Let’s face it, ladies, like it or not, we’re all marching inescapably towards midlife, and many of us never received a road map to our destination.
When it comes to menopause, even the most direct route isn’t smooth and linear, but rather riddled with twists and turns, sometimes so sharp and sudden that we have to pull over and puke.
I’ll be honest: I’m still maybe a decade away from this important life transition, but I have several friends currently navigating the prickly path, and they’ll be the first to tell you it’s not always pretty. From hot flashes to mood swings, thinning hair to weight gain, the symptoms can come on quickly and interfere with a woman’s quality of life.
👉 1 in 5 quit their jobs during menopause
👉 6 in 10 say symptoms affect their performance at work
👉 75% have symptoms that impact their quality of life
No one should go through life changes alone. Check out all the need to know information here: https://t.co/4aD1S4YwRr.
— Unmind (@unmindhq) August 17, 2021
Fortunately (or unfortunately), most of us are familiar with these most common symptoms, even if our knowledge is primarily derived from (highly embellished) depictions in popular media. But there’s one lesser-known symptom that remains a taboo topic, one that hasn’t quite made the cut of the Sex And The City reboot: post-menopause body odor.
If you’re riding the menopause roller coaster and you’ve noticed you smell a little stinkier, the stench may not be entirely in your head (or, well, your nasal neurons). The good news is that you’re definitely not alone, and you don’t have to wrinkle your nose forever. Here, women’s health experts shed light on the causes of post-menopause body odor and how you can stop stinking to high heaven.
What Causes Post-Menopause Body Odor?
To understand why your body odor changes after menopause, it’s important to understand what happens hormonally throughout this stage. During the transition to menopause — called perimenopause — ovulation becomes erratic, and your body experiences a decline in its production of estrogen and progesterone, two female hormones.
Due to fluctuating hormone levels, your menstrual cycle also becomes irregular and eventually stops completely. Menopause is defined as the period of time at which you have not had a menstrual period for 12 months.
What do fluctuating hormones have to do with body odor? “Drops in estrogen contribute to hot flashes; hot flashes make us sweat; and sweat makes us stink,” explains Kim Vopni, a pelvic health coach and menopause support specialist. “Sweat itself is not stinky but becomes stinky when we are stressed and when we have a buildup of toxins in our body.”
Women in menopause can become stressed out from factors including work, kids, aging parents, or relationships, Vopni points out. Anxiety about menopause, too, can create stress and thus produce more foul-smelling sweat. “Menopause itself is a stressor!” she says.
During the transition to menopause, declining estrogen levels can additionally alter the ratio of estrogen to testosterone in the body. Testosterone, a male hormone, is also produced by the ovaries but does not drop as rapidly as the female hormones as we age. A relatively higher level of testosterone means more bacteria in the sweat, which in turn usually means a more pungent odor.
Finally, some women may notice a change in vaginal odor during menopause, due to a hormone-related change in the vaginal pH. “Just like underarm sweat can stink, so can sweat in the apocrine glands outside of our vagina,” Vopni explains. “When we reach menopause, our vagina is less acidic, meaning we are more prone to infection. The apocrine sweat contains more bacteria, which can make it smell more.”
How Can I Combat Post-Menopause Body Odor?
If you’ve taken a sniff and caught a malodorous whiff, there are a few things you can do to take control and stop the stench:
Lower your stress. “Stress sweat is stinkier sweat,” reiterates Vopni. Chronic stress is also associated with a higher risk of heart disease, anxiety disorders, and depression. Whether your favorite mode of movement involves running, walking, or yoga, exercise in any form can boost endorphins and beat stress. You can also practice meditation and mindfulness to slow your breathing and relieve your worries.
Prioritize sleep. “Our body’s ability to self-regulate and heal takes place while sleeping. Our hormones may be greatly affected by not sleeping well,” points out Emmy Loumeau, a certified women’s health coach. Aim for at least seven hours of sleep per night, and practice good sleep hygiene by following a regular routine, avoiding light exposure, and unplugging from electronics. (P.S. The perfect pillow can work wonders!)
Change your diet. You don’t have to overhaul your entire diet — even small changes can help control post-menopause body odor. Studies show that alcohol or caffeine consumption can trigger vasomotor symptoms (e.g., hot flashes) in some women, so limit your intake if you notice a link. Also, recommends Loumeau, introduce phytoestrogens to your diet — found in flaxseeds, chickpeas, berries, and cruciferous berries — because these foods can increase estrogen levels in your body. Finally, don’t forget to stay hydrated! When you’re dehydrated, your sweat becomes more concentrated and can emit a stronger smell.
Keep cool. It’s tricky to avoid overheating during the summer, but wearing the right clothing can help. Instead of wool and synthetic fabrics, choose thinner, natural fabrics like cotton or bamboo. To help control night sweats, invest in some cooling pajamas or a cooling blanket and sheets. Also, keep the temperature low or turn on a fan while you sleep. An ice bath or cold shower before bed can feel quite refreshing and chill you out, too!
Apply a good antiperspirant. Instead of picking up any old deodorant from the drug store, look for an extra-strength antiperspirant. While deodorants simply mask body odor, antiperspirants block sweat glands (usually with aluminum) and block odor from escaping. Prescription-strength antiperspirants, or even Botox injections to reduce excessive sweating, may be an option if your post-menopause body odor is severe. Talk to your healthcare provider if you think you’re a candidate for a prescription solution.
Are you grappling with post-menopause body odor? What solutions have worked for you? Share your advice in the comments!
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