| Food & Diet

How Food Affects Our Hygiene

By Sara Novak

After spending the past year locked up in the house as a result of the pandemic, you might have let your hygiene slip a bit. Skipping showers sometimes, forgetting to shave, skipping the deodorant. But now that we’re all back out in the world, it’s time to step it up again. Did you know that what you eat can impact your hygiene? Yes, your diet can make you smell and if you eat certain foods it can come through in your sweat and flatulence. Some foods can even make you sweat. Here’s what you need to know about the connection between your diet and hygiene. 

Key Takeaways:

  • What Is Hygiene And How To Improve Yours
  • How To Naturally Maintain Good Hygiene
  • Foods That Have The Biggest Impact On Your Hygiene

Table of Contents:

What Is Hygiene?:

What is Hygiene

Hygiene, according to the World Health Organization, is the daily practices that you do to maintain health. That can mean washing your hands throughout the day, washing dishes, washing food before you cook it, laundering your clothing, and the list goes on. Personal hygiene usually means personal cleanliness. For example, practicing good oral hygiene, taking showers, wearing deodorant, shaving, etc. 

Why Does Hygiene Matter?:

Why Does it Matter

Hygiene not only keeps you healthy, for example, in the whelm of food safety, it’s also about how you want to present yourself to the world. If you smell bad or have bad breath, it pushes people away and shows them that you don’t take yourself seriously. It’s about how you want the rest of the world to perceive you. A few months ago I had a Zoom call with a public relations executive about a potential story idea. He showed up to the meeting in sweatpants. This showed me that he didn’t take our meeting seriously. And it was hard for me to take him seriously after that. 

What Is Body Odor?:

What is Body Odor

So why does sweat smell in the first place and what is the purpose of it? Sweating is how we cool down and detoxify. Some of us sweat more than others and sweat can be related to diet as well as mood. Those with anxiety or nervousness are more likely to sweat and their sweat is more likely to smell. We have sweat glands all over our bodies. Sweat is made up of 99 percent water as well as urea, vitamin c, lactic acid, and some other substances. To be clear, there are too types of sweat: the super watery sweat that you release to cool down your body temperature when you’re working out or for some other reason overheated. And there’s also the sweat that occurs when you’re nervous, called apocrine, only produced in your armpits, groin, and scalp. 

When your sweat smells, it’s not actually because of the sweat. Rather, it’s the sweat reacting to bacteria on the skin, mixing together and creating a stinky smell. The same is true of flatulence. It’s the result of gas fermenting in the gut and then mixing with bacteria and releasing an odor. And your feet, that’s another place where you’re likely to smell and it’s for the same reason. Your feet have 250,000 pores on them and natural bacteria and fungus mix with the sweat to create stink. 

“If your feet are prone to excessive sweating, it’s important to buy breathable shoes made of natural materials like leather or canvas,” Dr. Rachel Ward, with Cleveland Clinic, says. There are other things you can do to combat sweaty stinky feet, such as keeping your feet dry, buying breathable socks that wick moisture away from your skin. You can also use over-the-counter foot antiperspirant or corn starch in your shoes.”

Natural Tips For Improving Hygiene:

Natural Tips

Synthetic fragrance isn’t good for your health. Over powering colognes and deodorants often contain synthetic fragrances which are almost always derived from petrochemicals. They also contain other dangerous chemicals like phthalates and benzene which can cause allergies, birth defects, cancer, and nervous system disorders. Smelling good should not be about synthetic fragrance. Here’s how to tend to your hygiene naturally:

  • Oil Pulling - Oil pulling is great for your oral hygiene. It keeps your teeth and gums healthy and clean, improves breath, and it even whitens your teeth naturally. All you do is put anywhere from a teaspoon to a tablespoon of coconut in your mouth and swish it around for 10 to 15 minutes before spitting it out. You can increase your time as you go.
  • Dry Brushing - Take a dry brush and move in circular motions across your skin, moving from the heart outward and down each limb. This is great for removing dry skin and improving your circulation. It’s a great detoxifying tool as well. It can be done before you take a shower each day. 
  • Tongue Scraping - Tongue scraping is a great way to remove ama, that gross white build up on your tongue. These are toxins that your body is expelling from your system. Scraping your tongue is not only a detoxifying tool, it may also improve your breath. 
  • Try The Crystal - The crystal body deodorant rock is a completely natural way to deodorize, it’s inexpensive, and it lasts a long time. Its natural mineral salts keep you smelling your best and it doesn’t contain any of the dangerous ingredients found in conventional deodorants like parabens, phthalates, synthetic fragrance, and the list goes on. 
  • Sneeze Into Your Elbow - Instead of sneezing into your hands and then shaking hands with someone, sneeze into your elbow. This is an easy tool for avoiding the spread of germs.
  • Notice Your Body Odor - Your body odor says a lot of about your health. If your sweat smells really bad it could mean that your sweat has too much acidity or it could mean that you’re eating foods that aren’t great for you. If you drink too much, your sweat can also smell quite unappealing. 

How Food Affects Our Hygiene:

The foods you eat can make you smell and as I mentioned above, noticing changes in the way you smell can say a lot about your health. Here are some foods that for better or for worse, can make you smell. 

1. Garlic


Garlic has a lot of benefits. It’s a plant found in the Allium (onion) family that has been used to treat a host of ailments in traditional medicine for thousands of years. Its sulfur compounds have many health benefits and garlic has also been shown to treat colds, reduce blood pressure, lower cholesterol, and slow neuro-degeneration. That said, if you’re eating a garlicky meal you’d better not be kissing anyone because it makes your breath smell. New research shows that garlic breath is differ then garlic body odor. A study published in the journal Appetite followed women who judged men’s body odor after eating or not eating garlic. According to researchers “odor samples were then judged for their pleasantness, attractiveness, masculinity, and intensity by 82 women. The odor of donors after an increased garlic dosage was assessed as significantly more pleasant, attractive, and less intense. Our results indicate that garlic consumption may have positive effects on perceived body odor hedonicity, perhaps due to its health effects (e.g., antioxidant properties, antimicrobial activity).”

Read More: The Magic Onion: Garlic's Health Benefits

2. Cruciferous Vegetables 

Cruciferous Vegetables

Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts are hard for your body to digest because many of us don’t have enough digestive enzymes to properly consume them. As a result they sit in the gut and ferment, which causes gas. According to researchers at Ohio State University, “these vegetables are very high in fiber, which doesn’t get digested by your body. When fiber travels to your colon, it reacts with bacteria to produce gas that we release. This is true of any high-fiber food. The difference with cruciferous vegetables is that they’re very high in sulfur-containing substances and these break down into hydrogen sulfide, which has a rotten egg kind of smell.” Cruciferous vegetables are often just too hard for your body to digest which can cause bloating, gas, cramping, and stomach discomfort. If you love vegetables, stick to easier to digest varieties like peppers and tubers like sweet potatoes, yams, and potatoes. 

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3. Asparagus


The sulfur compounds in asparagus can make your urine smell like rotten cabbage. Oddly, some people produce smelly urine as a result of consuming asparagus and some don’t. It’s not completely clear why but some researchers think it’s because there’s a genetic component to our digestive enzymes so some of us may digest the vegetable differently. 

4. Alcohol


Those who consume higher quantities of alcohol have been shown to have worse breath because of the balance of bad bacteria in the mouth. If you drink way too much one night, you might also notice that you sweat out the alcohol in your sleep and release the odiferous emanations from your pores the next day. This is because your liver does most of its processing at night and you’ve forced your liver to do too much work. You metabolize alcohol as acetate, which has a sweet signature smell and the more you drink, the stronger the smell. According to research published in the journal Annals of Human Biology, “daily alcohol consumption significantly increased the risk of hot flashes, night sweats, and bothersome night sweats.” If you’re producing this smell on a regular basis, it’s worth taking a look at your alcohol consumption and cutting back to one or two drinks per sitting. And sticking to organic or biodynamic wines and beers or a cleaner alcohol like organic tequila when you do drink.

Read More: How to Reduce the Effects of Alcohol | 3 Ways to Minimize the Damage

5. Spicy Foods 

Spicy Foods

You know that spicy foods make you sweat and sometimes that sweat can stink. Foods like curry contain sulfur compounds that are absorbed into your bloodstream and give off a stink as body odor pushes out from your pores. That said, spicy foods aren’t all bad. Curry contains turmeric which is excellent for your health because it’s loaded with antioxidants. A study published in the journal Chemico-Biological Interactions, found that “curcumin has shown antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and anti-cancer effects.” Spicy peppers also heat up your body which then needs to cool back down again which can also cause you too sweat more than you normally would. But they also kick your metabolism into high gear which is always a good thing. They’ve also been shown to help build immunity and stave off colds. 

6. Coffee


Sometimes coffee changes the balance of acidity in your system and it can contribute to a stronger smelling sweat. In some people it can also cause anxiety and nervousness, especially if you’re already prone to it, which can make you sweat more. As mentioned above, the sweat produced from nervousness is more likely to smell compared to the more watery sweat produced after a good workout. If you have a big meeting coming up or you have to give a presentation, it may be best to limit your caffeine or stick to something that’s not as strong like a high quality organic green tea. 

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