Beating the Body Odor Blues

No one wants to smell bad—especially Americans. In fact, we’re obsessed with the idea, constantly purchasing perfumes, colognes, toothpastes, gums, fresh-smelling sprays, and deodorants. Some websites even offer to send gentle letters to those not-so-pleasant-smelling friends and co-workers of ours. An awkward subject at best, body odor can be embarrassing, depressing and debilitating. But you can fight back . . . and win.

Probable Suspects. Around puberty, our apocrine glands kick into action, releasing thick secretions into hair follicles. Although odorless, the secretions produce a foul smell when mixed with bacteria on the skin. The problem worsens during emotional upsets and ovulation, when apocrine gland secretions rise. The salty mixture from our two million eccrine sweat glands doesn’t help. It cools down the body when flushed, but it also produces a moist environment tailor-made for breeding bacteria.

Toxic buildup and diet are more covert causes of body odor. The more toxins the liver has to filter out, the more overworked and sluggish it becomes. Over time, the digestive process and the detoxification pathways become clogged, resulting in encrusted waste matter along colon walls. This along with the putrefaction of waste materials not only robs us of vital nutrients, but also produces bothersome symptoms like bad breath and body odor.

Eating certain foods—like cumin, curry, garlic, fish, onion, dairy—could also cause body secretions to smell. Other culprits such as sugar, a high-fat/low-fiber diet or even antibiotics and medication can upset the balance of friendly flora in the intestines. That, in turn, impairs the digestive process, which provokes body odor all the more.

Winning the battle. You need to fight on two fronts: reducing bacteria on your skin and keeping your body nutritionally balanced. Here are ten of the best weapons against body odor.

1. Use pH balanced soaps and skincare products—to maintain the protective acid mantle of your skin. Try bathing in an apple vinegar wash twice a week. Pour 2 cups apple vinegar in your bath.

2. Get the right underarm protection. Deodorants help destroy bacteria and disguise odors. But look out for potentially toxic, irritating ingredients. Avoid aluminum (linked to Alzheimer’s Disease) and products with emulsifiers (known to clog pores). Consider products with tea tree oil, known for its antibacterial and antifungal properties. Or use a deodorant stone, made from mineral salts. Antiperspirants reduce bacteria-feeding moisture—but they block sweat glands and contain aluminum chlorohydrate. And to avoid stinging or irritation, always remember to wait 10-15 minutes after shaving your underarms to apply any deodorant.

3. Use one-part cornstarch to one-part baking soda to absorb moisture. Deodorize feet after bathing with a mixture of ½ cup cornstarch, ½ cup baking soda, and 6 drops of either eucalyptus or peppermint oil.

4. Add the natural deodorizer chlorophyll to your life. Try drinking a shot of wheat grass juice daily or munch on chlorophyll-rich parsley to freshen breath and aid the digestive process. Cook with chlorophyll-packed dill, mint, tarragon, and thyme.

5. Avoid dairy products and sugar—even “natural” sugars like molasses and honey. Protect your gastro tract from yeast-enhancing sugar. Look out for hidden sugars in everything from hot dogs, mayonnaise, and soups to nondairy creamers and cream-style corn.

6. Take 25 mg-50 mg of zinc or eat zinc-full foods. Try eggs, lean meat, and pumpkin seeds.

7. Detoxify your system regularly. It’s the only way to keep your liver and gastro tract functioning at optimal levels—and potential body odor at bay. You may find my Living Beauty Detox Diet Program (HarperSanFrancisco 2000) a helpful tool. It outlines an easy-to-follow, three-day plan in sync with the body’s natural detoxification cycles.

8. Include friendly flora and a fiber supplement in your regimen. Lactobacillus acidophilus and bifidobacteria can reestablish the proper pH balance in your digestive system. Adding a fiber supplement will gently whisk way that waste buildup.

9. Drink 10-12 glasses of water daily. Flush toxins from your body and keep metabolic processes humming along at peak levels.

10. Maintain a balanced diet. Overloading or cutting back in vital areas can throw your system off—and aggravate glandular secretions. Adapt a diet of 30% lean protein, to help the liver develop a sufficient amount of enzymes for the detox process; 30% essential fats (such as flaxseed oil, nuts, avocados and seeds), to lubricate the GI tract; and 40% slow-acting/high-fiber carbohydrates to sweep out that encrusted mass.

May all your days be but fragrant remembrances . . .

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