Does Menopause Make Body Odour Worse? (7-Minute Read)

Woman looking at cell phone searching for answers why her body odour is changing in menopause
Connie Pretula Headshot

Connie Pretula

Connie Pretula is an inspiring health coach and Menopause Navigator to mature women, using a holistic approach to nutrition and life.

June 3, 2024

This is segment number five in the series I am writing to help men understand what women experience in menopause.

The hormonal changes a woman experiences during menopause can definitely cause a lot of symptoms and confusion. She can go from knowing her body, to having no idea what is going on with her body.

During the various stages of menopause, a woman’s body odour can change. Most women are very self-conscious about body odour at any time in their life. What worked previously, suddenly doesn’t once you are transitioning through menopause.

An assumption could be made that since a woman is experiencing hot flashes and night sweats, that is the cause of the change in body odour. It can add to experiencing body odour more often but the overall change in hormones is part of the reason. I say part because I share more thoughts below on other factors that contribute to body odour.

It can be influenced by what we eat, products we use on our body, it can even be changed by the water we bathe in. City water can contain many chemicals to make it safe for human consumption, these chemicals can affect the natural bacteria on our skin. Even natural water from a well, river or lake can change our scent depending on the mineral content. 

Our skin has its own natural microbiome, yes, we are covered in bacteria, it’s what helps keep us healthy. The products we put on our body can either support or disrupt the balance of the natural bacteria. Did you know, you only need to wash your pits, anus and feet with soap? The rest of the skin on your body does not need to be washed with soap unless you have been covered in something that does not wash off with water. 

From an internal perspective, the food we eat can also change the way we smell. Some ingredients in food when eaten daily can change our body odour. For example, there are people whose body reacts to eating a lot of garlic, not just in their breath but overall body odour. Smoking and alcohol also affect our body odour.

The health of our internal microbiome can also determine how we smell. Passing gas that smells like rotten eggs or another strong odour is a sign your gut bacteria is imbalanced. It doesn’t always mean there is an issue, purely an imbalance. A healthy microbiome is self-regulating when eating food that supports it.

These are idealisms that have been placed on us for hundreds of years, so of course we panic when we don’t match this.

The personal care industry helps to perpetuate this further with scented shampoo, body wash, feminine wash products, scented body lotion, hairspray, perfume, and the list goes on. Did you know there are deodorant products for under our breasts and the groin area? In most cases these products can be masking a deeper issue. They can affect our microbiome and disrupt the hormone balance in everyone’s body, not just women. I previously wrote a blog on fragrance, click here to read.

They are endocrine disrupters, meaning, they can unbalance our natural hormones, partially because most of these chemicals mimic estrogen, they are called xenoestrogens. They also add an extra load to our liver as all products on our body are absorbed by our skin and then processed by the liver. Over time, the liver can become congested due to an overload of toxins from what we put on our body and in our body. I will share suggestions further down on how to support the liver.

Add the stress of worrying about how we smell and that increases the imbalance. Stress can be a very big factor in affecting our body odour.

For many years of my life, I used strong antiperspirants and deodorants, I was never one of those sweet-smelling women. I tried all of the strong brands which of course are filled with unhealthy chemicals and high levels of aluminum. When I started my menopause transition, it became even more challenging. Then when my body broke down and I was in pain 24/7 and could not figure out what was causing all of my symptoms, I changed everything, including the products I was using on my body. 

One of the big changes, I stopped using deodorant. I started using fresh lemon juice, and after my armpits detoxed from all the years of chemical products, I finally stopped having underarm odour. 

I once had a sales clerk ask me what perfume I was wearing as she really liked the scent, I told her it was au naturel. She looked at me for a moment not recognizing the brand, I said, I don’t use scented products, that is my natural scent, she told me I should bottle it! I stopped using all scented products, including perfume. I do sometimes use good quality essential oils to lightly scent my body for special occasions. 

I also changed all of my household cleaning products and switched to an eco-friendly dry cleaner for clothes that need professional cleaning.

The majority of the products marketed and sold to help reduce or eliminate body odour can actually continue to perpetuate the issue, that’s what keeps us using them. An example of that is mouthwash such as Listerine. Yes, it kills bacteria in the mouth, all of it, even the good bacteria. It also starts to kill the bacteria in our digestive system. Our mouth is supposed to have bacteria, that is normal. In many cases, bad breath is from eating highly refined and processed food, and poor oral care.

When I am working with clients, my number one recommendation is green fibrous vegetables, eat a lot of those every day. Why? Besides helping to keep us satiated, the fibre helps move the food through our digestive system. The green is from chlorophyll, which is a natural detoxifier, it helps cleanse our body and supports our liver, one of our most important filtration systems in our body. My most favourite green vegetables are the cruciferous family of vegetables, they contain many beneficial compounds, three of note are sulforaphane, glucosinolates and indole-3-carbinol. 

These are quotes from studies:

  • Sulforaphane shows a range of biological activities and health benefits in humans, has been found to be a very promising chemopreventive agent against not only a variety of cancers such as breast, prostate, colon, skin, lung, stomach, and bladder but also against cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases and diabetes.1
  • Current research suggests that glucosinolates (and isothiocyanates) act via several mechanisms, ultimately exhibiting anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and chemo-protective effects.2
  • Studies increasingly indicate that dietary indole-3-carbinol (I3C) prevents the development of estrogen-enhanced cancers including breast, endometrial and cervical cancers.3

I do need to preface this advice, will making these changes take effect immediately, it depends. For some, it may and for others, it could take weeks, it will depend on how many toxins and imbalances a person’s body needs to correct.

When it comes to sweat, that is one of the best ways to reduce toxins in our body which can contribute to body odour. Most menopausal women who are experiencing hot flashes may not want to consider something like a sauna or infrared sauna, who wants more heat. Saunas are another great way of helping to reduce toxins which can cause body odour. It is something to consider and may help to reduce menopause symptoms overall. 

For the men who are wondering why the woman in their life is more self-conscious or acting differently, it probably has nothing to do with you. To be fair, you may be experiencing your own physiological changes and might not know what’s happening with your body.

I have had men say their wife became unrecognizable and in some cases are now an ex-wife. One thing to keep in mind, for many women, when they go to their doctor, many are dismissed when they talk about what they are experiencing or they are given pharmaceuticals such as antidepressants an sent home. 

Women can spend more than half of their life in menopause from the point of starting perimenopause to the final stage which is post-menopause. Unfortunately, many suffer through or are told to get used to it because it is normal.

The transition through menopause is a rite of passage and normal. As more healthcare providers become better informed, it will hopefully change the stigma and in turn, women will get better care. I will continue to say, no woman has to suffer through menopause, there are solutions and it is not a one-size fits all.

Click here to read a previous blog I wrote on how we can support our hormones with food.

Communication between the two of you is the best place to start. Don’t try to fix, she just wants to be heard and hopefully understood because as I stated at the beginning, she can be very confused herself.

Thank you for reading my words. I’ll be back in two weeks with another segment in this series.

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