Sweat can smell like vinegar due to conditions such as diabetes, trichomycosis, and kidney disease, or due to hormonal changes, certain foods, or skin infections.
Sweat is released by the sweat glands that are found throughout the body. These are the eccrine, apocrine and apoecrine glands. The eccrine glands are found all over the body and produce the most sweat. Sweat from eccrine glands usually has no odor. Apocrine glands are found on the breasts, face, scalp, perineum, and armpits. They produce less sweat than the eccrine glands and open into the hair follicles rather than the skin. Sweat from the apocrine glands may have an odor. The apocrine glands are found in the armpits. These glands release sweat in the form of salt water.
Sweat helps the body stay cool by transferring heat from the body to the water in sweat on the skin. The heat then evaporates from the sweat and cools the body. Sweat also naturally moisturizes the skin and protects it against infections. Sweat is mostly water and sodium chloride, but it also contains small amounts of potassium, calcium, ammonia, urea, lactate, and ethanol. When sweat mixes with bacteria on the skin, it can produce an odor, which may resemble vinegar.
Causes of Vinegar Smell
The possible cause of a vinegar smell in sweat can include:
A change in body odor can be a sign of kidney disease. In kidney disease, the kidneys may not be able to break down urea, which the body excretes through urine or sweat. This may have a vinegar smell.
Diabetes is a disease that causes high blood sugar levels.
If a person does not control their diabetes, they can go into diabetic ketoacidosis. The body then burns fat too quickly for energy if the cells do not get enough glucose to use. When the body burns fat, it produces ketones, which make the blood more acidic. Metabolites such as acetone are also released in sweat, which may smell like vinegar.
Trichomycosis, also called trichobacteriosis or axillary trichomycosis, is a bacterial infection of armpit hair or other areas caused by the bacteria Corynebacterium. According to a 2013 study, 92% of trichomycosis cases affect armpit hair. In rarer cases, trichomycosis can affect pubic hair. A person may have yellow, black, or red nodules that stick to hair under their arms or around their genitals and buttocks. The study found that 35.7% of cases included odor as a symptom of trichomycosis. A person’s sweat may smell acidic like vinegar, or be dark in color.
A person with hyperhidrosis sweats excessively from the eccrine glands. A 2016 study estimates that nearly 5% of Americans have hyperhidrosis. There are two types of hyperhidrosis, primary focal hyperhidrosis and secondary hyperhidrosis. Primary focal hyperhidrosis is not caused by another health problem or medication. Focal means sweating affects multiple areas of the body. This can include the armpits, hands, feet, and forehead. Secondary hyperhidrosis means that the cause of a person’s excessive sweating is an underlying health problem or a side effect of medication. When sweat mixes with bacteria on the skin, the person may notice that it smells like vinegar.
Trimethylaminuria is a rare disease. A person with trimethylaminuria may notice that their sweat has an unpleasant odor. This is because the body is unable to break down trimethylamine, a chemical that smells fishy. It can also lead to urine or breath odor.
Other possible causes of sweat odor may include:
The body uses energy to digest food. This can raise body temperature, which can trigger sweating. A 2000 study found that the body uses more energy to digest animal protein, like pork, than plant protein, like soy. This may suggest that eating meat may cause a person to sweat more, which may produce body odor. Additionally, a small study in 2006 found that eating red meat had a negative effect on body odor, with participants rating the body odor of meat eaters as less appealing than that of people who followed a diet based on meat. plants for two weeks.
A person with a metabolic disorder may experience body odor after consuming dairy products. If the body cannot break down trimethylamine, the sweat may smell like fish or vinegar.
Spices and seasonings
When a person eats garlic, cumin, or curry, the body produces sulfur-like compounds that can react with sweat and create an odor.
Stress can cause your body temperature to rise, which can activate sweat glands. The apocrine glands produce the most stress-induced sweat. Sweat from the apocrine glands has a stronger smell than that from the eccrine glands, and therefore a person may notice that their sweat has a stronger smell if they are stressed.
When hormones change during puberty, menopause, pregnancy, menstruation, and old age, sweat can smell different. This is because hormones can cause a person to sweat more. For example, the decrease in estrogen levels during menopause can increase body temperature, which can cause sweating.
To prevent perspiration odors, you can try the following measures:
Deodorants and antiperspirants
Deodorants can mask body odor and help cover sweat that smells like vinegar. Antiperspirants help keep skin dry by blocking sweat glands. By using antiperspirants, a person can reduce the amount of sweat that mixes with bacteria on the skin and reduce the risk of odors.
Changing clothes more frequently helps control the amount of moisture that comes into contact with the skin. This can prevent sweat from drying on the skin, mixing with bacteria and producing odors.
A person can wash with antibacterial soap to reduce the amount of bacteria that can mix with sweat and cause odor. A person may also be able to reduce the risk of fungal skin infections by washing frequently.
Drink more water
Staying hydrated can dilute sweat and make odors less noticeable.
A person’s diet can influence the smell of their sweat. If a person notices that eating certain spices, seasonings, or foods makes their sweat smell like vinegar, they can try reducing the amount of those foods they eat, or cutting them out of their diet altogether. .
Stress can lead to increased sweating. By reducing the stressors in their life, a person may be able to reduce the amount of sweat and odors that occur due to sweating.
When to consult a doctor
If a person notices that their sweat smells like vinegar, they should look for other symptoms of underlying conditions. For example, other symptoms of diabetes, along with a change in body odor, are:
dry or red skin
nausea and vomiting
a fruity odor in the breath, sweat or urine.
Other symptoms of kidney disease include:
dry, itchy skin
blood in urine
If a person develops a rash, signs of infection, or unexplained weight loss or gain, they should contact a doctor for advice.
to keep the skin dry
wash regularly with antibacterial soap
use an antiperspirant to reduce sweating
use deodorants to mask odors
However, there are other treatments that can help someone who is concerned about the smell of their sweat. These include the following treatments
Microwave thermolysis uses microwave energy to destroy sweat glands and prevent them from functioning. A 2012T study concluded that microwave thermolysis is effective against excessive sweating. Another 2013 study in Asian people found that microwave thermolysis was effective specifically for sweat with bad odors.
A person can try prescription antiperspirants if over-the-counter antiperspirants aren’t working for them. Prescription antiperspirants may contain higher amounts of active ingredients such as metal salts, including aluminum chloride hexahydrate. A person should apply prescription antiperspirants before bedtime and follow the doctor’s instructions to avoid skin irritation.
If a person’s sweat smells like vinegar because of an infection such as trichomycosis, a doctor may prescribe antibiotics to fight the infection. A person can also try antifungal skin creams if excessive sweating has caused a fungal skin infection, such as candidiasis.
A person’s sweat may smell like vinegar due to health conditions such as kidney disease, diabetes, or a skin infection. A person’s diet can also influence the smell of their sweat. A person can decrease the smell of their sweat by keeping their skin and clothes dry, washing regularly with antibacterial soap, or taking medication to treat underlying health conditions. A person may also change their diet if they find that their sweat smells like vinegar when eating certain foods.