Are you among the millions of people spending money each year on topical health and beauty products designed to reduce or change body odor? If you are, and your purchases don’t work well, consider looking in another direction—toward my natural approach to a happy and healthy body odor.

Recent scientific studies have confirmed that humans produce individually unique body odors. Science has also shown that we can smell both fear and happiness and can recognize the scent of people we know well.

Body odor primarily comes not from perspiration, but from fluid produced by scent glands, also known as apocrine glands. They are most abundant in the armpits and groin. They open into hair follicles and produce a fluid rich in fats and proteins. Apocrine gland fluid is what determines your individual scent. This scent can change when it reacts with bacteria, dirt, or other substances on your skin. Apocrine glands do not become active until adolescence. That’s why the body odor of babies and young children is bland and largely related to external factors like hygiene and environment.

Scent gland fluid is affected by many processes happening within your body: hormones, emotions, illness, infection, and medications. Certain conditions will also change body odor. High stress, fright, and joy will cause a body odor that others nearby can detect. Advanced liver disease causes a musty, decaying smell. Kidney disease or dehydration can lead to an ammonia-like body odor. Uncontrolled diabetes creates a fruity scent. Patients with a bacterial infection may smell like rotting meat. A yeast infection can make you smell like a brewery.

The internal scent gland process is why deodorants and antiperspirants are largely ineffective. To change body odor, you have to change your physiology, from the inside out.

It’s essential to remember that your skin, like your liver, kidneys and lungs, is an organ of excretion. You smell like what you eat and drink. So, your best bet for a pleasant body odor is to have a healthy diet, one high in fresh water, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and plant oils like olive and sesame. Pay attention to how much meat, fast food, sugar, alcohol, soda, and coffee you consume. Because the by-products excreted by these substances smell bad, eating an excessive amount can lead to bad body odor. Do your own armpit sniff test: You can smell the difference between a day when you ate poorly, had four cups of coffee, and very little water, and a day when you ate well and took good care of yourself.

The other key to eliminating bad body odor is neutralizing bacteria in your armpits and groin. Do this effectively and safely with simple soap and water. If you want to augment with a deodorant, choose one that contains green clay and other natural ingredients. Green clay absorbs odor and moisture. Dyes, preservatives, and synthetic scents do nothing to improve body odor and may be harmful when used over a long period of time.

Remember that various factors—stress, fear, diet, health—may require you to repeat your soap and water or green clay regimen once or twice throughout the day.

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