Grossology: The Science of the Disgusting
Kids and adults learn how and why the body does those yucky things it does - like pooping, farting, belching, and making snot.
Sweat & Body Odor
"Smelly sweat comes from sweat glands located mostly in the armpits but
also in the crotch, anus, and a little on the scalp," Branzei writes.
Sweating is the body's air conditioning system. When sweat is released, it
coats the skin to remove heat from the body. When sweat evaporates, you cool
down. Salts and urea are left behind. That's why sweat tastes salty and feels
Until age 12 or so, sweat glands aren't active. That's why adults are so
stinky and kids aren't, she explains. The sweat itself is actually not a
problem; it's pretty much odorless. In fact, your palms have more than 2,000
sweat glands -- much more than any body part -- but they don't attract bacteria
that cause bad smell.
Some foods like onions, garlic, curry -- and even some medications -- can
give your sweat an extra scent, explains Horesh. Some physical changes can
cause excess sweat, as happens with infections, menopause, anxiety, and
overactive thyroid. "And the more you sweat, of course, the greater chance
that bacteria on your skin will make you smell," she says.
Also, a diabetes-related problem called diabetic ketoacidosis can cause a
sweet, slightly fruity -scented breath or skin smell, Horesh says.
Factoid: During the Middle Ages, bathing was not in
style. Not having to bathe was a sign of wealth. They certainly did sweat and
stink, however -- and covered it up with perfumes, oils, and spices.
Almost everyone occasionally has bad breath (halitosis), Branzei writes.
Bacteria cause "morning breath," which brushing will eliminate. Enzymes
in onions and garlic cause their own special breath problems; enzymes get into
the blood, which makes its way to your lungs, so you breathe flavored gas.
Smokers' breath comes from smoke that contaminates the lungs.
When bad breath is a chronic problem and can't be eliminated with mints,
mouthwash, brushing or avoiding onions, it may be a symptom of a different
problem. Sinus infections, allergies, decaying teeth, diseased gums, and
digestive problems are just a few reasons for chronic bad breath. It's time to
check with a dentist or a doctor.
Post-nasal drip and acid reflux can cause bad breath, notes Horesh. As with
sweating, diabetic ketoacidosis can also trigger a sweet, fruity smelling
breath. "It's rare, but we do see it."
And while it's not a dangerous problem, something called
"tonsiliths" or "tonsil stones" are fairly common, Horesh adds.
"It's mucus mixed with natural mouth bacteria that forms a dime-sized
collection that looks like cauliflower. It gets stuck in the roof with your
tonsils, and you can cough it out. It looks really gross, but it's a natural
phenomenon. It just freaks a lot of people out."
"These are all the things that doctors love to talk about," Horesh
tells WebMD. "We think we've got a great story to tell at a party when we
talk about a patient who was vomiting bile 3 feet out. Then when people start
walking away we realize not everyone is comfortable hearing about these