Does Eating Certain Foods Make You Smell Funky?
We live in a competitive world. If you want to have professional, personal or social success, there are things you have to do. For instance, you have to brush your teeth. People are only willing to tolerate so much bad breath before they just plain avoid you.
The same is true of body odor. If they can smell you coming, they’re probably going to avoid you, and that just doesn’t help anyone get ahead. Hopefully, you know a few hygiene tips to keep your worst odors at bay, but there’s a good chance that ignorance is making this battle more difficult than necessary.
The truth is that your diet plays a huge role in how you smell. Understanding what foods do to your natural odor can go a long way in helping you to be anything other than the smelly kid in the room. The truth is that any food at all can have a small impact on how you smell, but the ones on this list tend to be the strongest culprits.
Back during Vietnam, the U.S. Air Force conducted survival training in the Philippines. The pilots in training were released into the wilderness and told to evade capture for as long as possible. No matter how hard they tried, no one lasted more than a couple of days. When they asked the local trackers how they were caught, the answer was always the same thing. They followed the smell.
This is completely real, and it’s not limited to a single cross-cultural instance. People from cultures with wildly different diets often can smell each other. It’s not always unpleasant, but in the case of this survival training, it was strong enough that the trackers didn’t need dogs or special tools. They could just sniff out the guys in training.
For those of you who aren’t great at geography, the Philippines are a series of islands. The amount of land available to raise cattle is limited, and it means that red meat is less of a staple in the Filipino diet. That’s the secret to the success of those trackers. They didn’t eat much red meat, and their targets did.
What does this mean for you? If you go hard on the beef, it’s going to change your natural scent. A burger or steak every now and then won’t make you repugnant, but when you take the 40 oz. steak challenge, you’re going to smell strange the next day.
So if red meat can make you smell funky, the answer is obviously to go vegan, right? Not so much. The truth is that any diet at all is going to impact your personal musk. We’re focusing on the foods with the most weight in making you smelly, but everything has a cost. Avoiding meat isn’t an answer because a lot of the healthiest vegetables also come with a stench warning. The vegetables that are the worst are called cruciferous veggies. This category includes broccoli, cabbage and mustard. There’s a lot more than just those, but if you think about it, you can see how these might be the smelliest veggies around.
The issue with cruciferous foods is that they tend to have a high sulfur content. You might already know that sulfur, on its own, tends to smell like rotten eggs. Well, digesting these vegetables releases that sulfur into your body, and it is often excreted as sweat. Some people literally sweat out a rotten egg smell, and it’s because of their diet.
Sadly, that’s not the end of the story. Sulfur-rich sweat is a delicacy for skin bacteria. Once you start sweating rotten eggs, the bacteria go into overdrive. That produces a whole extra layer of funk and B.O., so these veggies get you twice.
We already mentioned that cultural dietary differences can affect nasal sensitivities. While stereotypes go way too far to make fun of this, there is real science that is worth discussing. Red meat isn’t the only dietary staple that can account for varied personal scents. Spices in your food will actually have the most impact.
Now, when you think of spicy foods, you probably go straight to hot peppers. You might consider Mexican-style dishes or strong curry to be the spiciest foods you eat. Those can give you a little smell, but the bigger issue is the spices in the food. Garlic and onion will give you way more funk than peppers.
In fact, you’ve probably smelled someone’s garlic sweat at some point. This is a very real thing. A buildup of spices can reach a point where they leak through the pores. Unfortunately, spices that have been processed by your body smell quite different from aromas in the kitchen. Instead of of rich smell that makes people hungry, garlic sweat and its variants make you smell bad.
Everything you’ve read up until now can make you smell bad, but to an extent, the funk will be in the nose of the beholder. Alcohol is the one thing you can imbibe that will universally make you stink. There’s no doubt about it. You’ve been around people who drank enough that you can smell it on them. You’ve probably also identified a friend’s hangover just by how they smelled when they stumbled into the room. Here’s the wakeup call. You smell just as bad when you get your drink on.
Let’s learn a little more science. When the human body metabolizes alcohol, it produces acetic acid. This is yet another substance that can leave your body through sweat glands. That alone isn’t too bad, but acetic acid is on a short list of foods that is a culinary delight for skin bacteria. In particular, it feeds the bacteria known for producing the worst kinds of B.O. In every culture known on this earth, alcohol funk is unpleasant. If you’re going to party hard, make sure you take a shower the next morning. Maybe have a glass of water first, but don’t skimp on the shower.
What’s the Cure?
So you can’t eat red meat or vegetables, put spices in your food, or drink? How are you supposed to get through life? Well, the answer to managing your diet-controlled funk is simple. It’s also the most boring answer in the world: moderation. A burger a week isn’t going to make you smell so strongly of red meat that people can’t stand to be around you. It still might be enough for a skilled Filipino tracker to find your hiding spot, but it won’t make anyone’s eyes water. The same goes for your veggies, spices and drinking. If you mix the broccoli with some less-potent greens across the week, you’ll mostly be fine. Every once in a while, you might want to go hard on the spices, but in general, you can limit that kind of eating too. As for drinking, there are plenty of reasons to keep that under control. Smelling pleasant is just another on that list.
When moderations isn’t on the table, you can strategize around your funk. Find someone who has a similar diet, and you won’t smell each other no matter how much you indulge. Sure, strangers are going to give you a wide berth on the streets, but at least you’ll be happy.
You can also take the more direct approach. You can shower regularly. When you do, it washes sweat and the things mixed into it away from your skin. That’ll get rid of odorous chemicals and starve the bacteria that really make you stink.
Let’s recap. What did we learn today? Your favorite foods definitely make you smell funky. You can limit that funk by eating and drinking in moderation. You can steer into the skid and try to hang out with people who smell as funky as you, or you can just shower on a regular basis. Your life is yours to live, but there should be a useful lesson somewhere in there.