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3 Stinky Body Parts and How to Fix Them

Americans spend $4 billion a year battling bad breath, stinky arm pits, and more personal aromas. If you do have a stinky body part, there's usually something amiss that you can fix.

3 Stinky Body Parts and How to Fix Them

Americans spend $4 billion a year battling bad breath, stinky arm pits and, ahem, more personal aromas. That puts our odor obsession on par with our devotion to multivitamins ($4 billion) and just behind bottled water ($5 billion). The fact is, odors are human. Women and men may even choose mates partially (if unconsciously) on the basis of preferences for particular body odors.

Your natural and unique "signature" scent is not unpleasant. As long as you bathe, brush, and floss regularly, there's no need for high-priced sprays or washes. And if you do have a stinky body part, it usually means there's something amiss that you can fix.

What stinks: Your breath. Breath mints and gum are no match for bacteria that (maybe thanks to casual oral care) have found a sticky film of food and saliva at the back of your tongue to chow down on. At best, minty stuff can briefly mask the rotten-egg aromas coming outta there. Alcohol-containing mouthwashes can backfire by drying out your mouth,leaving you without enough saliva for natural cleansing.

The fix: Brushing your tongue or using a tongue scraper. In one New York University study, people who brushed their teeth and tongues twice daily for 60 seconds had a 53% reduction in breath-souring sulfur compounds. Mouthwashes with bacteria-fighting ingredients help, too. Check the ingredients list for chlorhexidine, cetylpyridinium chloride, zinc lactate, or chlorine dioxide.

Related: Try one of these six foods to sweeten your breath.

What stinks: Your pits. If you think you smell there, assume it's not your imagination. Stress, food, aging, and hormone shifts can trigger a population explosion among natural skin bacteria that call your armpits home (they chomp on fats in sweat).

The fix: Try cleaning your pits with an antibacterial soap twice a day. Then, dry well and apply your favorite deodorant-antiperspirant combo -- not just an antiperspirant. Do this before shelling out big bucks for a deodorant labeled "clinical strength." It's an open secret in the deodorant biz that few people (just 1 in 20) really need one. Still smelly? Take down armpit bacteria with a prescription antibiotic cream that contains clindamycin (such as Cleocin) or erythromycin (such as E-Mycin, Erythrocin, or Ilosone). Limiting garlic, onion, chile peppers, black pepper, vinegar, blue cheese, cabbage, radishes, marinated fish, and red meat helps, too.

What stinks: "Down there." In women, vaginal aromas ebb and flow naturally with your monthly hormonal cycle. But a strong fishy smell, especially after you've had sex, is a tell-tale symptom of bacterial vaginosis (BV), an overgrowth of the bacterium Gardnerella vaginalis. (Hey, you might need to know this stuff sometime.)

The fix: Not douching! Douches upset the natural acid-base balance that keeps vaginal bacteria in check naturally. Wash with mild soap, rinse well, and wear cotton underwear during the day and none at night while you're sleeping. (You want air circulation.) Give the tight, skinny jeans a rest, too, and change out of wet or sweaty clothing promptly. If BV doesn't go away or it returns (it's likely) or you're pregnant, see your OB/GYN to confirm it is bacterial vaginosis that is causing the smells and to get treated. BV can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease and make you more susceptible to STDs. Yes, sexually transmitted diseases.

Related: Learn what to do to stop that embarrassing itch.

Get more health tips from Sharecare:

July, 2011