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Why Does My Sweat Smell Like Weed? What’s the Cause?

Ever noticed your sweat smelling somewhat like… cannabis?

No, you’re definitely not imagining things.

You haven’t smoked for the last couple of days, weren’t around people that did, nor were you in a place that had the presence of weed.

What’s behind this? How can one alter their scent profile so suddenly?

Strange as it may seem, your sweat smelling like weed is an unusual yet scientifically acknowledged phenomenon, and we’re here to talk about it.

How Does Our Sweat Smell Typically Work?

We’ve all been there—working up a sweat and noticing an unmistakable smell. But why does it happen? What causes that distinct body odor, and more peculiarly, why does it sometimes smell like weed?

To understand this, we first need to explore how our sweat works. Your body, a fantastic machine, contains around 2 to 4 million sweat glands—our very own cooling system. These are divided into two types: eccrine and apocrine glands.

The eccrine glands, scattered all over the body, are our personal air conditioning. They produce sweat mainly composed of water, salt, and other minerals. This sweat is odorless and evaporates quickly, helping us cool down.

Then there are the apocrine glands, strategically located in hair-dense areas like the armpits and groin. These glands produce a unique kind of sweat—thicker and chock-full of proteins and lipids. This sweat itself is odorless, but it becomes a feast for the bacteria residing on our skin.

As the bacteria munch away on the proteins and lipids in apocrine sweat, they release strong-smelling byproducts. These odors mix with your sweat, producing what we all know as body odor.

However, body odor isn’t a one-scent-fits-all situation. Several factors can tweak the scent of your sweat—your diet, health, medication, even your emotions. So, it’s not surprising that sometimes our sweat might take on an unexpected fragrance, like that of weed.

But why does this happen? How does our sweat suddenly smell like something we associate more with a 420-friendly gathering than a gym session?

Let’s take a closer look in the next sections. 

Why Does My Body Odor Smell Like Weed for Some Reason?

Body odor varies greatly among individuals, influenced by factors like diet, health, and genetic makeup. However, when it starts to resemble the scent of cannabis, there may be a few specific reasons behind it.

Your Body’s Biochemistry

Our bodies are complex systems that are constantly at work, breaking down and metabolizing various substances we consume, including food, medication, and yes, cannabis. If you’ve ever noticed a change in your body odor after consuming certain foods or beverages—garlic or alcohol, for instance—you’ve experienced this first-hand. The same principle could apply to cannabis.

Studies indicate that some of the substances our bodies produce when breaking down cannabis are similar to those found in certain types of sweat. For instance, a research piece for VICE by Dr. Matan Shelomi found that of the hundreds of compounds in cannabis and sweat, eleven matched. This could partially explain why sweat might sometimes smell like weed.

Apocrine Sweat Activation

Sweat from your apocrine glands—which is thicker and contains proteins and lipids—can become a feast for the bacteria residing on your skin. When these bacteria break down this sweat, they release strong-smelling byproducts that mix with your sweat, creating body odor.

Dr. Shelomi’s research suggested that the cannabis-like smell might come from apocrine sweat rather than eccrine sweat. Apocrine sweat glands, mainly situated around the armpits and genitals, activate during stressful or sexually arousing situations. Therefore, if you’ve noticed your sweat smells like weed during or before a high-stress situation, apocrine secretions could be the culprit.

Presence of Terpenes

Plants, including cannabis, release aromatic chemicals known as terpenoids and terpenes. Dr. Justin Fischedick, a researcher at the Institute of Biological Chemistry at Washington State University, suggested these “terps” might be present in sweat, contributing to its weed-like smell.

Since these compounds are fat-soluble, like THC, they might be stored in fat cells and released during exercise. If you’ve observed the cannabis scent after a rigorous workout, the breakdown of these terpenoids could be why.

The Impact of Your Diet

Ever noticed how some foods can alter your body odor? Certain foods, like garlic or asparagus, are infamous for this. That’s because your body breaks down the substances in these foods into compounds that can mix with your sweat and alter its smell.

The same could be the case for some foods that contain the same terpenes as cannabis. If your diet includes these foods, they might be giving your sweat a distinctly ‘weedy’ aroma.

Also read: Can Eating Edibles Be Bad for Your Liver?

I Don’t Smoke, But My Sweat Still Smells Like Weed

Even non-smokers might sometimes notice a cannabis-like scent to their sweat. A couple of theories might explain this:

The Role of Microbiome and Bacteria

As Chris from Dr. Armpit mentioned, a specific bacterial species could be responsible for a weed-like odor even when you don’t consume cannabis. Our skin is home to various bacterial species that interact with our sweat, and some can produce distinct smells.

If your body odor has changed recently, it could be due to a shift in your skin microbiome.

Possible Fix:

A suggestion to tackle this issue could be to change your deodorant or use an antiperspirant to potentially alter the underarm microbiome. This could result in the elimination of the specific bacterial species causing the weed-like smell. However, it’s important to note that everyone’s skin microbiome is unique and responses may vary.

Beer, Hops, and Cannabis

An interesting point raised in a Reddit thread is that cannabis and hops, an ingredient used in brewing beer, come from the same plant family, Cannabaceae.

They share certain flavor and smell compounds, which means that consuming beers, particularly those with a strong hoppy flavor, could potentially lead to a weed-like smell in your sweat.

The Impact of Metabolism and Genetics

Different people metabolize substances in different ways. This variability is often due to differences in liver enzymes that process various substances, including drugs, food, and drinks.

For instance, the smell of certain foods or drugs can emanate from your body long after consumption, depending on how your body metabolizes them. This could potentially lead to a weed-like smell in your sweat.

Genetic liver enzyme anomalies, as one user pointed out, can also impact how different substances are processed in your body. More than 10% of people have such anomalies, according to a genetic testing company.

If you suspect you might have an unusual metabolic response to certain substances, it might be worthwhile to get tested. Having such knowledge could be particularly valuable when undergoing certain medical procedures, such as surgery requiring general anesthesia.

How to Stop Your Sweat From Smelling Like Weed

If you’re uncomfortable with your body odor smelling like cannabis, there are a few steps you can take to try to change your scent:

Improve Your Hygiene

Regular bathing, especially after sweating, can help reduce the buildup of sweat and bacteria on your skin, potentially lessening the intensity of body odor. Use a mild antibacterial soap that doesn’t disrupt your skin’s natural pH balance.

Choose the Right Antiperspirant or Deodorant

Using an antiperspirant can help reduce sweat production, while deodorants can help mask odors. Some products even combine these two functions. However, if your regular product isn’t doing the job, it may be worthwhile to explore other options. You might even consider prescription-strength products if over-the-counter options aren’t effective.

Modify Your Diet

Certain foods can influence your body odor. If you’ve noticed a correlation between specific food or drink consumption and an increase in weed-like body odor, it may be worth adjusting your diet. For example, reducing intake of strong-smelling foods like garlic, onions, or certain spices may help. It’s also essential to maintain a balanced diet for overall health and well-being.

Stay Hydrated

Water aids in flushing toxins out of the body. Staying well-hydrated could potentially help in minimizing body odor.

Consider Your Clothing

Natural fabrics like cotton and wool can allow your skin to breathe better than synthetic materials, which might help reduce sweat and subsequent odor.

Consult a Healthcare Professional

If your body odor changes suddenly or if the above strategies aren’t effective, it’s crucial to seek medical advice. A healthcare professional can provide personalized guidance based on your specific health situation.

The human body is an intricately complex system, and even something as seemingly straightforward as body odor is influenced by a variety of factors. While the ‘weed-scented sweat’ phenomenon might be perplexing, understanding its potential causes can empower you to take control of your body odor.

However, keep in mind that body odor is perfectly natural, and variations in its scent are generally nothing to worry about. If you notice a drastic or sudden change, it could be worth discussing with a healthcare professional. After all, your body might be trying to tell you something important.

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