Sunday, December 27, 2009

How To Smell Good From The Inside Out

Updated: January 2020
We all think that we smell good, but the true judge of that are actually people who can smell you. Sometimes there is that rare occasion we can smell ourselves. If you are hearing a lot of comments from people around you smelling something mysterious or if you find yourself noticing a foul odor (fishy, fecal, sewage) coming from your body, that could be a sign that something more serous is happening.  If your hygiene regiment is normal to excessive and the odor is still there, perhaps the smell coming from inside of you!

Well I found myself in this terrible situation many years back when I went on a date and beyond my greatest hygiene efforts to put my best foot forward, my date complained I had a terrible smell.  I was so embarrassed but I was so happy he was honest with me.  I couldn't do anything about it at the time but it was the first time I became aware that there was a problem.

I got so paranoid that I tried to over compensate by using perfume whenever I left the house.  Sometimes I would get compliments on how good I smelled and sometimes people complained I smelled bad.  The crazy part about it was that it wasn't a constant thing.  I was lucky to have had many more good days than bad.   On the bad days, I'd get side looks of utter repulsion, with no knowledge why.

I was alerted to the seriousness of the situation during an airing of ABC Nightly News a few years back about a gorgeous model afflicted with chronic bad odor and the terrible impact it had on her life.  Hygiene was not the problem.  The problem was a disease and it took on a name.

The disease is called Trimethylaminuria (TMAU) due to ones inability to break down foods producing trimethylamine (TMA) in the digestive system into its odorless form trimethylamine oxide (TMAO).  The enzyme needed to break down TMA is Flavin-containing monooxygenase 3 (FMO3) which is both a gene and an enzyme that is expressed in the liver.  Some people are born with it and that is referred to as TMAU type I.  Individuals can actually get TMAU over time (TMAU type II).

Type II can occur in sufferers by having low or dysfunctioning FMO3, through a traumatic hit to the digestive system, an overdose of choline foods, liver failure, IBS, metabolic disorders, methylation dysfunction, the use of medications and in some cases the intense use of antibiotics.  As well, many suffers of type II TMAU may have other medical issues or take required medication that can trigger and exacerbate the disease.

TMA will escape through the skin, sweat glands and orifices (halitosis which can damage the teeth, eye ducts, vagina that smells like fish, urethra or anus that smells of feces, fish, or sulfur).

It is considered a rare disease because less than 1% of the population is on record for having the disease, but I estimate that the percent is much higher because of the shame and ridicule attached to unpleasant smells.  Only the brave or severely affected individuals have sought medical help.   In fact, many sufferers who seek diagnosis are told that the are imagining the disease.  I've known several people over the years that I am certain they have it but haven't identified that they have it.  Thankfully, more and more cases are coming out about people who are willing to share their stories and share their helpful tips to fellow sufferers.

For me, I noticed that it was never a constant thing, but there were specific times that I had literally just walked out of the shower and there was a foul ammonia smell still coming from my body.  There are test you can take to get a medical diagnosis, but it didn't take a genius to figure out something was wrong.  If hygiene didn't work, what is there left to do?  I just wanted to ball up and cry... give up on life.  Something inside me was curious though, so I did some sleuthing.

There is hope.

According to my findings some people can alter their bodily scent by following special food regimens to help the digestive system break down or expel the foul smelling TMA.  I am not a doctor so please research these findings on your own.  It is very important to personalize the methods you chose to employ with a medical professional.

Before starting a new eating regimen, get rid of any possible foul smelling TMA in the body. Detoxing any existing TMA in your digestive tract will ensure that your efforts will work most effectively.  Get a safe natural herbal detox kit or cleanse.  Activated charcoal is an excellent substitute, meant for temporary use.  Using activated charcoal will inhibit your uptake of vital nutrients and minerals because it does cleanse everything!

Stay away from drugstore laxatives because they may have chemicals that can negatively affect the liver.  Lots of water will help as well to carry the detox materials trough the digestive tract. Detox for approximately 3 days to 7 days.  This is also a great way to reset the body whenever there is a relapse.  Safely water fasting is another option.  Expect to smell worse during this process, as the toxins leave the body.

Your gut health is the main method of dealing with TMA.  You can make a big difference with probiotics.  Once your digestive tract is empty after your detox, fill up on probiotics to fight against the foul TMA in your gut and prevent it from seeping out through the skin and orifices.

Fermented foods are and excellent source of delivering probiotics into the digestive tract.  Sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, tempeh, some yogurts, olives, pickles in salt brine, kombucha and kefir are great forms to deliver more probiotics in the body. 

The one caveat is that you should be aware of what they are made of or they can do more damage than good.  Milk derivatives, tea, and sugar could be triggers in some individuals.  Here is a probiotic supplement recommendation (not sponsored) I used that helped me that is organic, gluten free, and sugar free.

Two other digestive healers that helped me was colostrum during the microbiome rebuilding stage and apple cider vinegar assists my body with the digestion of foods.

Help your body’s N-oxygenation process that encourages the body produce the odorless TMAO by taking vitamin B2 (Riboflavin), chlorophyll (considered a natural internal deodorizer), cooper and drinking lots of water daily (for oxygen).

Deep breathing can help as well.  It helps to expell TMA and bring in an intensity of oxygen. Heck, even surround yourself with plants (because they emit oxygen).  We are after oxygen to attach to the TMA to create odorless TMAO.  Massage and exercise can help bring more oxygen into the body and work out any trapped TMA gases.  Lymphatic brushing is another method as well.  Do any of these in the mornings to try to improve your day.  Oxygen being present is not the only solution, but making sure it is present within the body can help.

Shorten and minimize the length of time foul smelling TMA stays in your digestive tract with fiber.  Inulin is an excellent fiber that serves the dual purpose of being a prebiotic that actually feeds good probiotics and helps them to grow strong and build their colonies.  Inulin has helped me a lot.  Lots and lots of water can also help push the fiber and TMA along, making sure the fiber getting to all areas of the digestive tract.  Kicking the TMA out of the body as fast as possible is important so it doesn't get a chance to escape through the rest of your body.

Avoid eating large quantities of foods that produce TMA containing choline, nitrogen, sulfur, and lecithin. Choline is an essential nutrient so do not eliminate them totally.  These foods are barley, wheat, beans, potatoes, saltwater fish, tomatoes, cauliflower, broccoli, garlic, onions, MSG, eggs (yolk), bread, oranges, coffee, some peppers, pungent spices poultry and meat. 

Personally speaking, something as simple as just avoiding garlic and onions made a big difference for me.  Most recently, I had an awful episode with broccoli.  I love the stuff, but it does create a negative reaction in my scent. 

It’s impossible to avoid all TMA forming foods but do your best to keep them at a minimum in your diet.  In addition, large amounts of sugar, alcohol, chocolate, milk products, protein supplements, and high protein diets can also affect sufferers negatively. 

Avoid processed foods and dining out as much as possible, where there will be a tendency for more usage of sugar, garlic, onions, and micro toxin contaminants.

Great TMAO friendly foods are rice, egg whites, fish oil (omega 3 high in DHA),coconut oil (MCT oil),  corn flour, celery, carrots, all of the berries, papaya, red grapes, cucumbers, kale, lettuce, squash, zucchini, apples, lemons, limes, pears, spinach, shiitake mushrooms, crimini mushrooms, avocados, asparagus, pineapple, onions, pickles in salt brine, parsley, sage, turnips, and beets (creates nitric oxide).  Some of these foods may contain choline but they contain a balance of nutrients like B2, fiber, water, and citric acid to help TMAO production.

Supplementing with a trace minerals, chlorophyll, chorella, and spirulina can be helpful as well.  On the topic of supplementation, liquid forms are best for absorbing them fast.

One of the triggers for this disease is stress which can exacerbate the problem.  (This is a big trigger for me personally.)  Being in confined places around people in a theater, meeting someone important like a boss or client, or being on a date with someone you really like can set off chemical reactions in the body or activate certain glands.  Once you start sweating the odor releases.  Those situations may always be stressful, but there are some things you can do daily to help reduce those triggers.

Meditation is a great practice that might help.  Deep breathing as I mentioned before is not only good to get more oxygen into the body but can relax your body and mind. 

Stressing the body with massive exercise or some kind of strenuous activity in the morning is another way to relax the body throughout rest of the day. 

Writing in a journal or embracing therapy can also be a way to release some emotions, so you don't have to carry them around with you all of the time.

The most common way to test is to get reactions from strangers.  They may be rude about it but their reactions are typically the most honest.  Ask someone you trust to smell you to see how you are progressing, but unfortunately most people will either lie to you or stop smelling you.  It's a strange phenomenon. 

Simply smelling yourself will not always be accurate.  However, if you do not have a smell tester, there a few things you could try.  The breath is the principal indicator of "foul play" in your digestive system.  Get a spoon and rake the tongue with it 10 minutes after brushing your teeth.  Wait 5 minutes for the spoon to dry and then smell.  You could also run a swab of facial tissue under the arms, genitals, back, or on any moist area on the body.  Let it the tissue dry for a minute before checking it with a sniff.  It's not 100% accurate, but sometimes this works in a pinch.

Give your new diet some time to work.  Be patient with yourself if you are having trouble sticking to the diet. Try, try again. It could take months even years to get your digestive system to cooperate.  When and if you do find a regimen that works, stick to it and journal everything.  This is something you will always have to monitor and manage.  As we age and hormones fluctuate and you may have to change your techniques again and again.

Some people have reported to have been cured through some of these methods.  So there is hope.  However, depending on how long you've had it, the only true way of curing the disease is by restoring normal FMO3 gene production.  Scientists are currently working on a safe way to do this. 

Keep a food journal and try to track your smell reactions.  In your journal track seemingly insignificant details like what time you ate, what time you showered, who you talked to, how you felt, what brands you used, etc.  Go into detail.  Each person is different so try different things.  Even if a method or food combination failed in the past, try it again with a twist next time.

Keep trying even after you've tried everything.  You may find everything is going fine and then suddenly the smell is back.  Don't give up!  There is a way out there to help.  We must keep trying to find it, if not for ourselves, then for a poor person out there that is struggling to figure this thing out in hopes of living a normal life.

The shame associated with this disease is so debilitating because of the misconception that foul body odor indicates uncleanliness.  However, once you address the situation by informing people that it is not a hygiene problem, but a disease, for some, it changes the way people treat you.  Try it and see if it helps for a more compassionate environment.  Do expect that some people will still tell you to just take a bath, so judge who you decide to tell wisely.

We've already established that this is not a hygiene problem, but an internal disease.  However, there are some natural hygiene tricks to help neutralize smells as they escape the body. 

Parsley leaves is a great breath freshener and antibacterial.  Even just snacking on some can help inside and out.  Sage is a wonderful antiperspirant, great for adding to lotions and homemade deodorants.  Some individuals have even just rubbed sage leaves on their skin directly (try at your own risk).  Natural feminine pads can be attached to the reverse side your clothing to absorb additional moisture in the groin area, underarms, back, chest or under the breast.  Replacing regular soap with a low PH soap may help as well. 

Sadly the mental affects of this disease is devastating.  One of the affects of TMAU is the persistent belief and preoccupation with their odor and how it is affecting others.  The last thing a person with this disease wants is put other people through discomfort.  This can lead to paranoia and anxiety.  With no cure, sometimes no sense of smell or knowing how to fix it, there is a feeling of being total helpless.

Sufferers of TMAU are often victims of bullying and abuse at educational institutions, in the workplace, and social community settings.  It's all socially accepted because the assumption is that it is the sufferer's own fault.  This can often lead to, involuntary and voluntary isolation, problems staying in committed relationships, divorce and separation, loss of employment, and homelessness.  The entire quality of life is affected.  The isolation and misunderstanding can cause loneliness that could lead to death, anxiety being around other people, depression and even suicide more often than you think.

Here is more insight to TMAU and how it affects sufferers:

TMAU Communities:
Rare Connect

May the world be blessed with more understanding, compassion and a cure.  I am just passing on all that I have learn over the past decade plus and I hope this helps someone.


  1. Actually almonds and to some point grapes are not TMAU friendly foods. The almonds have high protein and therefore choline content, the situation with grapes is similar but they have medium content. The problem is people can ingest much more fruit at one time so they both do more harm than good.

    1. Thanks for sharing! So two less things to eat in the diet. ugh.