By Amy M. Keller
1. What causes foot odor?
When the normal bacteria on your feet interact with moisture trapped in your socks and shoes, they emit stinky sulfurous byproducts, says Doris J. Day, M.D., an assistant professor of dermatology at New York University.
The fix: Since dry feet equals odor-free feet, wear absorbent cotton socks with shoes made from breathable materials, like canvas and leather, and sprinkle Zeasorb - an over-the-counter drying powder - into your shoes every morning. Three nights a week, pour a pot of tea made with several regular (not herbal) tea bags into a basin, then soak your feet for five to 10 minutes. The tannic acid in tea temporarily inhibits sweat production. See your doctor if your feet are also red, swollen or scaly to make sure a bacterial or fungal infection isn't causing the smell.
2. Why does my breath smell despite constant brushing?
Although brushing will help prevent cavities (so don't stop scrubbing), it can only mask bad breath, since the problem really lies within your throat and tongue, not your teeth. When the bacteria in your mouth lose access to oxygen (which can happen when you use alcohol-based mouthwashes, take certain prescription medications for depression or high blood pressure or simply sit with your mouth shut for a long time), they emit smelly sulfur compounds, says Harold Katz, D.D.S., founder of The California Breath Clinic in Los Angeles; this is the same principle at work with foot odor. Eating garlic and onion also makes your breath stink because they contain - surprise - those same sulfur compounds.
The fix: Contrary to popular belief, a tongue scraper won't banish bad breath - sulfur compounds cannot be removed manually. Instead, keep your mouth oxygenated by drinking water throughout the day and using an over-the-counter oral rinse with chlorine dioxide in both the A.M. and the P.M. to neutralize sulfur compounds. (Try TheraBreath Oral Rinse.) Chewing on oxygen-rich vegetables, like parsley and celery, can also diminish odors. If these tricks don't work, see your dentist.