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 ammonia 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 ammonia or vinegar-like odour, truly unpleasant, at times reminiscent of food gone bad. Naturally, I was horrified.
When I was a child I would eat garlic all the time and only experienced 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 ammonia 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.
Symptoms of bad body smell caused by eating garlic
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:
- Acidic, sour odour coming from the nose when exhaling air.
- Strong ammonia-like body odour emanating from my skin pores.
- Smell grew stronger when it was hot and I was sweating.
- I did not or could not perceive the smell myself.
- Did not have garlic breath.
How to get rid of bad body odor
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 the garlic smell faster:
- Stop eating garlic. It goes without saying that we need to stop eating garlic, fresh, ground or other form.
- Drink plenty of water. Our body uses water to flush out toxins and waste through the skin and kidneys.
- Brush your teeth after every meal, clean the tongue and use mouthwash for garlic breath.
- 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.
- Try to improve body odor by eating alkaline foods, especially fresh fruits and vegetables, and drinking milk to neutralize the pungent oils in garlic that cause the bad garlic breath.
How does garlic cause a bad body smell?
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 sulfur 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 bloodstream, from where it end up in 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, ammonia or garlic-like odour through the skin. It takes our body some time to metabolize this particular sulfur compound, so we might smell of garlic for a while after eating it. See these other 8 side effects of eating garlic.
What to eat for bad garlic smell
Chat certain foods and beverages can counteract the smelly effects of the pungent volatile compounds in garlic, at least to a certain extent. These include:
- Apples, pears, bananas and other foods that brown when exposed to air.
- Lettuce, spinach, parsley, mushrooms.
- Mint, peppermint and mint tea, green tea.
- Lemons and lemon juice, cocoa.
- Coffee. Drinking coffee and chewing on coffee beans also helps with the odor.
- Milk. Drinking milk helps neutralize the pungent oils responsible for the taste of garlic.
- Cardamom, cloves, fennel or anise seeds. Chewing on condiments can help with bad breath.
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 organic sulfur compounds in garlic.
Other foods that cause you to smell bad
Eating other problematic foods can contribute to bad body odour as well. Here are a few examples of foods that make you smell bad:
- Onions, leek, chives, wild garlic and related vegetables. Also see the 11 side effects of eating onions.
- Eggs (in certain people who cannot process them properly).
- Asparagus which makes urine smell bad.
- Vinegar and pickles, if eaten too often and in too large amounts.
- Durian – the durian fruit is reputed for its bad odor.
- Too much fiber (causes fermentation and flatulence).
- Foods that cause acid reflux such as coffee, alcohol, spicy foods and spices in general etc.
- Cigarettes and smoking.
- Eating too much red meat and animal products which causes more of an unpleasant heavy body odor.
- Too much dairy products, especially matured cheeses, fermented milk, even whole milk in people who cannot process lactose.
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.