The human body does not release toxins through its pores. Sweat is the ingenious way we cool off when temperatures rise or exert strenuous energy. Our kidneys, liver, and intestines are responsible for helping us detox.
The perspiration that leaves our bodies during exercise and on hot days is odorless; it’s often a combination of the sweat mixed with bacteria buildup in the armpit hair and the groin that contributes to how we smell. Eating broccoli with garlic and curry spices or drinking caffeinated drinks also impacts body odor.
In some rare cases, individuals have a condition called trimethylaminuria. This disorder occurs when our bodies cannot process a chemical called trimethylamine. Symptoms can include a fish or urine odor that follows you regardless of how often you bathe.
Who knew? The myth sweat stinks is something I believed before writing this blog post. Yes, I work at a medical college, but my education has nothing to do with exercise physiology. My beliefs about sweat fit into the explanation I gave others about THAT smell my body produces when I work out.
THAT smell I have after exercise is not similar to fish or urine. Close your eyes and picture a teenager after they participate in an outdoor sports activity. THAT smell their bodies have when they get in your car is my workout fragrance.
According to the Cleveland Clinic’s online health library, men and people assigned male at birth often have more hair on their bodies, which translates to a stronger body odor. I fit into these categories, which helps explain some recent embarrassing moments in Antigua.
Two weeks ago, I was at a local gym. After about twenty minutes into my routine, I spotted the facility attendant staring at me from the corners of my eyes. I thought I had misused the equipment, and he planned to correct me. But a few minutes passed, and he didn't say anything.
I proceeded with my strength workout and finished some capoeira drills in the studio.
Before I had a chance to leave, the employee stopped me. He said, “ Excuse me. I don’t mean to be rude, but is there something you can do about your body odor? A couple of our members are complaining about you.”
After my initial laugh, out of embarrassment, I responded by explaining that when I exercise, I stink. He then asked me about my bathing habits. Now feeling frustrated, I told him that I shower twice a day.
That wasn't enough. The guy interrogated me with more questions.
“Do you use some sort of natural deodorant? I know that some people in certain cultures use crystals or something as an alternative.”
My response. “Yes, I use the same Arm and Hammer or Old Spice deodorant you can buy at any grocery store.”
"Well, perhaps you should switch to Degree or something with an antiperspirant."
I looked at him, said, “Ok,” and then left with my head down.
After I dragged my deflated ego back to the car, I dissected the confrontation. The conversation with my steering wheel went something like this; I use this “long-lasting” deodorant that is aluminum free. Perhaps, that’s the problem.
Aluminum Chlorohydrate is an ingredient in antiperspirant deodorants. Some have suggested aluminum can increase your chances of breast cancer, but the American Cancer Society refutes these claims. Healthy kidneys help us flush out most of the potential toxins from our bodies.
I also considered another interpretation of the gym attendant’s questions.
Multiple times, I have encountered stereotypes about people with dreadlocks. Some assume that we do not have good hygiene habits, smoke weed, reject formal education, and have polygamous relationships. Odd comments and questions about my practices came from communities in the States, Mexico, and Antigua.
While waiting in line during the height of covid, one lady turned around and said to me, "Get back, you dirty Rastaman." I stared at her for a second and then took a few steps back. Perhaps, I should have responded to her ignorant comment, but I didn’t.
When I met another older lady at a church service, her eyes almost jumped out of their sockets after I admitted to working as a professor at the medical college. Probably, she believed men with dreadlocks didn't hold advanced degrees or worked in education. It's hard to say for sure.
Maybe, a mosquito or spit flew into the woman’s eyelids at the precise time I responded to her question about my work. I doubt it. It's hard to explain these moments. But, possibly, I smelled awful to her also.
I go to the gym to sweat. With a tight schedule, I aim to finish an intense workout and leave. I am not there to pick up women or make friends.
Two weeks ago, I carried my post-exercise funk as a badge of honor. It confirmed that I put in solid work. However, after this second incident about my smell at the gym, yes, it has now happened more than once, and my wife’s confirmation, I decided to change.
Whenever I work out with a group or go to the gym, I take extra precautions not to offend others. I clean my armpits and apply an antiperspirant deodorant within 30 minutes of the start time. A talc powder is sprinkled in my shoes and on the branches surrounding my tree to prevent any additional odor. I can write pubic hairs and penis, but branches around a tree should make you laugh.
You need humor to get through life's challenges.
When I exercise solo, keep your distance. This post is your warning. I will be THAT Stinky Professor with an aluminum-free deodorant under my armpits. Every ounce of bacteria mixed with sweat in the hairs of my body will hit the airwaves and pavement.
Has anyone ever said anything to you about your body odor? How did you respond?