, who will test your urine to see what’s up.

body odour, sleep disorder, sleep apnoea, diabetes

Bottom Line: If you feel like you are experiencing any of these symptoms, don’t try to self medicate, always consult a doctor.

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