What Deficiency Causes Foot Odor?

Foot odor, also known as bromodosis, is a very common problem that affects millions of people. While it is often dismissed as just a cosmetic issue, frequent foot odor can be the sign of an underlying health condition. Understanding what causes smelly feet can help you find the right treatment.

The Main Culprit Behind Foot Odor

In most cases, smelly feet are caused by an overgrowth of bacteria on the skin of the feet. There are thousands of sweat glands in the feet, and they produce perspiration throughout the day. When your feet sweat, the warm, moist environment allows bacteria to rapidly multiply.

The bacteria break down the sweat into acids, producing the unpleasant foot odor. The most common bacteria found on smelly feet are Micrococcus sedentarius and Corynebacterium xerosis.

While anyone can suffer from foot odor, it is particularly common in teenagers and adults because their sweat glands are more active. Other factors like wearing tight shoes and socks can exacerbate the problem by creating an even more favorable environment for bacteria.

Nutritional Deficiencies Contributing to Foot Odor

Though bacteria are the direct cause of foot odor, certain nutritional deficiencies can make the problem worse in some people. Deficiencies in zinc, vitamin B6, magnesium and other minerals and vitamins seem to contribute to excessive foot perspiration and odor.

Zinc is one of the most studied nutritional factors. This essential mineral regulates sweat production and the growth of bacteria on the skin. Studies have shown that people with low zinc levels tend to have greater foot odor. Taking zinc supplements or eating zinc-rich foods like oysters, nuts and seeds may help reduce foot odor.

Vitamin B6 regulates hormonal activity and immune function. A deficiency can lead to an overactive immune response and inflammation, which may increase foot perspiration. Foods high in B6 like chicken, potatoes and bananas can help maintain healthy levels.

A lack of magnesium causes sweating and may play a role in foot odor. Good dietary sources of this mineral include dark leafy greens, nuts, seeds, fish and whole grains. Getting enough vitamin D, probiotics and antioxidants may also help by promoting healthy skin and immunity.

When Nutritional Deficiencies Are Not the Cause

It’s important to remember that while nutritional deficiencies can contribute to the problem, they are not the direct cause of foot odor in most cases. Simply taking supplements will usually not resolve the issue if proper foot hygiene is not practiced.

Proper washing, drying, exfoliation and wearing clean, breathable shoes and socks are necessary to prevent excessive bacterial growth on the feet. Using antibacterial soaps and applying foot powders and deodorants can also help combat foot odor.

If good foot hygiene and nutritional adjustments do not alleviate your foot odor, it’s a good idea to see a podiatrist. They can determine if you have a skin condition like hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating) or a fungus contributing to the odor. Addressing any underlying medical causes will give you the best chance at fresh smelling feet.