Body odours you should never ignore

BY CANDIECE KNIGHT

Monday, October 15, 2018

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WE all have our own unique scents, though we are usually not aware of it. If we trust our noses though, we can easily tell when something is amiss in our bodies. Most times unpleasant body smells are not serious, and can be rectified by making small lifestyle changes. There are some odours, however, that may indicate more serious underlying health conditions, so we should never ignore them.

Bad breath

It's normal to have a little funk first thing in the morning or after eating sardines, for example, but constant bad breath, or halitosis, is a condition that you should pay attention to. Internist Dr Samantha Nicholson-Spence says halitosis can be a sign of dental infections such as abscesses, deep cavities, gingivitis, and periodontitis. It can also signify sinus issues such as chronic sinusitis. It's not a comfortable conversation to have, but if brushing, flossing and rinsing with mouthwash can't fix it, you should bring it up at your next dental appointment.

Fruity breath

Though not as unpleasant as halitosis, having a noticeably sweet-smelling breath is not something you should ignore. “It is a serious potentially fatal complication of absolute insulin deficiency in diabetes classically seen in type 1 diabetes,” Dr Nicholson-Spence says.

She explains that the scent is caused by ketoacidosis, a complication of diabetes, which causes the breath to have a scent similar to that of nail polish remover. She says fruity breath is often accompanied by excessive thirst and frequent urination, which are also symptoms of hyperglycaemia.

Smelly feet

The most common cause of smelly feet is excessive sweating. Whether this is due to being enclosed in shoes for long periods, or vigorous exercise, smelly feet are usually easily remedied by keeping them clean and dry. Dr Spence notes, however, that smelly feet can be a symptom of a fungal disease such as athlete's foot (tinea pedis), which is a contagious infection that can spread to the toenails and hands if not treated.

Smelly poop

Of course it's always smelly, but if you notice that your stool has a sudden revolting odour, you should pay attention to it.

“Blood, undigested material and fats may cause this. Blood from the upper gastrointestinal tract gives stool a black, tarry consistency and it will be smelly,” Dr Nicholson-Spence says.

“Lower tract blood will give stool a maroon to red colour. The more brisk or lower down the tract it is then the redder it will be.” This is usually a sign of malabsorption, which can be caused by celiac disease, pancreatitis, or other illnesses of the digestive system.

Potent or sweet smelling urine

“Potent urine is usually a result of more amine (by-products of bacterial breakdown of urea) in the urine,” explains Dr Nicholson-Spence. “If the urine is very concentrated, it will be more pungent.”

This is usually a sign that you are not drinking enough water. You should be concerned, however, if your urine suddenly begins smelling sweet. Similar to fruity breath, this can be a sign of diabetic ketoacidosis, hyperglycaemia, or even a urinary tract infection, all of which require treatment.

Fishy or unusual vaginal odour

After a long day, even a perfectly healthy vagina will have a little musk because of where it is located. But if something smells fishy to you, don't ignore it.

“Fishy vaginal odour is seen in bacterial vaginosis (BV) which is a bacterial overgrowth in the vagina,” Dr Nicholson-Spence says.

Though vaginal odour can change at different points in the cycle, or with pregnancy, a strange vaginal odour can also be a sign of trichomoniasis, an STD, or in rare cases cervical or vaginal cancer.

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