What Does Menopause Body Odor Smell Like? Understanding Changes

Last updated 03.13.2024 | by Sabrina Johnson | 10 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.


Body odor is a natural part of the human condition, and everyone will experience it at some point in their lives.

Multiple factors can cause this embarrassing issue, including exercise, stress, puberty, and genetics. But did you know that the hormonal shifts that occur during menopause can also lead to body odor in some women?

Many of us associate body odor with our teenage years, so when it reappears during menopause, it can take us by surprise. Some women may even wonder if this change is due to an undiagnosed health condition.

Thankfully, this isn’t usually the case. But it’s still important to understand the changes occurring in your body so that you can address them appropriately.

I hear from hundreds of women each month who are concerned about some of the lesser-known symptoms of menopause, and body odor is something I get asked about a lot. However, very few menopause health resources seem to address this issue, so many women assume that they’re alone in facing the problem..

But I’m here to let you know that’s not the case. An increase in body odor during menopause is completely normal, and many women (myself included) notice this change as they journey through this phase of life.

So, what does menopause body odor smell like? Why does it happen, and what can we do to combat the issue? Below, I’ll answer all of these questions and more.

Why Does Body Odor Increase During Menopause?

Why Does Body Odor Increase During Menopause?

During puberty, hormonal shifts can cause an increase in body odor in both males and females.

Well, the same is true for menopause. But during menopause, it’s not an increase in hormones that is to blame. Instead, this none-too-pleasant side effect is the result of diminishing estrogen and progesterone. This has a significant effect on various physical processes, including some that can lead to body odor.

Hot flashes and night sweats

Hot flashes and night sweats are the most commonly reported symptoms of menopause. These vasomotor symptoms cause increased sweating. While sweat itself doesn’t smell, when it’s exposed to bacteria on your skin, it reacts to produce a noticeable odor. And the longer the sweat lingers there, the more pungent the odor becomes.

Increased anxiety

Menopause is linked to increased feelings of anxiety. Studies show that around a quarter of all menopausal women struggle with anxiety, and the problem is worse in those who experience severe hot flashes, night sweats, and other menopause symptoms.

Unlike regular sweat, which is produced by eccrine sweat glands, the sweat produced when we’re stressed or anxious is released by apocrine sweat glands. These glands contain different types of fats and proteins that can make the odor worse.

Urine leakage

Many women experience a weak pelvic floor following childbirth. And the problem can become worse once menopause arrives. Even women who have never carried babies often find that they can no longer ‘hold it’ like they used to once they reach this phase of life.

This is due to a lack of estrogen, which can cause a weakening of the pelvic floor muscles around the urethra.

As a result, small amounts of urine may leak out throughout the day (also known as urinary incontinence). Unless the urine is washed away immediately, it can begin to cause an unpleasant odor.

Changes to vaginal flora

As estrogen falls during menopause, the natural lubrication in the vagina also diminishes.

This has a direct impact on the vaginal flora and pH. The good bacteria (known as Lactobacilli), which was once dominant, can be overtaken by bad bacteria, leading to unpleasant odors.

Vitamin and mineral deficiencies

Certain vitamin and mineral deficiencies, particularly zinc and magnesium, can cause a change in body odor.

While menopause doesn’t directly cause these deficiencies, they can still play a large role in how you perceive your own body odor and how it smells to others.

Changes to your sense of smell

As we age, both men and women can develop a condition called presbyopia, a degeneration of the sense of smell.

Similar to how our eyesight deteriorates with age, so does our olfactory system. The sense of smell can become dull, and it can also become distorted, too. Some people even find that they have “smell hallucinations”, known as phantosmia.

So, while you may think you have a body odor problem, there’s a chance your nose could be playing tricks on you.

What Does Menopause Body Odor Smell Like?

The types of smells you may notice during menopause will depend on the source of the odor.

One of our readers recently got in touch with me to share her experience of a sudden change in the smell of her sweat. As we’ve discovered above, this is due to a decrease in estrogen. She described this sweaty smell as “musty” and “acrid” and compared it to the body odor produced by her teenage son.

Another type of smell that some women notice during this phase of life is a fishy smell. More often than not, this is due to a change in vaginal flora. If the problem persists, speak to your doctor, as it may be a sign of an infection.

If you detect an acidic smell similar to that of ammonia, this is most likely due to urine leakage.

It’s also worth noting that urinary tract infections (UTIs) become more common in women during and after menopause. UTIs can cause urine to have a more powerful and pungent odor. If you suspect you have a UTI, visit your doctor as soon as possible.

How to Stop Menopause-Related Body Odor

Body odor during menopause is a relatively common occurrence. I noticed a change in my own body odor once I reached a certain age, and I know many other women who have experienced the same thing.

Usually, body odor isn’t a cause for concern. That being said, it can be embarrassing, and it can affect your confidence at work and in your social life.

So, if you’ve noticed an increase in body odor during menopause, you’re probably looking for a way to stop it in its tracks.

Here are several tips to help you minimize, or even eliminate, body odor for good:

Practice Good Hygiene

During menopause, hot flashes and night sweats can increase the amount of sweat that your body produces. So, you may find that your usual once-a-day shower is no longer keeping you fresh and clean.

In this case, you might want to consider an additional wash at other times of the day or taking a bath in the evenings before you go to bed. Not only will this help you relax and unwind before you go to sleep, but it’ll also ensure that you go to bed feeling and smelling fresh.

Avoid scented products

It might be tempting to choose sweetly perfumed shower gels and soaps to smell nice throughout the day. But washing with perfumed products and harsh detergents can irritate and inflame the vaginal tissues and lead to problems such as bacterial vaginosis. This will make any vaginal-based odors worse.

So, stick to plain, unscented soap and water in the shower, and avoid using any kind of soap in the vaginal area.

Pay attention to your food

Eating a healthy diet full of fresh fruit and vegetables will help to keep body odor at bay. But it’s worth noting that some otherwise healthy foods can cause changes to the way you smell.

Garlic, onions, leeks, and chives all contain organic sulfur compounds. These compounds can induce a strong odor that is leaked out through your perspiration.

Asparagus is another healthy food choice that can affect some people’s smell of sweat and urine. This is due to high amounts of asparagusic acid within the asparagus plant.

Most people can eat the vegetables above with no ill effect on their body odor. However, if you’ve noticed a recent change, it may be worth eliminating these foods for a short time to see if it makes a difference for you.

Boost your vitamins and minerals

Make sure to include plenty of zinc and magnesium-rich foods in your diet. These two mineral deficiencies can cause unpleasant odors in some people, so boosting your intake could change the way you smell for the better.

If you suspect you have a deficiency, you may want to consider supplementing your intake with a nutraceutical product to make sure your levels are optimum.

Drink plenty of water

It’s easy to become dehydrated during menopause. An increase in sweating due to vasomotor symptoms depletes your body’s water supply. And when you’re dehydrated, body odor can smell worse.

Drinking plenty of water helps to rid your body of toxins. So, try to ensure you drink the recommended 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) of fluids each day. To make sure I reach this target, I keep a refillable water container with me wherever I go throughout the day.

Wear loose, breathable clothing

Tight-fitting or heavy clothing makes you sweat more, particularly during hot flashes. So, rather than thick, bulky sweaters, opt for multiple loose layers that can be easily removed one by one if your core temperature begins to rise. This will keep sweating to a minimum and keep you as comfortable as possible when a hot flash strikes.

It’s also important to consider the types of fabrics you’re wearing. Synthetic fibers like polyester or nylon aren’t breathable, so sweat has nowhere to escape. This can quickly contribute to body odor.

Instead, opt for natural fibers that wick away sweat and allow your skin to breathe. My personal favorites are cotton, which is relatively inexpensive and widely available, and bamboo, which is soft and seems to smell fresh, even at the end of the day.

FAQs

How can I balance my hormones to avoid body odor during menopause?

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is the most commonly prescribed treatment plan to reduce the symptoms of menopause. It may also be able to reduce hormone-driven body odor. However, it’s not suitable for everyone, so speak to your doctor to find out whether you’re a suitable candidate.

Alternatively, several natural treatments can help to balance your hormones, including soy, black cohosh, and red clover.

Can menopause body odor be cured?

That depends on what is causing the issue.

If hormonal shifts are to blame, you will likely notice an improvement in body odor once you reach the post-menopausal phase and your hormones settle down. In many cases, body odor may completely disappear at this stage.

Can deodorant help to improve body odor?

Deodorants are designed to mask odors. However, in some cases, they can highlight body odor and make you smell worse.

So, I recommend using an antiperspirant rather than a deodorant. Antiperspirants are designed to temporarily block sweat glands in the underarm area, reducing the amount you perspire. They also neutralize bacteria on the skin, which causes odors in the first place.

Conclusion

Menopause-related body odor comes in many different forms, and none of them smell pleasant. But thankfully, there are many ways to minimize or even eliminate body odor during menopause.

Usually, body odor isn’t a sign of a serious condition, and eventually, once your hormones settle down, the problem will resolve itself.

However, if you’ve noticed a change in body odor and you’re concerned it could be a sign of an underlying condition, speak to your doctor or healthcare provider.

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.