Body Odour Due to Alcoholism

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Body odour is one of the side effects of alcoholism.

A 2012 study by Arthur Cederbaum, Ph.D., shows that approximately 10% of alcohol consumed in the bloodstream is excreted through the sweat glands, breath, and urine. Around 90% is removed by alcohol oxidation in the liver [1].

The body gets rid of excess alcohol through sweat and breath, which causes body odour and bad breath [2].

Alcohol is identified as a dietary trigger for body odour based on a 2022 article by Cleveland Clinic [3].

Does Alcohol Detox Cause Body Odour?

Alcohol detox causes body odour.

Alcohol detox is when a patient who suffers from alcohol dependence stops consuming alcohol.

Anyone suffering from alcohol abuse has developed a build-up of toxins in the body, and the detoxification process focuses on expelling the toxins.

Body odour associated with alcohol detox typically does not linger after detox completion.

Using prescribed drugs by the U.K. National Health Service during alcohol detox reduces the effects of alcohol withdrawal [4].

Sweating is one of the earliest symptoms of alcohol withdrawal in a 2004 study by Bayard, MD, McIntyre, MD, Hill, MD, and Woodside Jr, MD [5].

Sweating leads to body odour, and the profuse sweating from alcoholism causes a potent smell.

Body odour in alcohol addiction is a sign that the body is cleansing itself.

Although body odour due to alcohol is unpleasant, it is a positive sign of recovery.

Is Body Odour From Alcohol Bad For Your Health?

Body odour from alcoholism is not harmful.

Alcohol is a causal factor in over 60 health conditions, including liver and kidney disease.

Alcohol-related diseases are why individuals are advised to cultivate proper drinking habits and avoid becoming addicted.

Individuals that suffer from advancing liver disease have fetor hepaticus and a sweet-like body odour.

Fetor hepaticus causes a strong, musty mouth odour [6].

A 2013 study has shown that cirrhotic patients with alcoholic hepatitis, a liver disease, have a fish-like odour and bad breath [7].

In 2019, 77% of alcoholic-specific deaths were caused by alcohol-related liver disease [8].

Body Odour And Kidney Disease

A 2018 article by James Peterson Ph.D., FACSM, also states that having body odour may be related to kidney disease [9].

Body odour from alcohol is associated with uremia and can be a symptom of alcohol-related kidney failure.

When high levels of urea are present in the body, the urea is excreted through sweat and urine and causes body odour.

Patients with alcohol ketoacidosis have a ketone odour on their breath [10].

Can a Person Smell Like Alcohol Without Drinking?

Individuals can smell like alcohol without alcohol intake.

An example is using rubbing alcohol for medical practices, home health, or household cleaning.

A 2020 article medically reviewed by Debra Rose Wilson, Ph.D., MSN, R.N., IBCLC, AHN-BC, CHT states 26 ways one uses rubbing alcohol [11].

The smell of rubbing alcohol sticks to the skin and clothes and causes the smell of alcohol.

Mouthwashes with alcohol content give the same smell of alcohol even without drinking.

Alcohol in mouthwash is added to destroy bacteria in the mouth.

Wearing clothes that smell like alcohol makes one have an alcohol odour.

Clothes smell like alcohol after drinking, and washing them eliminates the smell.

In severe instances, individuals suffering from alcohol abuse and undergoing alcohol detox smell like beer, wine, vodka, etc., even after they stop drinking.

The breath and skin pores have scents of alcoholic beverages for a long time until the toxins are completely expelled from the human body.

Diseases like diabetes ketoacidosis make the patient smell like fruity alcohol without drinking.

This health condition is rare but life-threatening.

Body odour is an inevitable side effect of alcohol consumption, whether casual drinking or drinking alcohol excessively.

Alcohol detoxification causes a strong odour due to excess sweating and expelling toxins.

Alcohol-related diseases such as liver disease, kidney disease, and diabetes cause body odour.

Body odour due to alcoholism is not permanent and dies down after withdrawal completes and recovery is underway in earnest.

About the author

Laura Morris

Laura Morris is an experienced clinical practitioner and CQC Registered Manager with over twenty years experience, over ten of which have been as an Independent Nurse Prescriber.

She has held a number of senior leadership roles in the substance use and mental health sector in the NHS, the prison service and in leading social enterprises in the field.

Last Updated: October 31, 2023