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Senior Care Guide: What to Do if Your Sweat Smells Like Ammonia

People say that seniors smell different from younger people – and it’s true. 

As we grow old, we develop a sweet, musty, and often greasy body odor. This is why all senior residences and living facilities smell the same. This ‘old people scent’ is often associated with poor hygiene, which is nothing but a huge misconception! 

The truth is that body odor change is an inescapable reality of aging. These changes happen naturally as we age, and there’s nothing we can do to prevent it. There are, of course, logical reasons for it. 

Why Seniors Smell Different

A study published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology suggests that human body odor tends to change with age because of a substance called 2-Nonenal. Japanese researchers analyzed the body odor of people between the ages 26 and 75 to determine if there was any difference. They confirmed the presence of 2-Nonenal in the bodies of the participants who were 40 years old or above. This substance was found to have an unpleasant greasy, grassy odor. It was concluded that the level of 2-Nonenal tends to increase with age, which explains the unusual, displeasing smell in older people. 

2-Nonenal is believed to be produced upon the degradation of omega-7 unsaturated fatty acids on the skin through oxidation. When you reach the age of 40, the production of fatty acids in your skin escalates as a natural response to the deterioration of the antioxidant defenses. In women, hormonal changes like menopause may also facilitate this chemical process. 

As you grow older, your skin loses its strength and elasticity. This means its natural oils start oxidizing more quickly, producing more 2-Nonenal. Since this chemical compound isn’t water-soluble, it remains on your skin despite washing. This explains how the unpleasant smell persists on the body and even on clothes, no matter how much older adults focus on their hygiene.     

While this sounds pretty convincing, experts are still trying to fully understand the cause of unpleasant body odor in the elderly. 

A probable cause presented by experts is the interaction between your skin gland secretions and the bacteria on your skin. The types of bacteria residing on your skin tend to change over time and so do the chemicals and compounds found in your body. 

Experts also believe that evolution likely has a role in age-related body odor change because humans seem to have a distinct smell in different life stages. 

What Should You Do if Your Sweat Smells Like Ammonia?

Many older people complain that their sweat smells like ammonia. If you want to know why, here’s a simple explanation:

The amino acids in your body break down to form ammonia. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. If you’re on a high-protein, low-carb diet, your body will automatically start breaking down amino acids for energy instead of using carbohydrates and fats. It will then chemically strip the nitrogen atom of the amino acid molecule and convert it into glucose fuel. The nitrogen is then processed in the kidneys, resulting in the production of urea for excretion. In case your kidneys are unable to handle the load of urea, your body starts getting rid of the excess ammonia in the form of sweat. 

In some people, ammonia-smelling sweat may be a sign of liver or kidney problems. If you’re concerned about it, you should consider consulting with a doctor. They will run some blood tests and do a physical examination to determine the cause.           

Now that you know why your sweat smells like ammonia, let’s discuss what you can do to prevent it.

For starters, you need to drink plenty of fluids to make urea excretion easier. You must also ensure adequate consumption of carbohydrates and fats in your diet. In case you have a health condition that causes your sweat to smell like ammonia, you must ask for appropriate prevention tips from your doctor.

Can You Get Rid of the Elderly Scent? 

Just like traditional body odor, the unpleasant scent caused by 2-Nonenal in older adults can be reduced significantly by following a healthy lifestyle. It is recommended for seniors to exercise regularly, eat a healthy diet, refrain from smoking and drinking, stay hydrated, maintain a healthy sleep schedule, and avoid stress as much as possible.  

People generally use deodorants and antiperspirants to mask body odor. Antiperspirants contain aluminum-based compounds that block the sweat pores temporarily. Deodorants, on the other hand, help get rid of body odor but do nothing to prevent perspiration. Most deodorants are alcohol-based and they make your skin acidic to repel bacteria. Oftentimes, they contain fragrances to mask body odor. 

Below are a few general senior care tips to help you reduce body odor.

  • Make sure you take a shower every day in order to minimize the number of bacteria living on your skin
  • Dry your feet thoroughly after taking a bath to ensure microorganisms don’t swell between your toes
  • Don’t wear shoes for too long; remove them frequently throughout the day or consider walking barefoot when at home
  • Use antiperspirants at night 
  • Try to wear clothes and socks that are made of cotton or wool instead of using synthetic stuff
  • Try moisture-wicking clothing if you tend to sweat a lot 
  • Don’t wear the same socks for more than a day
  • Consider wearing shoes made of natural materials, like leather, as they keep your feet dry and allow them to breathe 
  • Try rotating your shoes to ensure they have enough time to dry 
  • Take out some time to practice relaxation techniques, such as yoga, meditation, and biofeedback. They may help reduce your stress levels and prevent frequent perspiration 
  • Try to identify food and beverages that cause you to smell like ammonia and eliminate them from your diet. 
  • Avoid eating food with a strong odor, like garlic and onions
  • Limit your daily intake of spices 

Modern-day Senior Care: Introducing Special Body Care Products 

After the discovery of 2-Nonenal, there has been an upsurge in the production of personal care products for the elderly, specially designed to minimize the ammonia-like body odor. You can find a variety of soap bars with deodorizing properties in Japan and across the world.

While many people are not bothered by the fact that older adults smell different, you may want to keep smelling good to feel confident.  

If you’re concerned about age-related body odor change and want to minimize it, you’d love the body care collection Mirai Clinical has to offer! From purifying and deodorizing body wash and soap bars to body wipes and spritzer, they have everything to make seniors feel fresh and confident! They rely on natural solutions for age-related problems and use Japanese persimmon as the key ingredient in their products.     

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I have read that one of the 1st signs of liver/kidney failure is when one is no longer urinating as normal. The waste then accumulates in the body harming those very organs.

Mrs S

Thank u for this information. It has been helpful. What are signs of liver falure and kidney failure?

Alcenia smith

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