My Body Doth Stink! The Psychological Effects of Bathing

I recently read an old article from 1988 that discussed the efficacy of cleansing our minds and spirits of possibly long-forgotten peccadilloes, regrets, and resentments. The author effectively explored the subject of confession by cleverly comparing it to the cleansing of our inner self, just as we must give our outer self a physical bath.

I was immediately impressed by the subject matter. However, as I read the article my thoughts suddenly took a departure from the mind and spirit. Although a good cleansing in the sense of a confession is healing, somehow the subject of body odor mentally took the main stage. I started to wonder if, in fact, the act of bathing—of cleansing ourselves—offers any psychological benefits as well.

Having done the research, I doubt that I’ll ever bathe again without thinking about how it affects my overall well-being. Maybe this blog post will help you find some new perspectives and come to better understand why some of us indeed stink more than others. Maybe you even know someone to whom you should forward it to. (Smile.)

Here’s a portion of the article I refer to above, titled “The Roman Catholic,” by Robert Meyer:

“Why do we bathe? It is an act of charity towards ourselves and our neighbor to keep our bodies clean. As for ourselves, washing removes the filth and bacteria that accumulate daily on the surface of our skin and can breed disease if allowed to penetrate. If we consider how even the very air we breathe is packed with harmful micro-organism, and how every surface we touch literally crawls with bacteria, it would be surprising indeed if we didn’t wash two or three times a day!

“In addition, washing thoroughly removes the dead cells that lie atop the skin. It is not too great an exaggeration to claim that once the body has been scrubbed completely, it is not the same as had entered the bath. Bathing, in a word, renews [emphasis mine]. Alongside the physical effects are certain psychological effects by washing. St. Thomas Aquinas recommends a bath for those who are feeling oppressed, burdened, or morose. He notes a bath for the body acts similarly on the mind—it helps to clear things up, it releases tension, it provides a better perspective through which to view the problems and cares of life…

“The human body acts as a carrier of every disease—some relatively slight, others fatal. One whose lack of care for his own body causes him to wash seldom or not at all manifests a disdain for the health of others as well.

‘Typhoid Mary’ is but a single striking example of how one person’s lack of personal care resulted in the deaths of hundreds.”

Body Odor—Tell Me More

As I looked back over the material I’d written in the past, I recalled writing my blog post “Healing the Immune System” while working with another holistic Standard Process practitioner, Joseph Antell. He was quite explicit with the general symptoms the liver plays in the immune system. Here is an extended excerpt from that post:

“This organ [the liver] plays a critical role in the immune system by synthesizing molecules utilized elsewhere to support homeostasis; converting molecules of one type to another; and regulating energy balances. The major metabolic functions of the liver can be summarized into three main categories:

  • “Carbohydrate metabolism: The liver is critical to maintaining concentrations of glucose in blood within a narrow, normal range. Maintenance of normal blood glucose levels over both the short-term (hours) and long-term (days to weeks) is one particularly important function of the liver.
  • “Fat metabolism: The liver is extremely active in oxidizing triglycerides to produce energy. It breaks down many more fatty acids than the liver cells need and exports large quantities of acetoacetate (a ketone involved in fat metabolism) into blood, where it can be picked up and readily metabolized by other tissues.
  • “Protein metabolism of amino acids, followed by conversion of the non-nitrogenous part of those molecules to glucose or lipids. Several of the enzymes used in these pathways (for example, alanine and aspartate aminotransferases) are commonly assayed in serum to assess liver damage. Find more information on the metabolic function of the liver here.

General symptoms [of liver dysfunction may include]: Dark circles around the eyes, body odors (feet, underarms, breath), and foul smelling fecal matter or urine.”

Apocrine Glands

The following is excerpted from “Body Odor: Causes, Preventions, Treatments,” published by

“These [apocrine] glands are found in the breasts, genital area, eyelids, armpits and ear. In the breasts they secrete fat droplets into breast milk. In the ear they help form earwax. Apocrine glands in skin and the eyelids are sweat glands.

“Most of the apocrine glands in the skin are located in the groin, armpits and around the nipples of the breast. Apocrine glands in the skin usually have an odor; they are scent glands.

“Experts say that pheromones subconsciously influence how we react to each other; one human may find another sexually attractive because the smell of their pheromones is attractive to him/her. The apocrine glands are mainly responsible for body odor because the sweat they produce is high in protein which bacteria can break down easily. The eccrine glands produce sweat which is high in salt, making it harder for bacteria to break down the protein. In other words, a lot of our B.O. (body odor) comes from the sweat produced by our apocrine glands.”

Smell Good Solutions

The following is excerpted from “You Are What You Eat: Six Smelly Foods that Are Actually Giving You Bad Body Odor,” published by

1. Alcohol
“The occasional glass of wine or beer may not produce bad body odors, but it could lead to experiencing bad breath in the morning after sipping down a couple the previous night. As alcohol goes through the blood and the body, some of it seeps out through the pores, and through the breath, as a person’s perspiration begins to smell of alcohol. Therefore, the mouth becomes dehydrated, and urine even has a faint smell of alcohol, according to

2. Asparagus
“After eating asparagus and using the restroom, most of us come to the realization that our urine has a different smell. This odor is thought to derive from the digestion of mercaptan—the sulfur compound—that breaks down into smelly chemical components. A 2010 study published in the journal Chemical Senses did find some study participants failed to develop asparagus pee because they lacked the gene for the digestive enzyme that breaks down the vegetable into its smelly components.

3. Coffee
“This morning pick-me-up beverage can not only activate our brains to remain more alert due to caffeine, but it can also activate our sweat glands. The term ‘coffee breath’ has become a problem for coffee drinkers because it is a diuretic that will make us feel very thirsty, leading to a bad taste and smell, which dries out the mouth. ‘The dryness in the mouth especially contributes to the growth of bacteria,’ Justyna Trzesniowski, Registered Nurse, and former coffee barista told [Personal note: See my blog post on coffee here.]

4. Curry and Cumin
“The smells of spices such as curry and cumin can turn a bland meal into a savory dish, but it can also wreak havoc on your body’s natural odor, remaining in your pores for days. A brief taste of cumin can actually leave a lasting aroma. Berkeley Wellness at the University of California, Berkeley, says a mom’s prenatal diet, if it regularly includes strong spices like curry, cumin, or fenugreek, could possibly affect her newborn’s body odor.

5. Red Meat
“Unless you’re a vegetarian, it is most probable you will eventually experience an unpleasant body odor. A 2006 study published in the journal Chemical Senses found the odor of participants who were on a non-meat diet had a significantly more attractive and pleasant smell and less intense compared to their meat eating counterparts. This is due to the duration it takes for large amounts of meat to travel through the digestive tract. As a result, the person experiences bad odors in their breath, perspiration, and bowel movements.

[Personal note: Any meat, in my opinion, would have similar digestive effects. Red meat is not the culprit most doctors and vegan/vegetarian websites claim. Eating grass-fed meat is a strong deterrent to body odor. And adding the tremendous benefits of fermented foods can also help you effectively eliminate digestive disorders of this kind.]

6. Too Little Greens
“It’s important to eat your greens not just for your health, but for good body odor. Chlorophyllin, found in plants, has been used orally as an internal deodorant in the 1940s and 1950s on foul-smelling wounds, according to the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University. Eating chlorophyll-rich greens such as spinach, and watercress can help freshen up the body, and prevent bad body odor.”

7. 20 Tips To Eliminate Bad Breath
This is one of those problem areas that seem too often go unnoticed since we apparently don’t have a good sense of how our breath can be truly offensive! Although I’ve not studied this website in its entirety, I nevertheless would encourage you to visit this one article at Imanscape that offers some good natural suggestions.

Personal note: THIS IS IMPORTANT, but in my experience, nobody eats the amount of greens that would provide the body the superb cleansing and internal deodorizing effects that chlorophyll (in the form of one my favorite Standard Process supplements) offers. Chlorophyll Complex is the only fat-soluble chlorophyll complex (to my knowledge) available. You can find many cheap, water-soluble supplements and powders in your health food stores. But these lack the critical fat-soluble vitamins and therefore the correct vitamin effect. Standard Process Chlorophyll Complex is a great blood purifier and tonic, and it’s truly the best of the best if you’re looking for real results. (Read more about chlorophyll and bad breath here.)

Soothing Bathing Recipes

Epsom Salt Bath
The following is excerpted from “5 Relaxing, Rejuvinating Bath Precipes—Perfect Alternatives to Bubbles,” published by

“Want to feel like you just left a full-body massage given by a man named Hans Hermann (nickname: The Austrian Biceps) without leaving your house? Soak your body in some epsom salts.

“Here’s the coolest thing I know about epsom salts: Scientists have proven that your body actually soaks UP the magnesium in epsom salts when you bathe in it. So taking a bath in them is akin to getting a good dose of magnesium.

“What does magnesium do? It relaxes you. It soothes aching muscles. It regulates blood pressure. It regenerates and heals skin cells.

“And soaking in epsom salts themselves? It reduces swelling, helps heal bruises, and detoxifies your system handily.

“How to take an epsom salt bath: Add 1½ to 2 cups epsom salt to your running bathwater. If desired, before adding the salt to your bath, drop in 10–20 drops of your favorite essential oil to the epsom salts. Stir well, and then add to the bathwater.”

Salt Detox Bath Recipe
—From “3 Natural Detox Bath Recipes,” published by In the author’s words: “This bath is great for soothing skin irritation, boosting magnesium levels and overall detoxing.”

You will need:

  • ¼ cup sea salt or Himalayan salt
  • ¼ cup epsom salt
  • ¼ cup baking soda
  • ⅓ cup apple cider vinegar
  • Your favorite essential oil, if desired (the author recommends 10 drops of peppermint or lavender)

Salt Detox Bath Instructions:

1.      Dissolve salt, epsom salt, and baking soda in boiling water in a quart size jar. Set aside.
2.      Fill tub with warm/hot water and add apple cider vinegar. Pour salt mixture in, then add essential oils if using.
3.      Soak in bath for 30 minutes or as long as you desire.

The author notes you may feel tired or lightheaded when you get out of the bathtub, so she doesn’t recommend taking this detox bath if you’re home alone or before going somewhere, just in case you’re tired or need help.

An Afterthought from the Traditional Cook…

Oh strong-ridged and deeply hollowed
nose of mine! What will you not be smelling?
What tactless asses we are, you and I, boney nose,
always indiscriminate, always unashamed,
and now it is the souring flowers of the bedraggled
poplars: a festering pulp on the wet earth
beneath them. With what deep thirst
we quicken our desires
to that rank odor of a passing springtime!
Can you not be decent? Can you not reserve your ardors
for something less unlovely? What girl will care
for us, do you think, if we continue in these ways?
Must you taste everything? Must you know everything?
Must you have a part in everything?
William Carlos Williams, 1883-1963

Note from Maria: I am a Certified Natural Health Professional, CNHP, not a medical doctor. I do not diagnose, prescribe for, treat, or claim to prevent, mitigate, or cure any human diseases. Please see your medical doctor prior to following any recommendations I make in my blogs or on my website.

Images from iStock/IPGGutenbergUKLtd (main image), boggy22 (woman in bath), mythja (bath salts). 

Maria Atwood, CNHP

Maria Atwood is a semiretired Certified Natural Health Professional and Weston A. Price Chapter Leader in Colorado Springs, CO. Visit her website at Also check out Maria’s Cook Your Way to Wellness DVD (also available as an e-learning course) and be sure to follow her Tips from the Traditional Cook blog.
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fermented foods | holistic health | whole food supplements

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