Why Does My Belly Button Smell? The Reasons Will Blow Your Mind

Have you ever experienced that even after a good scrub during a bath or a shower, there seems to be a funny odor coming from your belly button? That suddenly after belly button piercing, pregnancy, work out, or for no apparent reason, a cheesy smell can be traced to your belly button? Why the belly button, all of a sudden, might be wet, has a discharge, leaks smelly liquid, or white stuff? These why does my belly button smell questions deserve answers in this hygiene-conscious world.


This article explains some facts about the belly button, possible reasons for its unpleasant smell, symptoms, wound management, and adequate hygiene.

Facts About the Belly Button

why does my belly button smell bad

No, your doctor at birth had nothing to do with the current appearance of your belly button. Scientifically called the navel or umbilicus, the belly button is the scar from where the stump of the umbilicus cord from the maternal placenta was cut. There are two types of belly buttons: the "innies" meaning the belly button dips inwards, and the other one is the "outies," where it is more protruded.

The outies have two possible reasons: first, from a tiny protrusion caused by an umbilical hernia, and second, from the formation of granulation tissue from an infection which was asymptomatic. So, the infant's belly button odor may sometimes be infected during the severance of the umbilical cord.

Possible Reasons Why Does My Belly Button Smell

Several factors may be causing the bad smell, discharge, or the combination of both from the navel. These are:

why does my belly button smell infographic
  • Build-up of sweat, dirt, dead skin, and other items such as hair and lint from clothes
  • Fungal or yeast infections such as from Candida
  • Bacterial Infections such as from Staphylococcus
  • Wound or lesion around the navel area
  • Mass growths such as omphalitis, umboliths, epidermoid and sebaceous cysts
  • Infection from belly button piercing or the button ring smell bad
  • Fecal discharge from an umbilical fistula caused by an abnormal connection between the intestines and the umbilicus
  • Menstrual leakage caused by rare cases endometriosis
  • Post-surgical infections such as an umbilical hernia, after laparoscopy, after a tummy tuck, and piercing

Belly buttons that are itchy, crusty, or inflamed may be infected. These are the typical symptoms of infection or allergic reactions:

  • Itchy and red skin around the belly button
  • Foul smell similar to cheese (parmesan or blue), fish, vinegar, sour milk, weed, and other gross odors such as poo, feces, and urine
  • Swelling
  • Dark-color, green, or yellow discharge or pus
  • Persistent hurt or pain within the navel area or piercing smell bad

How Is the Belly Button Smell Formed?

Unlike the armpits or nose, the navel does not secrete any fluid although it can contain numerous species of bacteria. In fact, in the study called the Belly Button Diversity Project, the navel may have 2,368 phylotypes of bacteria. The most common types were Staphylococci, Corynebacteria, Pseudomonas, Streptococci, and Bacilli.

According to the article of the Canadian Association of Wound Care, the bad odor may be caused by the breakdown of the skin and connective tissue around the belly button. When part of the surface is injured or infected, anaerobic bacteria, or those microorganisms not needing oxygen to exist, thrive in the wound site.

why does my belly button smell like cheese

In addition to the wound site is the deep cavity of the belly button. As micro-organisms begin and continue with the degradation of tissue, these cells produce foul-smelling chemicals such as putrescine (butane-1,4-diamine) and cadaverine (pentane-1,5-diamine) as by-products.

The continuous tissue degradation and production of these nasty smelling compounds lead to necrosis and unpleasant odors. These by-products are also discharged as smelly liquids or pus.

How to Clean Your Belly Button and Lessen the Smell

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Although post birth the belly button does not have any real function, it may currently be a neglected part of bathing. If the smell is not caused by microorganisms or injuries, then the primary consideration is good hygiene. Those with innies and belly button piercings need to take extra hygienic steps to prevent infections or trap items that may contribute to the unpleasant odor.

The deeper the navel, the more dirt or microbes it has. Cleaning the belly button with water and soap usually achieves the goal. For an intense clean especially for the innies, a washcloth dipped in a solution of a teaspoon of salt in a cup of warm water can be used for cleaning the belly button. Avoid the use of creams or lotions in your navel. These agents contribute to the microbial growth with the moisture they contain.

Keep the belly button as clean and dry as possible. Sweat and dirt can hide inside the navel so avoid wearing tight clothes that will contribute to these. If the area of piercing is infected, remove the jewelry.

why does my belly button smell and itch

Use antimicrobial agents and warm water to clean the wound site. Avoid tight clothing and wearing of the ornament until the symptoms of infection disappear.

Treatment of Belly Button Wound or Infection

If the cause of the navel odor is an infection, seeing a physician as soon as possible is recommended. The doctor may prescribe any dermatologic antimicrobial agent. One product that may be specified is an iodine gel such as Smith and Nephew Iodosorb Gel. As soon as the gel absorbs the exudate or discharge, the iodine is released, eliminating the bacteria, and creating an efficient wound healing environment. Also, avoid too much moisture in the area and keep it clean as much as possible.

To Put an End to the Smelly Issue

In conclusion, there are two main reasons why there is an awful belly button smell. First, it is a matter of hygiene. Regular bathing with soap, water, and a washcloth will prevent dirt, sweat, hair, lint, and microbes from taking residence in the cavity. Second, infection or injury is another reason why the belly smells gross. If it keeps its foul odor or the symptoms persist, it is best to see a physician for the proper medicine and wound management.

If I was able to provide the necessary information on your question, please leave a reply in the comment section. For any similar questions you may have on any topic, I will surely welcome them.

why does my belly button smell infographic

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