Sweat Smells like Vinegar – Causes and Treatment

Sweating is a normal process. This is the way our body releases toxins out of our body. But sometimes this natural process might seem not so natural when we start to notice something is wrong with the way it smells.

This is the easiest way to actually suspect that something is not okay with your body in general. We can tell a lot about our health by these little changes that occur. In this article we will explain what is the cause of vinegar smelling sweat and what can you do to prevent it.

Sweat glands and sweating process

You can already guess where we have the most sweat glands on our body. Those are the areas on our back, our armpits our palms and feet. But, there is a difference between these glands. We can divide them into two groups: Eccrine and Apocrine glands.

Eccrine glands are located almost everywhere on our skin. They make sure our body doesn’t get too heated and that the excess heat is released through small tubes on our skin surface.

Apocrine glands are located in our breasts, eyelids, armpits and genitals. These glands are even found in our earlobes, and they help in formation of ear wax. These glands release sweat but also pheromones which are found to be crucial when choosing a partner.

Apocrine glands create body odor. Our sweat is full of proteins and bacteria breaks them down on the surface of our skin.

Body odor

Body odor is something that we learned to dislike along the years. Once it was a natural “perfume” that we used to recognize a certain individual. In the animal kingdom, body odor plays essential role in finding a mate and also distinguishing the difference between individuals.

Body odor can be a side-effect of many different things. For example, when we are in puberty our body goes through a changing process and as a side-effect of that process we have body odor. This is a normal condition for puberty because whatever we do, our body just seems to be working by itself and we can’t stop this condition.

Another medical condition that can cause body odor is diabetes. This condition causes a fruity type of body odor and people with this condition are easily recognized for it.

Other conditions like obesity or hyperhidrosis can also cause body odor.

Body odor smells like vinegar

We all know how the regular sweat smells so it easy to recognize that something is not right with our body when we smell differently. If you care about your health you shouldn’t take this sign as something that is not important. If your sweat starts to smell differently and if it gets more excessive, it is time to ask for medical advice.

The main reason why our body odor smells like vinegar is propionibacteria. Our body is covered with bacteria, and whatever we do we can’t prevent them from existing. In some way they are important for us because we need them to maintain a good balance inside and outside our body.

Propionibacteria are located in our sebaceous glands which are found all over our body. These bacteria biodegrade protein released through sweat glands, and during this process propionic acid is released. Release of this acid is what makes your sweat smell like acid.

Since normal amount of this type of bacteria is living inside our sweat glands, only growth of them can cause vinegary smell. Changes in their reaction or their amount can be caused by diet changes, medications, poor hygiene, obesity and other.

When you have considered all of the mentioned causes and your body odor is still present, then it is time to visit your doctor. It can be that your problem is more serious or that you simply need to find another cause.

Diabetes can also be the reason behind vinegar smelling sweat. Patients with this condition can’t process sugar like others so the amount of sugar increases. Sugar then gets broken down into acid and this process created vinegar smelling body odor. This condition is known as ketoacidosis.

Another cause of vinegary body odor is hormonal change. Our body is influenced by hormones and when their balance gets disturbed body odor might be a side-effect. This is why hormonal imbalance causes excessive sweating and body odor changes.

Menopause can also cause body odor changes. So called “hot flashes” mean that our body is creating more sweat than usual, and body odor changes along with it. Since this is only a temporary state, you will be fine after this period passes.

When is it time to be worried?

Body odor can vary from one person to another. But, if you are well known with your body odor and you notice something is different, then try considering your diet options and your medication prescriptions. Sometimes even unhealthy lifestyle might be the cause.

If none of these are the cause then make sure to track other changes like the amount of sweating and whether the sweating happens during the night. Cold sweats can also be an indicator that something is wrong.

If your hygiene is okay and your acidic body odor still stays, then definitely check in with your physician. In some cases diabetes or hormonal imbalance can cause change in our body odor. Examinations and tests are required to determine whether you have a certain medical condition or not.

Remember that the sooner you realize something is wrong the sooner you can find the perfect treatment for your condition.

Treatment options

If your condition is caused by hormones during puberty, the best thing you can do is try to maintain your hygiene on a certain level. If you require more showers and washing up, then do so. Also, remember that this is a perfectly normal condition and that you will pass this soon.

When your problem is obesity then you already know what you have to do. You will require diet changes. You might want to include more fruits and vegetables, and also physical activity is recommended for everyone, not only if your health is endangered.

Even if you are not obese try to stay away from onions, garlic, asparagus and other food sots which affect our body odor in general. Raw fruits and vegetables are the best option, so include them in this form as much as possible.

Dehydratation is another possible source of your body odor problems, so make sure to drink enough water and hydrate your body before and after an exhausting activity. You can even try detoxifying your body with food that has these properties.

Wearing clothes made from natural materials and natural fibers might also be helpful. Synthetic materials don’t give our skin enough room to breathe, so you should choose materials without this content.

Armpit hairs slow down the process of drying the armpits. This way the smell from our sweat glands will remain longer and we will have a feeling that our body odor has increased. Make sure to choose a antiperspirant that will keep your armpits clean from bacteria and give you a nice smelling armpit.

Avoid using cosmetic products on your vaginal area, because you can damage the very sensitive skin in that part of your body.

Sometimes a dermatologist can evaluate whether your bacteria balance is in order or not. Since this balance is easily disturbed, it is good to know if that might be the cause.

Immune system weakness could also the cause for your body odor. Packing on with vitamin C and probiotic supplements will help you to strengthen your immunity and fight against bad bacteria.


Body odor is not something you should be ashamed of, especially if you have a certain medical condition. However, it is important to find out what is causing your body odor and fight against it. Sometimes this is the only way our body can tell us that something more serious is going on.

You should definitely visit your doctor if your body odor starts to increase, if it changes smell or if it becomes persistent seemingly without a reason. Night sweats and cold sweats can also be indicators that something is not quite right, so make sure to list them to your doctor as well.

If you are going through puberty and menopause, keep in mind that your condition is only temporary and that it will soon be over. And lastly, hygiene is something we should all be conscious about because not caring about it can cause some serious health problems.