What It Means When You Start Smelling Like Vinegar

Although most of us would probably prefer to smell as fresh and sweet as a bouquet of flowers, we're not always so lucky. Sweaty workouts, a smoky fire pit, or going one day too long without a shower can all leave us smelling a little less desirable. In some cases, however, our aroma may shift beyond just typical body odor. For some people, this can include a vinegar-like scent.

If you're starting to smell like vinegar, it's probably more specifically your sweat that's giving off this scent. This can occur for a variety of reasons. Most often, however, it's because our sweat has come into contact with bacteria on the body, Cleveland Clinic experts explain. Together, the two can give off a vinegary odor. "The bacteria actually eat your sweat, and this creates an acidic byproduct that smells like vinegar," podiatrist Joy Rowland tells the medical center.

Our feet can be particularly vulnerable to this, especially for athletes who may be exercising in humid environments or sweating a great deal inside their sneakers. So, if it's your feet that are beginning to smell like vinegar, make sure you're routinely washing your socks, shoes, and toes.

Health conditions associated with vinegar-scented sweat

Sweaty feet may not be the only reason you're starting to smell like vinegar. Medical News Today reports that certain health conditions could also be the cause, such as diabetes. Without treatment, cells may not have the glucose supply they need for energy output. As a result, a person with diabetes may burn fat at a rapid pace, which prompts the production of ketones like acetone. When expelled from the body through sweat, acetone can give off a vinegary scent.

Hyperhidrosis, a condition characterized by extreme sweating, could alternatively be responsible for the development of this new odor. The Cleveland Clinic adds that Parkinson's disease and certain thyroid conditions have also been linked to increased sweating. 

If that's not the case, a bacterial infection, such as trichomycosis may be the culprit. Often affecting the armpits or pubic region, the bacteria infects body hair. In some instances, vinegar-scented sweat may be a sign of this infection.

Tips for reducing vinegar-like body odor

Before seeking to eliminate vinegary odor, however, consider whether this might be normal for you. For example, if you're a woman picking up on the smell of vinegar while changing your underwear, this could be a sign of perfectly normal vaginal health, according to K Health. With typical pH levels falling between 3.8 and 5.0 (via Diagnostics), the vagina is fairly acidic in order to keep us free from infection and germs. As a result, you may detect a slight odor close to that of pickles or vinegar. Just remember, this means the good bacteria in your vagina are operating as they should be.

Generally speaking, maintaining good hygiene can help reduce the potency of your vinegary body odors. This includes regularly changing and washing your clothes, as well as yourself. Even more, use antibacterial soap products. Staying adequately hydrated and minimizing your intake of any foods that seem to be causing the odors can also help. 

If you notice the development of additional symptoms, such as fatigue, nausea, a fruity breath odor, bloody or foamy urine, or anything else unusual, speak to your doctor. You'll want to rule out any underlying conditions, especially diabetes and kidney disease.