Wednesday, December 26, 2018

The Smells Our Bodies Make

Last year, while enrolled in yoga teacher training, a fellow classmate shared a story in which the stench of vodka became thick during the course of a Saturday morning class. Indeed, as we begin to sweat things out, our bodies can "take on" certain scents based on what we've consumed, when we've bathed, etc. And during the scope of my teacher training, as we were required to complete a bevy of yoga classes in a short amount of time, I often "doubled up": running from one yoga class to another without much of a shower in between. And so while sharing close quarters with fellow yogis in a heated room, I began to feel extra badly about the pretty ripe smell that would build up alongside my class count. Eventually, I smartened up to the idea that I needed to change clothes in the ten minutes  between classes or even work in a quick shower. But then, one day, upon not doing either of these things, that my sweat was not a big issue and so I began to wonder about our stank. 

"We are what we eat," as the saying goes and I've generally found this to be true. In my experience, what I eat affects how I look (in terms of my complexion), what I say (in terms of my mood) and, seemingly, how I smell. In the Netflix series, Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, author Samin Nosrat explains that fats such as butter and oils, while imparting flavor of their own can also act as carriers of flavor... working as the middle men between meat and spices, let's say. In this regard, sweat does not so much carry its own stench but works, rather, as the carrier of broken down foods out from our bodies and onto our skin where it reacts with bacteria to annoy anyone in our close proximity. To this end, certain foods break down and react pretty strongly with the bacteria on our bodies. A few offenders lie below. Enjoy! (Or don't.)

Alcohol: As I progressed through my linty of yoga classes, my consumption of alcohol began to decrease. At some point, running from class to class left little time for drinking and/or less tolerance for dehydration. This, in the end, is likely why my body stopped smelling so much as classes piled on. (For the record, my body stinks once again now that I'm out of teacher training). But just as alcohol can break down and get into your lungs (hence the breathalyzer test), it can also get into your pores which can be "sweat out" later.

Garlic and Onions: Aside from alcohol (which seems to be metabolized through a different process), foods that break down into sulfur compounds like garlic and onions often lead to body odors that are bad. In this regard, while garlic and onions can be smelt on your breath (similar to alcohol) they're also broken down into sulfur based compounds like the foods below. 

Cruciferous Vegetables: In Food is Family, I wrote about my penchant for "beans and greens" as I like to call them. In general, through my research for this post, I've learned that my daily desire for garlic-hummus and broccoli has made me ripe for the ripest smells in my yoga class. Like garlic and onions, green vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage and Brussels sprouts also break down into sulfur compounds that can make our sweat smell... badly.

Red Meat: Also sulfur-rich, leaving you to smell like dead eggs.

So there you have it, a few foods that might leave lingering smells if you're sweating. Some foods are healthy, some are not but all probably good to forgo before a workout class. Just as it's annoying to be next to the person who's working too hard in class, it's also likely annoying to be next to the person who shares my diet. ;)

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