Bad Body Odor – Causes of Fecal, Fishy and Foul Smell

A bad body odor may not only be due to the odor from the skin. Halitosis (bad breath), offensive groin odor and even bad foot odor are all factors to consider in body odor. In close proximity to others, even odors in concealed areas may be detectable. Offensive smelling discharge from any orifice, even the ear, may be responsible for bad body odor.

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Most cases of skin odor is associated with break down of the compounds found in sweat by bacteria that live on the skin. This process is further explained under Body Smell. Excessive perspiration (hyperhidrosis) will exacerbate this effect as larger quantities of sweat are available for bacterial consumption. Hyperhidrosis may be caused by a number of physiological and pathological factors. A bad odor associated with sweating is known as bromhidrosis. It can be generalized or localized to areas like the armpits.

Causes of a Bad Body Odor

Foul Body Odor

Although a foul odor is a general term for any offensive smell, the odor may vary in character and intensity. It may be described by a number of terms, including musty, mousy, fishy, putrid, fetid, fecal or sickening sweet odor.

The causes of foul body odor in general may be due to the following causes :

  • Bromhidrosis (also known as ozochrotia or osmidrosis is mentioned above)
  • Poor hygiene
  • Tobacco smoking
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Topical applications
  • Foul odor from clothing
  • Causes of halitosis (bad body odor)
  • Discharge from the penis, vagina, ear, nose
  • Skin infections, abscess
  • Incontinence, urinary or bowel
  • Medical conditions resulting in waste products being passed out through sweat :
    • Uremia (urea) – kidney failure (fishy or ammonia odor)
    • Ketoacidosis (acetone) – diabetes or starvation (sickly sweet odor)
    • Fetor hepaticus (methyl mercaptan) – liver failure (stale, must or mousy odor)

Fishy Body Odor

A fishy odor is often attributed to ammonia. In the body this is related to urea, a nitrogenous compound formed by the break down of protein. A fishy odor is often a result of high levels of urea, as is seen in uremia. This occurs when the kidneys are not able to remove the urea that builds up in the body through urine. Uremia is indicative of kidney disease and patients may even have a fishy smelling breath.

Fishy odors have often been attributed to menses (periods). This may not be a characteristic odor for every woman during menstruation or on every period. When it does occur, it may be associated with poor hygiene (infrequent changing of sanitary pads), obstruction of menstrual blood outflow and a range of infectious causes. It is likely a result of  bacteria consuming any menstrual blood or clots, but may also be associated with leukorrhea, which is a thick white to yellow discharge seen with bacterial infections like bacterial vaginosis.

Fishy odors may also be seen with UTI’s (urinary tract infections) in both men and women, especially if a urethral discharge is present. Urinary incontinence and post-micturition dribble with appropriate measures taken to change the underwear may be another cause of a fishy odor.

Fecal Body Odor

A body odor that resembles feces is often a result of fecal matter being present on the skin surface or clothing. This may be seen with diarrhea, inadequate cleaning after defecation, and in patients who are debilitated, the elderly and those with mental diseases, who are not able to visit a toilet to relive themselves. A possible cause of a fecal body odor is a gastrocolic fistula, where a fecal smell to the breath may be noticed. Patients with a stoma may also have to be monitored if a fecal body odor occurs as it may be a sign of some dysfunction.

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  • BOB

    Hello I’m a 37 yo male who need some help… I’ve been to my doctor and another for a sec opinion but both think Am crazy. i have this smell to me it smell earthy but i have notice that other people around me will either move away are make their inside jokes about someone smelling like shit are garbage….now I’ve asked my mom and the people i think or thought i could trust with this matter but they’ve all said no i don’t smell but when I’m at work or in a club i can damn near clear the room( I’m glad my doctor or my mom don’t think i don’t smell) but when I’m around my co-worker or anyone else their inside jokes among themselves about me that they think i don’t understand they talk about homelessness they look at me I’m not homeless i take showers everyday i changed my soaps i stopped using my colons.. i wash my close 🙂 every day i do all the normal stuff everyone else do…. i just can’t get this off me i just bought Cocount oil to use i also used chlorophyll nothing is helping me help me please

  • Hi Bob. This is concerning because neither your doctor nor close relatives can confirm that you do indeed have a body odor problem. If they could then it would be helpful in verifying that this problem really does exist.

    It is possible that the problem is arising during the course of the day while working. Maybe you should see your doctor after a hard day at work so that he/she can confirm the body odor problem. Ask friends as well.

    Look at anti-bacterial soaps and maybe wear lighter airy clothing if perspiration is a problem. Sweat and bacteria on the skin are the main causes of body odor. Cologne should not be stopped altogether as it can help mask some of the body odor, but do not overdo the cologne.

    Sometimes the problem is not on the surface but internal. It could be emanating from your mouth, or could even be an internal organ problem leading to abnormally offensive-smelling sweat. It is difficult to say with any certainty. If it persists, consider seeing a specialist physician or dermatologist.

  • Julia Martinez Herrera

    @ BOB-When I met my husband he had a really bad smell. A very handsome man, well dressed. Soon I realized the odor was coming from his mouth, he had gum infection with heavy odor. I quickly took him to doctors office and they recommended rinsing his mouth with hydrogen peroxide on a daily basis until he could have his costly surgery. Unfortunately because surgery is not something we can afford he still continuous this treatment. It’s like night and day and I immediatly notice if he stops the treatment. It smells of puss and dry blood creating a rare smell. Thank god I looked passed his odor and helped him find a alternative because I would have missed out on such a wonderful man. Now over time his family makes jokes on the years he had this odor and how they couldn’t figure out where it came from. My poor baby, how unfortunate and yes I would notice peoples faces when they would interact with him…..they would walk away from him.

  • Julia Martinez Herrera

    @ BOB-When I met my husband he had a really bad smell. A very handsome man, well dressed. Soon I realized the odor was coming from his mouth, he had gum infection with heavy odor. I quickly took him to doctors office and they recommended rinsing his mouth with hydrogen peroxide on a daily basis until he could have his costly surgery. Unfortunately because surgery is not something we can afford he still continuous this treatment. It’s like night and day and I immediatly notice if he stops the treatment. It smells of puss and dry blood creating a rare smell. Thank god I looked passed his odor and helped him find a alternative because I would have missed out on such a wonderful man. Now over time his family makes jokes on the years he had this odor and how they couldn’t figure out where it came from. My poor baby, how unfortunate and yes I would notice peoples faces when they would interact with him…..they would walk away from him

  • Byrd

    Hello, I used to have this problem! When you get around people you are more aware of your natural smells so you are becoming more conscious about people! I use to think that everyone who scratched their noses around me could smell me! ITS NOT TRUE! You are just hyper sensitive to smells but no one else can smell you! If you have jock itch… I have the cure my friend ? BLUE STAR OINTMENT! 3 days tops and your healed. Bathe first, dry off, rub blue star, scream a bit, itch a bit , then you feel great ? that’s just the first day. The second and third are a breeze! You’ll notice that when you bathe old skin will fall off and it will dry up! Once you heal….. Don’t dare go back to crotch rot!? every time you bathe use a blow dryer to get completely dry for a few weeks. After that you’ll have no worries and dial soap is not good to use all the time. It kills both good and bad bacteria! I’m taking the time to write this because I have been in the same situation as you are and I went to doctors also and they said they couldn’t smell anything either! Your smelling yourself and are conscious of it! Do what I said and you’ll be blessed !?