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Can What You Eat Make You Sweat?

The Most Offensive Foods continued...

Garlic isn't alone in making us smell. Some of its relatives in the alliaceous family, including the onion, can also produce a particularly pungent sweat.

The other notorious odor-producing food family is cruciferae, which includes broccoli, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts. Cruciferous vegetables are also loaded with sulfur-containing compounds.

Aromatic spices like curry and cumin can leave a lingering aroma on your skin. That's why you smell like an Indian restaurant for hours after you've eaten at one.

Even a food that doesn't itself have a strong odor can change the way you smell, particularly if you eat enough of it. In one study, a panel of female sniffers was asked to compare the sweat of people who had pigged out on meat for two weeks to the sweat of non-meat eaters. The panel's conclusion: The meat eaters had a more intense and less attractive odor than the non-meat eaters.

How Can I Reduce Food Odors?

There's no magic pill that will stop your sweat from smelling after you've eaten a big plate of pasta with garlic sauce. The only way to prevent smelly sweat is to avoid the offending food entirely.

Glaser says some of her patients have tried drinking a lot of fluid after eating stinky foods. They've told her that the practice reduces body odors, although it doesn't eliminate them.

Sometimes it helps to eat the cooked -- rather than the raw -- form of a food. For example, roasted garlic tends to be less stinky on some people than raw garlic.

Don't Sweat It -- Get Help

Even if you do indulge in a particularly fragrant or spicy meal, any changes to your sweat shouldn't linger.

If you're sweating profusely or there's a new and unusual smell wafting from your skin and it doesn't go away, it might be due to a health problem.

Several different diseases, including diabetes and thyroid disorders, can change the way you smell or cause you to sweat excessively. One rare inherited condition called trimethylaminuria causes people to give off a rotten fish odor. The smell is a result of their bodies not being able to properly break down a fishy-smelling compound found in some foods.

"I think if somebody really has a new issue with their sweat -- it's way too much, it has a foul odor, or there's something very different about it -- they need to check it out with their physician to make sure it's not indicative that something else is going on," Glaser says.

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Reviewed on August 12, 2010

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