Metabolic disorders that cause body odor

Written by bianca allen
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Metabolic disorders stem from defective genes, which hamper the body's metabolism. Though there are thousands of metabolic disorders, about one in every 4,000 people are affected by them.

Metabolism is the process by which the body uses food for energy. Enzymes break down digested food into simple substances, which in turn are absorbed by the body and used for fuel. Enzymes also function to provide the cells with substances it doesn't receive from food and eliminate unnecessary substances. Metabolic disorders occur when genetic defects are present. During this process, the enzymes malfunction and either produce too little or too much of certain substances, which can lead to toxicity in the body and manifest in such problems as body odour. Metabolic disorders are categorised into types based on the cell mechanisms, the affected enzymes and biochemical pathways.

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Common Metabolic Disorders

While some body odour may be caused by poor hygiene, bad breath and certain pungent foods such as garlic, in other cases, a metabolic disorder is to blame. Although proper hygiene is practised, the build-up of toxicity in the body due to a metabolic defect causes excessive and sometimes uncontrollable odour.

While thousands of metabolic disorders exist, there are several specifically linked to body odour. One of the most common is trimethylaminuria, or "fish odour disease" as it is commonly known, the condition where the body cannot process the organic compound, trimethylamine. A noticeably fishy smell is present in the breath, urine and sweat.

Diabetes is the body's inability to properly metabolise sugar and can give the body a fruity smell. Scurvy, which means the body is vitamin C-deficient, can produce a rotten or decaying scent. Diabetic ketoacidosis, which results when a diabetic's blood sugar is too high and in response the body makes "ketones" to break down fats. Similar to diabetes, an excessively fruity smell may emanate from the body.

Diagnosis and Treatment

It can be a challenge to diagnose metabolic disorders because there are so many and the symptoms can mirror other, more general ailments. However, individuals who may suffer from body odour will have to undergo a series of tests to determine if a metabolic disorder is the root cause of the problem. These evaluations include neurological assessments, blood and urine testing, an MRI (magnetic resonance imagery), MR spectroscopy, an electromyogram, genetic counselling and a spinal tap (lumbar puncture). Though not all of these procedures may be performed, they are designed to identify any biological, neurological and/or genetic causes for the suspected metabolic disorder.

Treatments will vary depending upon the severity of the disorder and other health concerns. A balanced diet along with supplements may be called for in certain cases, while other remedies include physical therapy, medication and surgery, including a bone marrow transplant. In some cases, a bone marrow transplant can stall the growth of a metabolic disorder. However, this treatment is only beneficial during the early stages of the disorder.

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