Articles, Blog

3 Diseases That Make You Stink

August 17, 2019

So, you know in Game of Thrones, there’s
this character—smells really bad, they call him “Reek”? Turns out, that could actually be caused by medical conditions that we know of, medical conditions that cause you to emit odors that go way beyond the typical stinky armpit. In some cases, you might reek of boiled cabbage,
or sweaty feet, or even rotting fish. These conditions are rare,
but their symptoms can be pungent, and sometimes also downright dangerous. Unusual body odors are often a sign of a bigger
problem—specifically, a defect in the way your body is breaking down, or metabolizing, your food. For example, there’s the condition known
as trimethylaminuria— also known as “fish odor syndrome”. Patients with this condition are said to smell
like decomposing fish, because their bodies don’t break down a compound called trimethylamine,
which emits the je ne sais quoi of fishiness. Now, everyone’s body produces trimethylamine—specifically, in the gut, where bacteria excrete it while helping us digest foods like eggs, liver, and fish. Normally, having all that trimethylamine
in your body is not a problem, because it’s converted into an odorless molecule,
thanks to a special enzyme in the liver, known as a flavin-containing monooxygenase. But people with fish odor syndrome can’t
metabolize the smelly compound, because they have mutations in the gene that produces that enzyme. Without enough of that working enzyme, the
trimethylamine builds up, and has nowhere to go but out with your bodily fluids—in
your sweat, urine, even on your breath. But people with the condition do have some options. They can change their diets so there are fewer
of the precursor chemicals that get broken down into trimethylamine. It’s one of the only times your doctor
will actually tell you not to eat your broccoli, or your brussels sprouts! Infusions of antibiotics can also help wipe out some of the bacteria that are making the trimethylamine. These rarely solve the problem entirely, but
the good news is that apart from the smell, there isn’t any major health problem associated
with fish odor syndrome. Which is not the case for a disorder that gives people the distinctive whiff of sweaty feet. This condition, known as isovaleric acidemia,
can cause brain damage, and even death, particularly in young children. Here, patients have a genetic mutation that
leads to a deficiency in an enzyme called isovaleric co-enzyme A dehydrogenase. This enzyme is important because it helps
break down the amino acid leucine. Without this enzyme, leucine can only be broken
down part-way. And the compound that’s left over from this
process, an acid called isovaleric acid, starts to build up. Isovaleric acid smells kind of like cheese,
and it’s the same chemical that makes your sweaty feet smell. The bacteria hiding out between
your toes produce this acid when they’re chomping away on leucine. But while isovaleric acid isn’t exactly
pleasant to smell outside your body, it can be downright damaging to the inside. It’s not exactly clear why, but a build-up
of isovaleric acid tends to have the most dramatic effects on the central nervous system. In large amounts, it’s toxic to neurons, which can result in developmental delays in many patients. And because this enzyme deficiency makes it
difficult to digest breast milk or formula, dangerous symptoms can start
appearing very soon after birth. In severe cases, infants just a few days old
will refuse to eat and begin to have seizures. There is, so far, no cure for isovaleric acidemia,
but some treatments— like avoiding foods rich in leucine, and taking supplements of other, non-threatening amino acids— can help keep patients safe. Finally, peculiar symptoms and even stranger
smells can result from another, similar disorder known as hypermethioninemia. In this case, the problem is having too much
of a different amino acid: methionine. Methionine is the rare amino acid that contains
sulfur, an element known for its pungent odor. And when methionine isn’t metabolized properly
in your body, it can result in large amounts of dimethylsulfide, which produces a smell
similar to boiled cabbage. Sometimes the condition comes about just because
you’ve eaten too much methionine, which is in protein-rich foods, like meat and cheese. But if the cause is genetic, it can be due
to mutations in one of several genes that are responsible for making the enzymes that help break down methionine. Without those enzymes, patients sometimes have that cabbagey smell in their sweat, breath, or urine. And strangely, not everyone with the disease
has symptoms—in fact, most people don’t. But in some, it can be serious. In severe cases, the inability to process
methionine can lead to neurological problems and muscle weakness, among other problems
in the nervous system. Again, treatment usually involves avoiding
foods that contain methionine, as well as taking supplements to make sure that the body
is getting what it needs. So, run-of-the-mill BO is nothing compared
to the very real medical conditions that can create unpleasant smells. There are a lot of things that can go wrong
when your body metabolizes food, and weird odors are just one way
to help spot and diagnose them. This episode of SciShow is brought to you
by 23andMe, a personal genetic analysis company created to help people understand their DNA. The name ‘23andMe’ comes from the fact that human DNA is organized into 23 pairs of chromosomes. Through genetic analysis, 23andMe users can
see which regions around the world their ancestors came from, and learn how their DNA influences
facial features, hair, sense of taste and smell, sleep quality and more. You can also connect with people who share
similar DNA; and also learn how your DNA may influence your health and wellness. I’ve been wanting to do this for so long,
and I haven’t, and I don’t know why. Oh, this is gonna be hard with the green screen. Woo, woo, where is it? They’re gonna tell me about me … from my spit. What? What’s the liquid in the funnel for? Oh, woah, did I break it? Okay, it’s fine. Everything’s fine. Alright. Now I just spit in it. By sending in my saliva, I’ll have the opportunity
to learn about my health, ancestry, and personal traits through my DNA. I’ll also learn about my genetics related to
muscle composition, lactose intolerance, and caffeine consumption. Once I mail in my kit, I’ll have the results
in a few weeks. To do the same—and to support SciShow
—pleasecheck out


  • Reply lynxman busman April 11, 2017 at 8:24 pm

    what about when your urine smells like chicken proteins

  • Reply Charlie Hutch April 11, 2017 at 9:19 pm

    People get smelly feet when the perspiration has no where to evaporate – but it is not the sweat that causes the foot odor. Bacteria that lives on the skin eats the feet's sweat, producing isovaleric acid, causing the odor. Propionibacteria,

  • Reply Charlie Hutch April 11, 2017 at 9:23 pm

    head cheese

  • Reply a. banks. April 11, 2017 at 9:38 pm

    I pray for those stuck with anyone like this on a long plane, car, or bus ride….

  • Reply Tom A April 11, 2017 at 9:43 pm

    Your shirt looks like small penises

  • Reply Zhu Bajie April 12, 2017 at 12:50 am

    These would be the people we need to keep of planes. Not Dr. on their way to Kentucky.

  • Reply Bane April 12, 2017 at 1:12 am

    Hello darkness my old friend

  • Reply Gayla Tanner April 12, 2017 at 3:16 am

    My mom had told me that when I was an infant there was something wrong with me that caused me to smell like flowers. I wish I could remember what that was.

  • Reply Cereza April 12, 2017 at 3:27 am

    What about Maple Syrup Urine Disease

  • Reply BlackPhillip2018 April 12, 2017 at 4:18 am

    Ok, I'm done, I'm unsubscribing from SciShow. This channel became disgusting. There are infinite interesting subjects to talk about around the universe and they come up with the worse ones.

  • Reply Slaaster G April 12, 2017 at 5:12 am

    Someone on patreon should ask "why does old dog poop turn white?" I want to know but I don't have any money.

  • Reply Atilano Vallejo April 12, 2017 at 7:03 am

    Remember when Hank used to fake his voice?

  • Reply Imperial Bastards April 12, 2017 at 8:53 am

    He is not reek 🙁

  • Reply Yt3912487 April 12, 2017 at 9:05 am

    I am very interested in 23andme, but i wouldn't want to give the governemnt my DNA information.

  • Reply Nicholas Perez April 12, 2017 at 9:36 am

    Ugh. More advertisements. Can we get a patreon goal that excludes all commercial product and service advertisements embedded in the show? Seriously, it feels like double dipping if you take patreon cash and then embed adverts.

  • Reply Matthew Bishop April 12, 2017 at 10:50 am

    Why is there a weird stink around my anus?

  • Reply Torrio Torres April 12, 2017 at 12:12 pm

    his name is Reek, Never says he stinks, like you at GOT

  • Reply NPJ Global April 12, 2017 at 12:33 pm

    I don't get it, why did you make that fish stereotypically "french" to convey the meaning of smelliness? where does that come from? I'm not triggered or anything, just curious

  • Reply ComocosonoEWL April 12, 2017 at 12:44 pm

    Treatment for all these diseases "Let them die so that the genes are not passed on."

  • Reply j.r. Rabet April 12, 2017 at 1:18 pm

    A warning to anyone with any hypochondriac type tendencies, don't get your DNA tested. To quote my genetics teacher "you really don't want to know." Also these types of send off tests can be very inaccurate. I'm unsure about 23 and me but a case in which a pair of identical twins taking the ancestry DNA test gave drastically different results, which should not be possible. Bottom line unless a doctor thinks its needed don't. You'll only worry yourself into a stupor at possibly inaccurate data.

  • Reply ♡iDon'tGiveAFuck♡ April 12, 2017 at 2:13 pm

    You smell what you eat ! Who could have known

  • Reply Fart Raptor April 12, 2017 at 4:19 pm

    Whoever edits these videos deserves a raise. Hank helps me learn and that editor makes me laugh. That fish with a beret smoking and saying sacre bleu was hilarious.

  • Reply Playlister 009 April 12, 2017 at 6:47 pm

    who else now wants to smell like fish so you will not eat vegetables 😀😀😀

  • Reply Sub4Knifes April 12, 2017 at 7:25 pm

    The girl thats beside me has one of theese

  • Reply Electrum 55 April 12, 2017 at 9:00 pm

    4: Tellurium poisoning.

  • Reply Deanys D Dreamer April 13, 2017 at 2:31 pm

    If someone, especially a woman, smells like rotting fish, more than likely she has an STD called trichinosis, which is caused by a tiny microscopic sexually transmitted organism. Not good to downplay the fish smell as something completely harmless because though it could be the other syndrome, it could also be trichinosis, which definitely does need treatment. Now if you smell like fish and u have never had sex, unfortunately forced or agreed upon, then more than likely it is the other syndrome.

  • Reply Spiritfoxpilot April 13, 2017 at 9:31 pm

    winter is coming

  • Reply Michael Van Leeuwen April 14, 2017 at 11:07 am

    I know a person whose pit b.o. sometimes smells like pot…. And no, they don't smoke or otherwise consume… we call it their thc pits

  • Reply Louisa Rhodes April 15, 2017 at 1:53 pm

    I'm so glad that scischow are collaborating with people that re genuinely interested in science and genetics x

  • Reply H B April 16, 2017 at 12:35 pm

    23 and Me is horrifying

  • Reply Umberto Fournier April 16, 2017 at 7:43 pm

    this was a cool episode

  • Reply MedEighty April 16, 2017 at 9:36 pm

    Would a poo transplant help with these?

  • Reply lilbihxx April 17, 2017 at 1:48 am

    Why do I sometimes smell like pancakes?!?!

  • Reply Stephen Pasquale April 17, 2017 at 4:05 am

    Parkinsons has recently been discovered to have a smell that may be helpful in early detection.

  • Reply XTsReaper April 17, 2017 at 8:39 am

    There is an other disease that makes you stink — Ozena. Its caused from a bacteria that decomposes the mucous of your nasal cavity, and makes you stink of rotten meat. However, the bacteria also damages you sense of smell, so you do not realize that you stink

  • Reply Ahmad Fathy April 17, 2017 at 11:01 am


  • Reply Aidan Or April 17, 2017 at 1:30 pm

    Which Reek, Reese Snow or Theon Greyjoy?

  • Reply Xeare April 25, 2017 at 2:10 am

    One time I had an odd bitter taste in my mouth, and after being in my room doing school work and games on my computer for a few hours, my mother walked in and noted that my room smelled heavily of cigarettes despite that I've never smoked once in my life.
    Do we know if there's a specific chemical that gives cigarette smoke it's unique smell and if there are any known biological chemicals that mimic said smell?

  • Reply thuzan117 April 26, 2017 at 12:42 am

    I've also read that smallpox caused a distinct smell in its victims.

  • Reply Bethany loves food April 26, 2017 at 12:27 pm

    How do people become allergic?😷🍫

  • Reply Feynstein 100 May 2, 2017 at 10:21 am

    Another disease that makes you stink: Being a guy.

  • Reply Churchill May 6, 2017 at 9:44 am


  • Reply Domo and Ash May 6, 2017 at 5:37 pm

    I was born almost unlucky because I was born on March 13th on a Thursday.

  • Reply Pink Bunny May 20, 2017 at 3:07 pm

    I hope I never get them

  • Reply Mia Mallett July 3, 2017 at 2:18 pm

    Why do so many people have user pictures of letters whyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy

  • Reply Julika7 July 12, 2017 at 3:45 pm

    You pay for 23andme and then they sell your data. 🙁

  • Reply autistic tech girl 1990 August 11, 2017 at 5:35 pm

    I feel sorry for these people they must find it extremely hard to make friends

  • Reply Real Victoria August 28, 2017 at 10:59 pm

    a lot of people say Hillary Clinton smells very bad like rotten fish and I clicked on this video to read comments about that but there really is none I'm thinking Hillary really has one of these diseases especially the fact of week muscles and neurological problems and a lot of videos I've seen of her she shows the symptoms

  • Reply Shivana Jonathan October 22, 2017 at 4:42 am

    Did Hank get his results back yet?

  • Reply Young_Savage ig January 2, 2018 at 6:18 am

    I smell like cotton candy that's wired bc I haven't had cotton candy since I was 8 I'm about to be 12 on February 1st and I don't buy any products that's smell like cotton candy but is it normal to smell like cotton candy and my friends say I smell like cotton candy also 😯😓

  • Reply David January 10, 2018 at 6:58 pm

    Can't believe you mentioned sweaty feet. Now all the vile, mentally dysfunctional people with foot fetishes are going to be getting off to this video. They disgust me. Edit: 3 comments down and there's one of those weirdos already.

  • Reply Gamina Wulfsdottir January 19, 2018 at 3:29 pm

    "Three Stinky Diseases" — my new band name!

  • Reply Anthony Marquez January 21, 2018 at 8:14 pm

    no C. diff?

  • Reply Wade Rhyderrek January 25, 2018 at 8:31 am

    Reek, Reek, rhymes with freak.

  • Reply Christopher Hall February 1, 2018 at 10:16 pm

    lol, Reek didn't smell bad because he was sick, he smelled bad because RAMSAY was sick

  • Reply Elizabeth Shaw February 16, 2018 at 5:00 am

    If I forget my deodorant they smell like tacos. 🙂 I don't need another disorder! I would like to see you do an episode on what happens when your insulin receptors do not function. Somehow my disorder is got to get out into the public knowledge.

  • Reply Elizabeth Shaw February 16, 2018 at 5:01 am

    I was adopted at Birth and have a very weird one of them kind syndrome. I have always wanted to know what my DNA says but on SSDI I cannot afford a test from 23 and me or anybody else.

  • Reply BlowItOutYourCunt February 17, 2018 at 7:27 pm

    23andMe does not provide HIPAA protection or give privacy to your genome/genetic material at all. Instead you sign away your rights to your own genetic data meanwhile they make even more money selling it to biotech companies and I thought scishow was awesome until I saw this….

    Yikes guys do a little research before you advocate for something or at least provide a disclaimer….


  • Reply FUTTERSHY FAN February 21, 2018 at 10:51 am

    I have a girl school mate that have this disease

  • Reply FUTTERSHY FAN February 21, 2018 at 10:52 am

    I have a girl school mate that have this disease

  • Reply 🅱andaman February 24, 2018 at 7:22 pm

    I wish 23 and me sequenced genomes

  • Reply Miles Huff March 12, 2018 at 1:34 am

    Interesting. I was expecting BV.

  • Reply Blue Panther April 17, 2018 at 6:03 am

    You have AIDS !!!

  • Reply Sylvain Rocheleau April 19, 2018 at 12:37 am


  • Reply TheCaptainLulz May 4, 2018 at 10:19 am

    23 and me, no thanks. You do know that the contract you sign with them stipulates that they can do whatever they please with your genetic info right?

  • Reply ImNotStalkingYou June 9, 2018 at 12:35 am

    Talk to your doctor to get your misdiagnosis today.

  • Reply Issolom Issolom June 12, 2018 at 2:28 am

    I love you hanks

  • Reply Extensive Enterprises June 14, 2018 at 1:02 am

    I thought these would funny…. but damn.

  • Reply cat lover June 26, 2018 at 8:33 pm

    What about sinus infections???? Don't they make you stink????

  • Reply Cornetta Williams June 29, 2018 at 2:47 am

    thats messed up cuz

  • Reply Great Quake Goddess July 8, 2018 at 9:30 pm


  • Reply Catgirl July 27, 2018 at 12:42 am

    What about a dead animal smell?

  • Reply Sarah Leonard August 10, 2018 at 5:00 pm

    There was a guy in my dormitory in college who smelled constantly of rotting meat. I don't suppose you know of any medical condition that would result in that smell?

  • Reply Hortense Dandridge September 12, 2018 at 12:36 am

    Wow! This was awesome yet important info! Lots of ppl should tune in and learn something

  • Reply r jessica vasquez September 25, 2018 at 1:17 am

    what's hank's result tho

  • Reply Airtight Pocket October 5, 2018 at 11:40 am

    It's an emergency…I need help. How to contact you guys ?

  • Reply MAKER HAPPY November 2, 2018 at 12:58 am

    23andMe is full of crap! They said I was 42.67% American Indian. Which is Extreme malarkey. I have blonde hair and blue eyes. Thankfully they're going to be giving me a free test because this makes no sense

  • Reply David Mora November 25, 2018 at 7:51 pm

    Vaginas fishy

  • Reply anony mous December 6, 2018 at 2:55 am

    Sickly sweet odor is usually cancer-if you start to smell like that get checked out

  • Reply Kali Linux December 13, 2018 at 5:56 am

    I have feet smell I'm gonna die…
    IM scared I'm only 13…
    Please don't scare me :c

  • Reply Michelle Leon January 8, 2019 at 4:56 am

    ok so my ex bestfriend’s feet smells really bad (what my parents said) and i guess that’s why she always stank a lil bit ..

  • Reply Sivadasan Narayanan February 5, 2019 at 1:02 am

    You know what smells like rotten fish?

    Rotten fish

  • Reply E D February 11, 2019 at 2:12 pm

    Uhmm can masturbation can cause fishy body odor even when i took a bath the smell is still there even when i take deo when its morning my body odor smells so bad i dunno whats my body problem or maybe it is puberty but my armpit stinks so bad even after taking a bath pls advice me what to do:(

  • Reply Naruto Uchiha February 27, 2019 at 5:40 am


  • Reply Joseph Roblo March 10, 2019 at 5:19 am

    I had a friend who has this condition. We were very close but I decided to left him because it also affects my social life. Whenever we hung out together people think it was me who stinks. But I'm glad he found a new friend. At least now I know he doesn't eat his lunch alone.

  • Reply Aries April March 23, 2019 at 12:50 am

    Who cares, I don’t even like people!!

  • Reply Jeremy Cornwell April 4, 2019 at 10:26 am


  • Reply buck rowley April 10, 2019 at 1:27 am

    what about the pee smell in my butt hole area ?

  • Reply Sergeant Fluffy April 26, 2019 at 4:09 am

    I actually have a friend that often smells like rotten fish quite often. And this probably is in her urine, which leakes and she has no control of it. She told me herself.

  • Reply AgeAfterArt April 26, 2019 at 11:09 pm

    Conditions don’t equal diseases… you can’t catch a condition

  • Reply Nothing Too Serious May 25, 2019 at 4:40 pm

    Oh this is why some women smell like fish… makes sense now…

  • Reply Luis Hernandez June 1, 2019 at 5:24 am

    I've been having a difficult time that when ppl get around me they always but ALWAYS sniff their nose when they get near me I really can't smell how I smell but ppl get really bothered alot and my friend has told me I smell bad and I've had this situation over 6 months and I've been to the doctors several times and have prescribed me the sinus rinse and it didn't work and I really can't find out why I smell like this can someone plz help me

  • Reply Dave Thompson June 17, 2019 at 12:24 am

    I guess I'm weird, I don't stink, my shoes don't stink, my clothes don't stink… I'm okay with that.

  • Reply K1naku5ana3R1ka June 24, 2019 at 11:10 pm

    3:25 Sulfur itself isn’t smelly; it’s many of the compounds sulfur makes that smell.

  • Reply Zes June 29, 2019 at 6:31 pm

    wrg, no such thing as stinkx or not or rejx, smell any nmw and any s ok

  • Reply Marika Red sailor July 26, 2019 at 3:05 pm

    Diabetes??? Yeast??

  • Reply Noah Doddi July 29, 2019 at 2:47 pm

    I always ask God why me…. I am suffering from this problem from last 20 years… Now I completely broken.. I can't even die, because I have my family…. I smell worst, body odour, bad breath, foot odour, scalp odour, urine stinks, worst bad breath,… I stay away from people, I don't talk to them face to face, but while traveling people get away from me…. Now I'm strong, because I know I stink, but all I can do is "face it"… 😊

  • Reply The Scrubpe-_- August 14, 2019 at 12:11 am

    I have TMAU but it isn’t too serious

  • Reply bosschick lady August 14, 2019 at 2:28 am

    My pits smell no matter what it's embarrassing 😥😪😪😪

  • Reply Lakiff Skitose August 15, 2019 at 12:22 am

    Bro I go to school they tolde I stink but I take shower everyday it's deadeases they don't know

  • Leave a Reply