Garlic Body Smell: Causes, Symptoms and Remedies

Garlic Body Smell: Causes, Symptoms and Remedies. Not very long ago I was introduced to Italian cuisine and one of the first dishes I learnt to make was tuna spaghetti with tomato sauce and garlic. Never had it crossed my mind that eating even 2 cloves of sweet, cooked garlic could make me smell as bad as it did. Even worse, that I wouldn’t notice the smell myself and simply went about my life stinking and not knowing it. Because the odour was unbearable.

I smelled of putrid, unwashed, vinegar, garlic and amonia and it was intense and overwhelming for those around me, but not for me. I am a perfectly healthy person with great hygiene and a generally pleasant body odour. Yet not long ago, I acquired quite the foul scent and did not know where it came from. I didn’t even know I smelled bad until my husband pointed it out to me. The smell initially came from my nose and, after a week, was emanating from every pore of my skin. When I asked my husband what I smelled like to him, he explained it was a strong amonia or vinegar-like odour, truly unpleasant, at times reminiscent of food gone bad. Naturally, I was horrified.

Garlic smell

When I was a child I would eat garlic all the time and only experieced the normal garlic breath that lasted for a few hours. However, after eating tuna spaghetti for about 2 weeks in a row at lunch, I started smelling bad from the garlic, just did not know it. Looking back, the odour began in my nose. After a week or so of eating 2 or 3 cloves of garlic a day, my husband pointed out that there was a bad smell coming from my nose when I exhaled. Surprisingly, my mouth smelled just fine (so no garlic breath), probably because I was brushing my teeth regularly. Naturally, I did not know at the time that the garlic I had been eating was the culprit.

The first thing I suspected was a sinus infection. It was also summer and quite hot outside, so we were always in the car with the air conditioning on and the cold air did upset my sinuses at the time. After waiting it out for four days or so, I went to the doctor and was put on antibiotics as a preventive method. It was really strange that the smell wasn’t emanating from my mouth at all, but from my nose. Naturally, the antibiotics did nothing and I was afraid that maybe there was something wrong in my lungs.

As if things weren’t worrisome enough, in another week’s time, my husband pointed out there was quite an unpleasant smell emanating from my skin, all over my body. But I couldn’t smell anything. According to him, it was an amonia smell, vinegary, acidic somehow. It was then that I decided to change my diet completely and only ate foods I knew were safe: fresh fruit, nuts, whole grains and leafy greens. And the smell slowly faded. Until I made tuna, tomato sauce and garlic spaghetti again and the smell returned. Only then I realized what was causing the odour: it was the garlic.

Garlic body odour

After doing some research on the topic I found out that garlic is one of those foods that can make you smell bad. The symptoms I experienced included:

1) Acidic, sour odour coming from the nose when exhaling air.
2) Strong amonia-like body odour emanating from my skin pores.
3) Smell grew stronger when it was hot and I was sweating.
4) I physically could nor perceive the smell.
5) Did not have garlic breath.

How to get rid of bad body odour caused by eating too much garlic? This is only a matter of flushing out the garlic out of our system. Only after clearing out the problematic food will our body restore its normal odour. Here is a list of things you can do to get rid of garlic smell faster:

1) Discontinue consumption. It goes without saying that we need to stop eating garlic, whatever its form.
2) Drink plenty of water. Our body uses water to flush out toxins and waste through the skin and kidneys.
3) Brush teeth after every meal, clean the tongue and use mouthwash for garlic breath.
4) Take a hot bath or shower to help open up the pores and encourage the body to clear the garlic from our system.
Sometimes, more than one shower a day is needed, especially after working out.
5) Try to improve body odour by eating alkaline foods, especially fresh fruits and vegetables.

The reason why garlic causes a bad skin odour is because of the way it is metabolized in our body. Garlic and other related vegetables are rich in organosulfur compounds, naturally occurring compounds that give them their characteristic odour. Most sulphur compounds in garlic are released when we crush and chew the cloves in our mouth, giving us garlic breath. But not allyl methyl sulfide. Following the digestion of garlic, this particular compound is released into the blood stream, from where it reaches our lungs.

Our body eliminates it with the help of our lungs and through the pores of our skin. In other words, eating significant amounts of garlic can have us exhale quite a pungent garlic aroma from our lungs (hence the smell of my nose) as well as give off a sour, vinegary, amonia or garlic-like odour through the skin. It takes our body some time to metabolize this particular sulphur compound, so we might smell of garlic for a while after eating it.

Bad body odour

It is believed that certain foods and beverages can counteract the smelly effects of the pungent volatile compounds in garlic. These include:

1) Apples, pears, bananas and other foods that brown.
2) Lettuce, spinach, parsley, mushrooms.
3) Mint, peppermint and mint tea, green tea.
4) Lemons and lemon juice, cocoa.
5) Green tea.
6) Drinking coffee and chewing on coffee beans.
7) Drinking milk.
8) Chewing on cardamom, cloves, fennel or anise seeds.

It has been suggested that the enzymatic reaction known as (enzymatic) browning and attributed to polyphenol oxidase enzymes is what makes most of these foods great for bad body odour caused by garlic consumption. Milk is believed to help reduce garlic breath if it is consumed along with the garlic or soon after. Other acidic beverages such as lemon juice, green tea or coffee work by interacting with and neutralizing the effects of the organosulphur compounds in garlic.

Eating other problematic foods can contribute to bad body odour as well. Here are a few examples of foods that make you smell bad:

1) Onions, leeks and other related vegetables.
2) Eggs (in certain people).
3) Asparagus.
4) Vinegar and pickles.
5) Durian.
6) Too much fiber (causes fermentation and flatulence).
7) Foods that cause acid reflux such as coffee, alcohol, spicy foods and spices in general etc.
8) Smoking.
9) Eating too much red meat and animal products.
10) Too much dairy products, especially matured cheeses, whole milk etc.

Conclusion. Body odour is something we all care about very much as it has an incredible social impact. Aside from keeping to good hygiene, we must also learn to avoid certain foods and beverages and increase our intake of others if we want to enjoy a pleasant body odour because everything we eat contributes to the way we smell. I ate too much garlic and ended up smelling bad, so I now know that I need to avoid it despite its wonderful health benefits. There are many more foods that, just like garlic, can make some of us smell bad. We simply need to pay attention to the effects our dietary choices have and learn to eat better to improve our health in every aspect, body odour included.

12 thoughts on “Garlic Body Smell: Causes, Symptoms and Remedies

  1. It doesn’t surprise me that the odor got worse after the round of antibiotics. Bacteria helps you deal with toxins, and since you erradicated the bacteria from your body the toxins couldn’t be released as well as when you had the bacteria.

    • Well, I was releasing those byproducts even before the antibiotcs. It was just that I kept eating garlic so the odour would still be present until I would have changed my diet to exclude the cause: garlic. If only I had known I was eating too much garlic and didn’t need that round of antibiotics. But I took them at my doctor’s advice. I guess the odor must have been pretty bad. Joking aside, I was lucky because the smell disappeared a few days after finishing my antibiotics, despite the fact that the antibiotics didn’t help with it. But I did notice that day 3 into my antibiotics my intestinal transit was like clockwork and kept being so for a couple of weeks afterwards. Overall, I am happy the experience ended well because I know what big of an impact a bad body odour and antibiotics can have.

  2. I don’t eat garlic but sometimes I eat ready made spaghetti sauce in jars. Overnight and in the morning I can smell my home as though there was a gas leak from a pipe, could be ammonia not sure. But not very pleasant. I thought it was my heater giving off a sulfur-like smell but realized that it was the garlic from prepared foods. It’s a good thing I take hot showers every day, it does help get rid of the smell.
    I smell the off-garlic in the bus when it is cramped with people and I just want to gag. I don’t think many took hot showers.
    Garlic should be illegal! I think fried onion is more tolerable.

    • Hot showers really help because garlic can make your skin smell bad all over. But if you eat too much, then the smell won’t go away easily because you actually sweat garlic. This was my experience at least. Because I have had such an unpleasant experience, I try to avoid eating it. If I ever crave a clove, I eat it only when I know I’ll be spending the day at home and won’t meet anybody. And you are right: fried onion is a lot better. When you cook it and it gets sweeter, it probably loses most of its pungent compounds, so no after-smell.

  3. I thought I was going crazy because I could smell a garlic smell coming off me sometimes (not daily but occasionally) as if it were on my chest and arms and everywhere. However my underarms didn’t smell bad, so I knew it wasn’t just bad perspiration. Now I looked this up and it makes sense because of the various foods I ate when I went out recently. Nothing a soapy shower couldnt get rid of though.

    • Unless you’re clueless like me and keep eating garlic. In my defense, my underarms didn’t smell either, just my skin, and that was what made it all the more confusing and had me guessing for some time.

  4. I’m surprised by the comments. I am hypertensive and been eating at least 3 cloves of raw garlic per day on the advice of my doctor. It indeed improves on my blood pressure control. But I never get anyone or myself including my wife to tell me that I smell badly or have a bad odour of any kind. Nor has anyone told me anything like that. I asked my wife time and again and she says I smell goo. So I believe I do not have any garlic related oduor. Could there be anything wrong with me? Someone out there help explain my situation. My wife says she only smells it it my excretions like urine when I go to the toilet.

    • Hello, Atika. There is nothing wrong with you. It’s not a rule that you have to smell like garlic if you eat it. It’s just something that happens to some of us. Some bodies just metabolise certaincompounds in garlic differently, hence the garlic smell on the skin. For most people, eating garlic just makes their breath smell bad, but for others like me the skin too takes on a bad odour. We are all different and so we may respond differently to various foods. Some people get a really upset stomach after eating pineapple. Others get diarrhea after eating buttermilk (a sour, acidic milk). Others get a headache if they drink coffee or caffeinated beverages. I get bad smelling skin if I eat garlic. That’s just how we’re made. So while garlic appears to be good for you because you said it helps you with your blood pressure, it’s just not that good for me. And it’s ok. Wishing you lots of health.

  5. My 24 year old daughter has a strange smell that comes and goes. It has at times been totally repulsive but it baffles me. She eats very healthy and showers regularly and I am stumped. It is a musty or mothball smell not a sulfur or oniony underarm smell. She uses a lot of spice in her food and sometimes garlic. To me it seems to come from her entire body not her breath.

    She does not know she smells either. I know she will be crushed when she finds out others smell her. I have asked medical people and they keep saying it could be v. malodor but that is supposedly continuous.
    Any insight would be appreciated.

    • Hello, Andrea. I am confused to where the smell comes from. Is it an overall bad body odour or does it affect only certain areas? In any case, if she has been eating garlic, it is possible the smell is caused by this and it can be both a local or a generalized bad odour. Garlic makes me smell horribly, although I don’t smell a thing myself. There are several foods that can really make us smell bad and garlic is one of them. Eggs, fish, onions and even other more pungent herbs can cause bad body odour. Changing one’s diet completely and only eating safe foods that shouldn’t make one smell of anything (lots of fresh fruit and more bland vegetables like carrots or spinach, grains or chicken) can maybe help get rid of the bad body odour, wherever it may come from. Cheeses, pungent vegetables like onions, leek, garlic, chives, even cauliflower or cabbage, heavy meets and fatty foods, coffee etc. can slowly change the way we normally smell and lead to all sorts of bad odours. I would try excluding potentially problematic foods and then reintroduce them into my diet one by one to try and pinpoint the culprit, but this could take time. The truth is you’re never prepared to hear ‘you smell bad’, but telling your daughter the truth can maybe help her discover the cause faster. You should also stay in touch with your doctor in case there is a chance an infection is causing the bad smell, which is somewhat likely if the smell is localized and there are other symptoms. Hope things work out for the best. Wishing you both lots of health and hope to hear good news from you.

  6. So how much garlic is too much? I recently found this to be my odor problem too. I have been eating about 3 cloves per day also. Thanks!

    • Hi, Mike. If garlic is what is making you smell bad, then it will continue to do so as long as you eat it, no matter the quantity. Although the more you eat, the stronger the smell and the more long-lasting it is (I speak from experience here). And, dare I say, 3 cloves is quite a lot to eat every single day. It can really fuel the smell. I’ve found that giving up garlic for at least a week, drinking plenty of water and showering often helps reduce the smell and eventually makes it disappear, but if you eat it again, the body odour will most likely return. What I do is avoid garlic in general, but treat myself to some every once in a while if I really want to eat it (but make sure I don’t socialize very much two or three days afterwards). Hope this helps.

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