I was looking for an answer to why my bedroom smells musty in the morning, and I came across this question.
We tend to be immune to the majority of our own odor - the way we no longer smell our perfume after it's applied.
I think I have a suggestion as to what's going on with the hubby - but not necessarily an answer.
Illness and recovery does have a smell. Cancer particularly, but other illnesses as well. Why is this?
Our bodies are huge bacteria farms. We raise billions of beneficial bacteria that help us out through our whole lives. When our bodies are working properly, our bacteria are in balance. The beneficial ones feed off of us, food, and each other, but our immune system keeps them from overwhelming us.
When our immune system is compromised - through an illness, a disease, or an imbalance in organ function - the bacteria are no longer held in check. Some of them can start to get out of control, and wreak havoc on certain processes - and maybe that means our armpits smell stronger, or our digestion gets messed up, or we end up with bacterial infections.
Perhaps this is why cancer has a smell - if the immune system is busy fighting the cancer, then it can't fight the bacteria around it. We only have so many white blood cells. Then we smell the growth of bacteria the same way we would smell a pan full of tomato sauce left in the sink for a week. Or the way we smell decomposing meat.
But this goes beyond the illness itself. It also applies to recovery. What is one of the first medicines you take? An antibiotic. That's great, because it keeps the bad bacteria in check. You know what's not great? It can also kill off hosts of good bacteria. This means, after you take an antibiotic, your bacterial system is out of balance and needs to recover. And if one sector of bacteria is weak, then another set might overbloom - like crabgrass or dandelions invading a dry lawn. This may cause a change in smell and bodily function as well.
This is also why many people and pets develop digestive problems after they've taken Antibiotics
. But it's not just digestive, so don't look for all of the answers in food. For instance, some people get a Fecal Transplant
(ew.) from a healthy bowel to replace their gut flora, because most probiotics never actually reach the intestine - they're eaten by stomach acid. (My cat has digestive issues, so I did research.)
What you eat can also affect your smell. Both vegetarians and diabetics smell sweeter. Some people who have a fishy odor can't synthesize an enzyme from a certain type of protein particle (trimethylamine) - so it is exuded as a waste rather than used to help cells function. (I saw that on a TLC show about people with excessive Body Odor
. You can also find it on wikipedia.)
For creatures with better senses of smell than us, like mosquitos and bedbugs - even blood type can affect how you smell. Mosquitos dislike Type A the most. Melanin production and breakdown has an odor, as do bodily secretions like oil and lactic acid on our skin.
In the case of your husband, or any recovering patient, I would see if there's a bacterial specialist, a pathologist, who might be able to shed some light on what imbalance is causing the odor, and what can be done to fix it. I'd also consult my physician about what certain types of smells can mean - after all, a putrid smell may be a secondary infection or health problem your hubby's compromised immune system can't handle.
As for me and my musty bedroom - I'm drawing a conclusion that our bodies produce waste all day, but at night, all of that waste (sweat, cells, exhalations, oils, bacterial processes) accumulates in a single enclosed area like a miasma, leading to the sleep odor. (It's also why bedbugs target beds and places like couches where you linger.) If your sleeping odor suddenly changes or is in excess - again, it may have something to do with rampaging bacteria...