[in the voice of Casey Kasem] Coming in at #19 on the list of “Weird stuff that happens at menopause” is….changes in sweating and body odor!

Honestly, who knew hormones dictate so much of what goes on in our bodies?! But they do, from mood to heart health to metabolism to body odor.

If you’re at or approaching menopause, you may have noticed your body smells differently. Of course, this can be hard to know for sure as menopause and sense of smell/taste can be a complicated relationship, but for many women it is a reality. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but as with all changes, you should be aware of what’s happening, what you can do about it, and whether or not to be concerned.*

There are a couple of explanations for changes or increases in body odor: first, dips in estrogen can trigger hot flashes and night sweats, meaning you simply sweat more, which in turn can result in more odor. Hormone imbalance and body odor often go together.

Second, sweat caused by anxiety or stress is produced differently than sweat from exercise. Anxiety sweat is formed in the apocrine glands and is a sort of fatty sweat (ew) that bacteria love to lounge in. Growth of this bacteria causes a different and often more pronounced odor. And since menopause can cause a rise in anxiety, voilà!

When should I worry?

A change in body odor during the years around menopause is normal. But it’s true that changes in your natural scent can also be caused by more serious issues.

Graves’ disease, unfortunately, mimics a lot of what women experience in menopause, which can result in a misdiagnosis. In addition to increased sweating, anxiety, irritability, fatigue, sleeping problems, irregular periods and irregular heartbeat are common to both. Graves’ sufferers can also experience enlarged thyroid, bulging eyes, and vision problems. If you think your sweating indicates you’re at risk of Graves’, for sure get ye to a doctor and get checked.

Diabetes. Excessive sweating can be an indicator of diabetes. Diabetes can cause body odor to have a fruity smell, so if you notice that change, definitely see a doctor.

There are other causes that can underlie excessive sweating and changes in body odor, so if increased sweating and odor are interfering with your life, of course, don’t hesitate to see a doctor to get treatment and to rule out more serious concerns.

OK, it’s not serious, but what can I do about it?

For many women, it may not be necessary to do anything at all, but if your scent or sweating are making you uncomfortable, there are things you can do:

  1. Lifestyle changes. Lifestyle changes are nearly always our first line of defense, since they tend to be the least invasive. And what benefits one menopause symptom tends to benefit your body in general!
    • Rethink your diet. Shift your diet to include foods rich in zinc and magnesium (oysters, shellfish, broccoli, pecans, cashews, tofu). Consumer Health Digest also recommends adding wheat grass, as the chlorophyll-rich food is “nature’s natural deodorant.” Eliminate or reduce red meat, white flour, sugars, caffeine, and deep-fried foods to reduce toxins that can contribute to odor.
    • Reduce stress. Yeah, we can never type this with a straight face either, but if you can lessen stress, obviously you’ll sweat less and you’ll produce less of the anxiety sweat that’s stronger in odor. Meditation and yoga are great ways to quiet the mind, and an easy walk in a natural setting can ease anxiety.
    • Be prepared. Being anxious about being anxious seems counterproductive; being prepared is better. If you tend to sweat a lot from hot flashes or you’re just more aware of your body’s odor, carry some wipes like our Cleansing Cloths to refresh and reduce body odor whenever you feel you need it. Just be sure any wash you use is gentle enough for frequent application, particularly if you’re using it on your intimate area.
  2. Supplements. Adding specific supplements has helped many women control body odor better. Some women report managing menopause symptoms with phytoestrogens such as black cohosh, dong quai and soy, but do be careful with these as they can interfere and interact with other medications. There are other, non-estrogenic supplements as well, such as Macafem, that may help reduce body odor. As always, talk to your doctor before introducing new treatments!
  3. Medical interventions. Somewhat more dramatic routes require treatment by medical professionals. You can get prescription-strength deodorants which contain more aluminum chloride. There’s also Botox (yup), which can paralyze sweat glands and reduce excessive sweating, but this requires repeat treatment in a few months.

The good news is, if the cause is menopause, increased body odor and sweating generally subside over time.

Your turn! Have you noticed a change or increase in sweating and body odor as you approach menopause? What did you do/are you doing to handle these symptoms? Your sisters want you to share, so leave us some knowledge in the comments here or on Facebook or Twitter!

*The information in this blog is not intended to replace the expert advice of a medical professional. If you’re concerned your symptoms might be serious, stop reading this, for crying out loud, and go see a doctor.