Sweat is an important part of your body’s thermoregulation system. When sweat evaporates, it moves heat away from your body into the air and cools your body’s internal temperature. But sweating can also lead to embarrassing social and professional situations.
Most sweat doesn’t smell at all, and most sweat odors are caused by bacteria interacting with oils and fats in your sweat. But if your sweat smells like ammonia, this may be caused by a number of different conditions that are causing your body to excrete ammonia in sweat.
Ammonia smell when exercising and after eating certain kinds of foods are the most common complaints, but ammonia sweat smells can also be caused by certain medical issues, including a few that can be serious. Keep reading for more information on ammonia sweat causes and how to avoid ammonia body odor.
What Causes Ammonia Smell in Sweat?
Urea is produced when your body breaks down proteins. When your body produces urea faster than your kidneys can excrete it, some of that urea is leached out into your sweat where it breaks down into ammonia. This produces a distinctive and unpleasant ammonia sweat smell.
If your sweat smells like vinegar, this is caused by bacteria in your armpits and genital area eating the fats and lipids in your apocrine sweat and excreting acids.
High-protein, low-carbohydrate diets can produce an ammonia smell in sweat. Breaking down all that protein may cause your body to produce so much urea that it must release it through your sweat as ammonia.
Spices like onion, garlic, cumin, and curry can create sulfurous compounds when digested, leading to ammonia smelling sweat.
And when you are dehydrated, this can make your body’s sweat more concentrated and cause your sweat to smell like ammonia.
Many people swear by the ketogenic diet, or keto, for losing weight and keeping it off. But many people have also noticed that keto sweat smells like ammonia.
The keto diet is rich in proteins. In your body, protein breaks down into amino acids that your body converts into ammonia. Your body then releases this ammonia through your kidneys and your sweat glands, which can produce an ammonia odor.
If you are frequently smelling ammonia after a workout or noticing an ammonia smell after exercise, your body is signaling that your muscles are being broken down for fuel.
After your body’s available energy sources are expended, it begins consuming protein by breaking it down into urea, an ammonia compound. When you start smelling ammonia, it means that your body is producing urea faster than your kidneys can filter it, so it is leached out in your sweat.
The best way to prevent this is to fuel up with a higher carbohydrate intake before and during exercise.
Dehydration can also make your sweat smell like ammonia. If your body does not have enough water, your sweat becomes more concentrated with excreted chemicals. Just as your urine becomes darker when you are dehydrated, so does your sweat contains a higher concentration of ammonia. And because dehydration often happens in high heat or during strenuous exercise, it is usually accompanied by profuse sweating that increases the ammonia smell and leads to more water loss.
If you regularly eat a balanced diet and have very little or no physical exercise but are still smelling ammonia all the time, this ammonia smell might be caused by a number of health conditions. It’s good to analyze all health conditions that may lead to ammonia smell.
While I have listed some of those conditions here, I am not a doctor. If you have any concerns about your health, it is best to get in touch with your physician.
We all sweat when we workout or are hot, but hyperhidrosis causes excessive sweating from the eccrine glands for no known reason. When a person sweats a lot, sweat can build up on their skin until their body smells like ammonia.
When bacteria interact with that sweat, it can produce an odor from your sweat glands like vinegar or it can produce an unpleasant and embarrassing ammonia-smelling sweat.
While it is not the most common cause of ammonia smell sweat, kidney disease can cause an ammonia body odor. When the kidneys are not working properly, your body has to release excess urea through your sweat. This is called uremia and is a serious symptom of kidney failure.
Consult your doctor if this ammonia smell persists or is accompanied by nausea, itching, fatigue, weight loss, muscle cramps, or loss of appetite.
Another disease that could be the reason why your sweat smells like ammonia — diabetes. Diabetes can lead to diabetic ketoacidosis. When your body does not have enough insulin to consume glucose, it begins burning fat to keep the machinery moving. This fat burning for energy produces ketones as a digestion by-product. One of these ketones, acetone, can make your breath smell fruity or lead to ammonia-like sweat.
The liver works to filter toxins out of your body. With liver disease, ammonia smell can develop not only in your sweat but also in your urine, stool, and breath. In serious cases of liver failure, fetor hepaticus, a characteristic sweet/rotten breath smell, results from breath ammonia combined with other toxins. If you are constantly dealing with sweat that smells like ammonia, your doctor can rule out liver problems with a few simple tests.
Stress and Anxiety
Stress-related sweat activates the apocrine glands. These glands are found on your armpits and genital area and produce a thicker sweat containing more proteins and lipids. When apocrine sweat sits on the skin and mixes with bacteria, it can make your armpits smell like ammonia.
You might notice increased sweating as a physical symptom of anxiety. In addition to your underarms, stress sweat also occurs on your palms and your feet.
You may also experience sweat with strong ammonia smell during the hormonal changes that happen during puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause.
One of the most annoying symptoms of menopause is “hot flashes” caused by decreased estrogen levels. These hot flashes cause increased sweating, and that can increase body odor when sweat mixes with bacteria on the skin.
How to Get Rid of Ammonia Body Odor
If you are on a high-protein diet, you can manage ammonia body odor by drinking lots of water. The more water you drink, the better your kidneys can filter out the urea so your sweat doesn’t have to.
If you notice an ammonia smell after working out, try carb-loading before and during workouts.
If you have a medical condition that causes an ammonia smell, consult your physician and follow their advice.
Drinking More Water
The easiest way to get rid of the ammonia smell from sweat is by drinking more water. Water helps you fight body odor in several ways.
Drinking water helps keep your body hydrated and lowers your body temperature, which reduces sweating. And if you don't get enough water and become dehydrated, your sweat will carry an even higher concentration of ammonia and other smelly toxins.
Water isn't just good for you, it can also help you smell better.
Diet has a direct effect on sweat smell. Ammonia-smelling sweat can be a sign that you are not eating enough carbohydrates. While carbs intake is strictly limited on keto diets, healthy carbs are an important part of a complete and balanced diet. Carbs give your body the energy it needs to perform. If you are on a keto diet and you regularly smell of ammonia, you may want to consider adding small amounts of healthy carbs to your meal plan.
Personal Hygiene and Lifestyle
Here are some easy lifestyle changes you can make to reduce the ammonia smell from sweat:
- Bathe daily with antibacterial soap. Focus on particularly sweaty areas like the armpits and groin area.
- Keep your armpits shaved, to improve evaporation of sweat and prevent bacteria
- Wear loose-fitting clothing made of cotton, including underwear and bras
- Wear clean clothes and have a spare outfit available for potentially sweaty situations
Medications or Procedures
If your sweat smells like ammonia due to a medical condition, your doctor can recommend an appropriate treatment. While increased urea levels can point to serious health issues, most cases can be treated with minimal intervention. A physician may prescribe medication, recommend diet or lifestyle changes, or perform appropriate procedures to bring your body back into balance.
Deodorants and Antiperspirants
Deodorants and antiperspirants are the first line of defense against ammonia body odor. Deodorants prevent odor, while antiperspirants block your sweat glands to temporarily reduce sweating.
There are many deodorants and antiperspirants available on the market and by prescription. But Duradry is the only solution for excessive sweating designed by a hyperhidrosis sufferer. The Duradry 3-Step System is designed to help effectively control excessive perspiration and prevent body odor to keep even the heaviest sweaters dry and smelling fresh.
While you worry that your sweat smells like ammonia, your sweating problem might actually lie in your worries. Yes, stress is a leading cause of excessive sweating.
Mindful living helps you reduce stress by centering and grounding yourself in the here and now. It lets you avoid wasted worry and sweat over issues from the past or problems that may never arrive in your future, and focus on what you can do in the present.
Bath and Shower Products
If you are tired of smelling ammonia in your sweat, try changing your bath or shower products. An antibacterial washing product can help with removing bacteria from your skin, the most effective way to eliminate body odor. And a good relaxing bath can help tame anxieties that lead to stress sweating.
How Duradry Can Help with Your Ammonia Sweat Smell
Hyperhidrosis or excessive sweating is a common cause of ammonia smell. Duradry was designed by a hyperhidrosis sufferer as an effective solution to the social and physical discomfort of excessive sweating. If you've turned down social events or job interviews because your body smells like ammonia, Duradry can help.
Duradry AM prevents ammonia smelling sweat with a maximum 20% concentration of sweat-blocking aluminum zirconium trichlorohydrex glycine and other odor-fighting and antibacterial ingredients. Duradry AM is a great anti-sweating solution on its own, but even better as part of Duradry's complete 3-Step anti-sweating solution.
If you want to get rid of that ammonia smell after exercising, try Duradry Wash. Duradry Wash contains antibacterial ingredients that effectively eliminate odor-causing bacteria. You can prevent the unpleasant body odor easily by regularly using Duradry Wash.
Duradry Body Spray helps reduce body odor with potassium alum distilled from natural mineral salts. If your sweat smells like ammonia, antimicrobial potassium alum kills odor-causing bacteria and helps keep you smelling fresh even in sweaty situations.
If it only happens occasionally, sweat smelling like ammonia is normal and nothing to worry about. Diet, exercise, and bacterial infections can all change your body odor. If you are smelling ammonia, try an antiperspirant to reduce sweat and a deodorant to eliminate body odors. Using stronger antiperspirant, shaving your underarms, and washing several times a day with antibacterial soap can help, as can a complete sweating solution like Duradry.
People living with diabetes or kidney disease may also have sweat that smells like ammonia. The most important thing is finding the root cause and following your body signals. Your doctor can treat underlying health conditions and reduce the ammonia smell in your sweat.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is It Normal for Sweat to Smell Like Ammonia?
When excess urea in your body reacts with saliva, it forms ammonia and gives your breath an ammonia scent. In a similar way, the smell of ammonia in sweat is caused by urea in your sweat breaking down into ammonia. Regularly smelling like ammonia when you sweat may be caused by a number of conditions. Luckily, most of them can be alleviated with a few simple diet, hygiene, or lifestyle changes.
Why Does My Breast Sweat Smell Like Ammonia?
Breast sweat can not only leave your breasts smelling of ammonia, it can also cause itching, redness, irritation, and even yeast and fungal infections.
To keep your breasts fresh and dry, wipe down after exercise with an alcohol wipe and apply a non-cornstarch powder. Remove your sweaty bras and tops as soon as possible, use bra liners to soak up excess sweat, and wear bras with breathable fabrics that keep moisture away from your body.
Why Do My Feet Smell Like Ammonia?
Your body needs water to get rid of ammonia through sweat. If there is not enough water to dilute the ammonia as it is released by the body, the smell of ammonia may be stronger. And, since hyperhidrosis of feet is one of the most common forms of excessive sweating, your feet are more susceptible to bad odors, including ammonia. Put them in shoes through a long day, and you discover your feet smell like ammonia.
Why Does My Sweat Smell Like Ammonia When I Sleep?
Nighttime hyperhidrosis — excessive sweating at night, or “night sweats” — is a very common sweating condition that can lead to soaked, smelly bedding and discomfort.
When your body sweats at night, it excretes ammonia through your sweat glands as well as your kidneys. And because most of us neither drink nor urinate while we sleep, we can wake up smelling like ammonia because our body is sweating out ammonia on a limited water supply.
What Does Ammonia Smell Like?
Ammonia (NH3) is a colorless gas with a pungent odor that, in lower concentrations, resembles urine or sweat. Ammonia gives sweat and urine a distinctive smell when urea, a nitrogen compound, breaks down into ammonia.
While lower concentrations give us urine or sweat smelling ammonia, higher levels produce the caustic attack on our nostrils we associate with household cleaners and smelling salts. Ammonia can cause irritation to the lungs, eyes, and sensitive tissues and can be lethal in very high concentrations. Be careful when using ammonia cleaners in enclosed areas.
Why Do I Smell Ammonia?
If you are noticing an ammonia smell after exercise, this means that your body is producing urea, a product of protein breakdown, faster than your kidneys can process it. This urea is leached out into your sweat as ammonia, where it produces an unpleasant ammonia sweat smell. The best way to avoid this is to load up on carbohydrates before and during your workout so you can build muscle without destroying it.