Dealing With Body Odor During Menopause: Reason & Solutions

Last updated 12.14.2023 | by Sabrina Johnson | 12 Minutes Read

This article has been reviewed and fact checked by Dr. Karen Pike, a senior physician administrator and board-certified emergency room doctor actively working in northern California. Read more at our medical disclaimer page.


Everyone experiences body odor from time to time, but most people assume it’s at its worst during our younger years. However, many women are surprised to find that once they hit menopause, body odor comes back with a vengeance. Some even worry if it could be a sign of an underlying health condition. But thankfully, in most cases, it’s simply a natural response to hormonal changes in the body.

So, noticing the tell tale signs of menopause related body odor, understanding why it can happen, and knowing how to deal with it is essential. 

As a medical author specializing in menopause, I frequently hear from women who are concerned about the lesser known side effects of menopause, and body odor is one of them. These women were expecting hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings and weight gain, but nobody ever told them menopause could also bring changes in body odor. 

So, I want to assure you that while it might be an unexpected symptom, it’s completely normal, and surprisingly common too. And thankfully, there are plenty of ways to tackle the problem. 

So, are you finding that your regular deodorant is no longer working as effectively as it should? Do your clothes smell worse after a single wear? If you’re a woman in your 40s or 50s, menopause could be to blame. 

In this post, I’ll explain the reasons behind an increase in body odor during menopause. Then, I’ll share some expert approved tips and tricks to find relief, so you can feel fresh and fabulous all throughout your day.

What Causes Body Odor During Menopause?

Body odor can affect several different areas of your body, including your armpits, feet, groin, and even your hair.

The most commonly noticed body odor comes from sweat. But sweat itself has no odor. What you’re really smelling is the sweat particles dissolving dirt, grime, and bacteria on the skin. Over time, this process can build up into a bad case of B.O.

But why do so many women notice an increase in body odor during menopause?

  • Increased sweating

During menopause, hormonal shifts can alter the amount you sweat. Hot flashes and night sweats are two of the most commonly reported symptoms, and this increase in perspiration can have a knock-on effect on how fresh and clean you smell to yourself and others.

If that sweat isn’t washed away quickly enough, bacteria begin to multiply, and odors become more prominent.

  • Vitamin and mineral deficiencies

Changes in body odor aren’t just caused by excess sweating. Women who are deficient in minerals such as zinc and magnesium may notice an increase or a change in their body odor, too.

Zinc plays several important roles, including regulating waste after you digest carbohydrates. But if you’re low on this essential mineral, the body can’t detoxify in the optimum way. This can lead to an increase in unpleasant smells.

Magnesium is another vital mineral in the battle against body odor. It helps to flush away odor-causing toxins, and without enough of it, this flushing process can’t function as it should.

  • Changes to vaginal flora

Changes to estrogen and progesterone during menopause can change your usual balance of vaginal flora. This can lead to some potentially unpleasant smells originating from that area.

An imbalance in vaginal flora can also lead to a change in the smell of your urine. Many women report an increased scent of ammonia during the transitional years of perimenopause and menopause.

How Can I Prevent Body Odor During Menopause?

How Can I Prevent Body Odor During Menopause

Body odor is a relatively common side effect of menopause. I’ve heard from countless women who suffer from this embarrassing symptom, and I’ve experienced it myself, too. So, rest assured you’re not alone, and thankfully, there are plenty of ways to minimize and even eliminate body odor for good. 

I’ve experimented with various ways to reduce my own body odor, and I’ve also sought advice from my readers with the same problem. Here are the most effective methods I’ve found to stay smelling fresh all day long: 

  • Watch What You Eat

Certain foods can make body odor worse. Foods to avoid include:

  • Garlic

Garlic isn’t just responsible for giving you bad breath. For some people, excess amounts of garlic, particularly fresh garlic, can change the way their sweat smells. This is because garlic contains organic sulfur compounds that the body must break down and eliminate through sweat.

  • Onions, Chives, and Leek

It’s not just garlic that contains organic sulfur. All members of the allium family, including onions, chives, and leeks, contain these odor-inducing compounds.

  • Meat, Eggs, Dairy, and Seafood

While proteins such as beef, eggs, and fish are a healthy addition to a menopause-friendly diet, these ingredients can contribute to unpleasant smells. That’s because they contain compounds called choline and carnitine. These nutrients are vital to health, but they can also exacerbate a fishy body odor in people who suffer from a disorder called Trimethylaminuria.

  • Asparagus.

Asparagus is another healthy food choice for most women. However, it can make both your urine and your sweat smell pretty unpleasant. This is due to a compound known as asparagusic acid, which is digested by sulfur compounds. This process causes B.O. in some, but not all, people.

  • Seasonings and Spices.

Pungent spices such as wasabi, curry, cumin, hot chili, pepper, turmeric, mustard, and horseradish all omit sulfurous glasses when they’re digested in the gut. Some of these gasses are absorbed into the bloodstream and ultimately released through the pores in our skin and lungs. So, after eating a heavily spiced meal, some people find they spend the rest of the day with distinctive bad breath and body odor.

On the other hand, some foods can help to tackle body odor. Foods to add to your diet include:

  • Fresh Green Vegetables

Eating a diet rich in green vegetables can help to eliminate body odor and bad breath. This is due to chlorophyll. This organic chemical (which is responsible for making plants green) is a potent antioxidant that can help to tackle bad smells in sweat, urine, and even flatulence.

  • Foods Containing High Levels of Vitamin C

Vitamin C is a natural detoxifying agent. So, it can be particularly beneficial in improving body odor. High quantities of Vitamin C are also used in treating vaginal odors caused by mild infections such as candida and bacterial vaginosis.

Vitamin C is naturally occurring in a wide range of fruits and vegetables, including peppers, kiwis, strawberries, cherries, broccoli, and even potatoes.

  • Consider Supplements

As we learned earlier in this post, certain minerals contribute to the detoxification process of chemicals in the body. So, if you’re deficient in these minerals, you may notice an increase in body odor.

So, be sure to eat foods rich in zinc and magnesium, and consider supplementing to keep your levels optimum.

Other vitamins and minerals that can help you stay fresh are vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin B complex, and vitamin E.

  • Stay Hydrated

Body odor is worse when you’re dehydrated. Water helps to flush away toxins and bacteria, and when we don’t have enough of it, mild body odor can become severe.

Drinking enough water also helps maintain your body’s core temperature, reducing the frequency and severity of hot flashes and night sweats. And when you sweat less, you smell fresher, too.

To stay as hydrated as possible, I like to carry a gallon jug water bottle with me throughout the day. This ensures that I always have plenty to drink, and helps me track my water intake and reach my hydration goals. 

  • Keep Yourself Clean

Throughout menopause, it’s more important than ever to maintain good hygiene practices.

You may find that a morning shower is no longer enough to keep the body odor at bay. If this is the case, consider hopping in for a second shower or enjoying a relaxing bath right before bedtime. This won’t just keep you smelling fresh and clean, but it will also help to regulate your body’s inner thermostat before sleep, reducing the likelihood of night sweats.

When washing your vaginal area, stick to mild soap and water. Perfumes and detergents can irritate delicate skin and upset the natural balance of vaginal flora. This can lead to infections such as bacterial vaginosis, which can make odors worse.

  • Wear the Right Clothes

Synthetic fibers such as nylon and polyester can make you sweat more, particularly in warmer weather. This increases your chances of developing body odor throughout the day.

So, I prefer to wear loose-fitting clothing made of natural fibers such as cotton or bamboo. This helps to wick away moisture, and keep me cool and comfortable. Plus, these types of fabrics don’t hold onto odors in the same way that synthetic fibers do. 

  • Boost Your Gut Health

If your intestinal flora is out of balance, you’re more likely to develop body odor. By introducing probiotics into your diet, you can help to balance out your gut bacteria and combat unpleasant smells.

Good bacteria found in probiotics can also help to regulate your vaginal and oral health too, so you can smell fresh up top and down there.

Probiotics can be found in natural yogurt, fermented foods, and also in supplement form.

  • Balance Your Hormones

Like most symptoms of menopause, body odor is caused by hormonal shifts. So, balancing your hormones helps to treat the root cause of the problem.

Eating a diet rich in phytoestrogens can help you achieve this naturally without the risks associated with hormone replacement therapy (HRT).

Phytoestrogens are naturally occurring compounds found in plants that mimic real estrogen in our bodies. They’re found in a variety of foods, including soy, flaxseeds, avocados, and legumes.

FAQs

Q. Can HRT help to combat menopause-related body odor?

Hormonal shifts are the main driving force behind body odor during menopause. As estrogen levels drop, hot flashes and night sweats increase. This excess perspiration can lead to a not-so-fresh-and-clean scent across various parts of your body.
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can be extremely effective at managing a wide variety of menopause symptoms, especially hot flashes and night sweats. And once excess sweating is under control, body odor usually subsides.
That being said, HRT isn’t for everyone. There are potentially serious side effects, so many experts recommend balancing your hormones naturally before resorting to HRT.
To find out if you’re a suitable candidate for HRT, speak to your doctor. They can explain the risks and the benefits of the treatment so that you can make an informed decision.

Q. Deodorant or antiperspirant: which is best?

Antiperspirants and deodorants are distinct from one another. 
Antiperspirants work by temporarily blocking the sweat glands in your underarm area. They also help to kill odor-causing bacteria on the surface of the skin. As a result, you stay drier and smell better for longer.
Deodorants, on the other hand, don’t reduce the amount you sweat. They simply get rid of the odor.
So, to truly combat the smells associated with excess sweating, I recommend using a high-quality antiperspirant.

Q. How long does menopause-related body odor last?

Body odor during menopause is usually caused by excess sweating, and it’s a common complaint. A shift in hormones causes hot flashes and night sweats in up to 80% of all women.
These symptoms begin in perimenopause (the build-up to menopause.) Fortunately, many women start to find relief soon after their periods have stopped for good and they officially hit menopause. However, that’s not the case for everyone. Hot flashes and night sweats can sometimes linger for much longer.
Research by The Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation (SWAN) found that these body odor-inducing symptoms can last an average of 7 to 11 years.

Conclusion

Menopause comes with a whole host of potentially unpleasant symptoms, including hot flashes and night sweats that can lead to body odor.

Body odor is an embarrassing problem, and it can stop you from doing things you love. But there’s no need to let it take over your life.

There are several interventions that can help to relieve unpleasant smells and, in some cases, get rid of body odor entirely. So, give the tips above a try.

If you still don’t find relief, talk to your doctor. They can assess the cause of the problem, rule out any underlying conditions, and help you find a treatment plan that works.

References:

Author

  • Sabrina Johnson

    Meet Sabrina Johnson, a compassionate author and a seasoned expert in Obstetrics and Gynecology. She is a driving force behind Simply Menopause, where her extensive medical knowledge and empathetic nature come together to empower women in their menopausal journey. Sabrina offers culturally sensitive guidance and support through her approachable writing, making her a trusted friend on the path to menopause wellness.