Published August 03, 2012
You know you're slightly pungent after a hard Spinning class or garlicky dinner.
But it turns out that some less expected factors—like how quickly you get dressed in the morning, the amount of carbs you eat, or whether you snore—can also affect your BO, breath, gassiness, and more.
Here's how to fix it, fast.
1. You Don't Towel Off After Showering
A speedy post-shower rubdown may end up causing a problem later on.
That's because moisture can get trapped between folds of skin, like below your breasts, under your love handles, or even between your toes, says Dr. Marina Peredo, a board-certified dermatologist in private practice in Smithtown, N.Y. "There's no access to air there, and it's easier for bacteria and fungi to multiply and mix with sweat, causing odor and irritation," she says.
Fix it: Peredo recommends this trick to her patients: "After you dry off, set a blow-dryer to cool and wave it over your belly, groin, feet—anywhere that gets uncomfortably sweaty." You can also sprinkle an absorbent powder with antifungal properties onto your skin or in your shoes.
2. You Love Spicy Foods
Foods with pungent ingredients, such as curry, garlic, and other spices, can not only cause bad breath, but also a bit of a body odor.
When digested, these foods produce several stinky sulfur-containing gases. Most of these byproducts are metabolized in the intestines and liver, but some, such as allyl methyl sulfide, are absorbed into the bloodstream and released through your lungs and pores, an effect that can last for a few hours or more, says Dr. Debra Jaliman, assistant professor of dermatology at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine.
Fix it: You can temporarily mask bad breath with mouthwash or by chewing a bit of fresh parsley, mint, or fennel seeds, but you'll have to wait until your body is done digesting before all the odor is completely gone. Sit down to a spicy meal in good company; it's tough to smell it on others if you all eat the same thing, says Richard Price, DMD, spokesperson for the American Dental Association. Avoid garlic-rich chow in the hours before an important meeting or date.
3. You Brush—But Only Your Teeth
Neglect your tongue, and your breath may not be as fresh as you'd like.
Your tongue is covered with thousands of small hairlike projections called papillae, which can trap and harbor tiny scraps of food. So even if you brush and floss regularly, small remains from your meals can hang behind, collecting bacteria and emitting hydrogen sulfide vapors—aka bad breath.
Fix it: Mouthwashes may help, but the best way to remove bacteria, dead cells, and food debris from the crevices of your tongue is with an inexpensive tongue scraper. Brushing your tongue with a soft-bristled toothbrush works well too. Gently clean as far back as you can without gagging. Also, switch to a toothpaste that contains chlorine dioxide or tea tree oil, a powerful disinfectant with a pleasant, eucalyptus-like smell.
4. You're Under Serious Stress
When an urgent project drops on your desk, sweating is part of how your body naturally handles the pressure.
Our bodies are smart. The famous fight or flight response mechanism—yep, the same one that helped our ancestors outrun saber-toothed tigers—increases sweating so that we don't overheat while we're battling it out. Fast-forward a few thousand years, and hectic days at the office can produce those same sweaty palms and sticky underarms.
Fix it: Try sage tea. It contains the astringent tannin and several antiseptic compounds that may act to calm down the sympathetic nervous system, which is what triggers all those stressy symptoms. Sage tea should reduce overall perspiration if sipped frequently in small quantities throughout the day. To make it, steep 1 to 2 teaspoons of coarsely powdered dried sage leaves in hot water and leave covered for 10 minutes to ensure all the active ingredients have been released.
5. You've Upped Your Fiber Intake
Fiber-packed foods are great for your health, but they may leave you feeling a little gassy.
Unfortunately, the reason some fiber-rich foods—such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans—keep you feeling full longer is the same reason that they can cause gas, according to the Mayo Clinic. This type of fiber, called soluble fiber, doesn't get digested until it reaches the large intestine (other foods typically get digested in the small intestine, earlier in the digestive process).
Here, healthy bacteria in your gut break down the fiber, which produces hydrogen, carbon dioxide, and even methane. Eventually, these smelly gases have to go somewhere—and they often exit in the form of flatulence.
Fix it: Add these foods to your diet over a few weeks so your body can adjust. If you use a fiber supplement, be sure to take it with at least 8 ounces of water and drink plenty of liquids throughout the day—fiber won't move easily through the digestive system without it.
6. You Snore Like a Banshee
Blame those nighttime noises for cover-your-mouth morning breath.
Sleeping with your mouth open dries out your oral cavity, enabling dead cells to accumulate and decompose on your tongue, gums, and cheeks. This is what causes morning breath.
Fix it: Skip the nightcap. Alcohol before bed can make snoring worse. Placing an adhesive snoring strip across the bridge of your nose can help by enhancing breathing. In the morning, in addition to brushing your teeth and tongue and flossing, gargle with a small cup of acidic lemon juice to kill odor-causing bacteria. Then eat plain unsweetened yogurt, which contains healthy lactobacillus bacteria, a probiotic that competes with and replaces the reeking bacteria in your mouth. The lemon-yogurt combo instantly neutralizes odor and lasts 12 to 24 hours, says Dr. Mark Moyad, Jenkens/Pokempner director of preventive and alternative medicine at the University of Michigan Medical Center.
7. You Eat on the Run
If you wolf down lunch in mere minutes because of work deadlines, you may have a burpy afternoon ahead of you.
Chewing too fast and drinking through a straw can cause you to swallow too much air. You release most of this air, which contains nitrogen, oxygen, and carbon dioxide, from the stomach by burping. What's left makes its way through the digestive tract until it is eventually expelled through the other end—as gas.
Fix it: An hour lunch break may be unheard of these days, but do give yourself enough time to chew properly, without gigantic bites. Put down your fork while you munch to slow down, if necessary. Also, don't eat when you're anxious, upset, or stressed—it can interfere with digestion.
On hectic days where you know you'll eat quickly, take two enteric-coated peppermint capsules (500 mg each) three times daily, recommends Dr. Ronald Hoffman, author of Alternative Cures that Really Work. Peppermint kills bacteria that cause bloating and relaxes gastrointestinal muscles for smoother digestion.