A doctor explains what could make you stink like onions.

“There are multiple reasons why a person might smell like onions,” begins Kathryn Boling, MD, a board certified family medicine practitioner with Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, MD.

“The first reason (which you have no control over) is genetics. You could have inherited a propensity to smell a certain way.

“Another reason you could smell like onions is that you have been eating onions – or other foods like garlic, shallots, etc., – that contain volatile sulfurous substances.

“These substances make their way into the bloodstream and by this route cause our sweat and other body fluids to smell like onions – especially in the 24-48 hours after eating them.”

You may not even know you’ve recently eaten onions in, for instance, a chicken pot pie.

Dr. Boling continues, “Even if you have not been eating onions, body sweat (especially under the arms and in the groin) can smell like onions when sweat is mixed with bacteria on the skin.”


Dr. Boling explains, “You can limit this by showering regularly and preventing excessive sweating – by using an antiperspirant.

“A less common reason for unusual body odor is illness – for example kidney or liver disease.”

Dr. Boling diagnoses and treats a wide range of conditions from acute illnesses to chronic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.  

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