Keep an “eye” on your health with a sniff test: Armpit odor is an indicator of overall health, according to research
07/31/2018 // Frances Bloomfield // Views

There are many ways to gauge your physical health, from checking your blood pressure to measuring your waistline. One other way is to perform a sniff test of your armpits. According to, our armpits play host to a score of microbes that protect our bodies from harmful pathogens. However, slathering on deodorant or antiperspirant can greatly affect the balance of those microbes.

Researchers from the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences found this out after conducting an eight-day test on 17 volunteers. The participants were grouped according to the kind of body odor-controlling product they used, if any. On the first day, the volunteers were asked to use their respective products like they normally would. After the first day, they were asked to stop their typical hygiene practices.

During each day of the experiment, the researchers swabbed each participant's armpits and studied each sample for microbiota. At the start of the experiment, they discovered that the volunteers who used antiperspirants had the lowest number of microbes while those who used deodorant had more microbes albeit with less diversity. On the third day, those who used antiperspirant began showing signs of increased microbial growth. By the sixth and final day, all of the study participants had similar armpit microbiomes.

“However, once all participants began using antiperspirant on days seven and eight, we found very few microbes on any of the participants, verifying that these products dramatically reduce microbial growth,” said Dr. Julie Horvath, study co-author and comparative evolutionary genomicist.


The researchers also observed that product-users had higher amounts of Staphylococcaceae, a family of bacteria responsible for staph infections. Conversely, the participants who didn't use any odor-controlling products had armpits with greater numbers of Corynebacterium, which are friendly bacteria that produce the bad smells associated with body odor. (Related: Stop Using Deodorant: 3 Reasons You Need to Sweat.)

Horvath further noted: “One exciting finding was that the non-human primates were more covered in fecal and soil associated microbes, which we often view as dirty. Perhaps the diversity of fecal and soil microbes on non-human primate skin serves some benefit that we don’t yet understand or appreciate.

“Over evolutionary time, we would expect our microbes to co-evolve with us. But we appear to have altered that process considerably through our habits, from bathing to taking steps to change the way we look or smell.”

So even if your armpits smell a bit stinky, that may actually be a good thing. That just means that you've got more good bacteria lingering under your arms. And as we already know, microbial diversity is a good thing since different bacteria have different roles in maintaining our overall health. In the case of Corynebacterium, they protect our bodies from harmful, disease-causing pathogens.

Though if you really must hide some particularly smelly armpit odors, we don't recommend using commercial deodorants or antiperspirants since they tend to be full of chemical ingredients that do more harm than good. Aluminum, triclosan, and parabens are just some of the usual suspects you need to watch out for. Instead, you can opt to just make your own homemade deodorant, and has put out a recipe for a good one. You will need:

  • 1/3 cup of coconut oil
  • Two tablespoons of baking soda
  • 1/3 cup of arrow root powder
  • Optional: 10 to 15 essential oils of your choice

Mix everything in a small mixing bowl. With the back of the spoon, cream the ingredients until they've combined uniformly and achieved a consistency close to deodorant. If you have essential oils, mix them in at this point. Lavender, sweet orange, and cinnamon are some good picks for homemade deodorant. Once done, simply place the mixture in a small container and set aside until needed. To use, swipe your deodorant on two fingers and rub onto your armpits.

Doing this decreases your risk of exposure to aluminum, parabens, and much more. Plus when you're done, you can easily return to going all natural without worrying about your health.

For more stories or tips about ensuring your overall health, simply go to today.

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