Why does your belly button smell?

Navel or Belly Button is a closed area in the body. Hence, it is always moist and warm which leads to growth of bacteria and other microbes inside that small area. These bacteria are responsible for the foul odor from the belly button. Now a days, piercing in the navel is common and this may lead to infection in some cases. This infection is generally fungal and yeast. A bad smell or a discharge is a common symptom of such an infection. Obesity also results in foul odor of navel. You may also get to know about infection if there is redness or painful swelling around that area.


Following are the major causes of unpleasant smell or foul discharge from navel-

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Bacterial Infection-Uncleaned belly button leaves moisture and oil inside it. This provides the two most important living conditions for bacteria i.e.- warmth and moisture. Bacteria overgrowth occurs in these situations resulting in a very bad smell. One may observe a pus-like discharge as well in worst case scenarios when the person is severely infected. Sometimes, soap and sweat keep on depositing in the navel cavity to form a large bacterial colony. This is very harmful and unpleasant for others as well.

Fungal Infection– Candida Albicans is a fungus most commonly responsible for causing this infection in the navel or belly button. The main symptoms are pain and discharge. These fungi are found in nose, urinary tract, mouth and navel as all these are moist and warmer places of body. Overgrowth of fungus here leads to redness and pain along with white colored smelly discharge. We must not scratch this infected part to avoid bleeding. Scratching may further increase the infection.

Patent Urachus – Umbillical chord and bladder is connected with a tube called Urachus. This Urachus closes after birth but in exceptional cases it does not close and this open Urachus becomes a place of microbial growth. Hence, there is foul odor from the navel. Here, Patent Urachus is term coined for an open Urachus condition.

Surgery– Tubal Ligation surgery or Tubectomy may lead to this problem of smelly belly button. It also results in pain and swelling near the area. In tubectomy the fallopian tubes of the woman are tied/closed to prevent any more pregnancy. The woman then becomes sterile.

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Diabetes– Diabetic people have high blood sugar level which may also cause the discharge of a white smelly substance from the navel. This is not common but it happens in certain patients. A diabetic person may wonder why is this happening without having any infection and always cleaning the navel area. So, do not worry as its because of the disease. It can be cured.

Sebaceous Cysts– These cysts arise mostly from swollen hair follicles. These are closed sacs under the skin. These sacs are filled with oily fluid. Epedermoid or sebaceous cysts may also lead to discharge from the navel resulting in bad smell.

Most Common Symptoms

Following are the most common symptoms of discharge and infection-

  • Redness around the navel area.
  • Swelling around the navel area.
  • White discharge coming from the navel.
  • Bleeding when the red part scratched.
  • Foul odor in all kinds of infections.

We should not worry much when these symptoms appear as only some careful hygiene maintenance of the navel can cure the problem to a great extent. The above symptoms may be due to some other reasons as well So we can definitely seek a doctor’s help to be sure.

How to Treat a smelly belly button

There are different ways to treat the foul odor problem which depends on the type of infection or cause-

For Patent Urachus, surgery needs to be done. This also cures the problem of urinary tract infection and cancer of the tube. Problem of Urine leakage will also be solved from this surgery.

Bacterial infection may be treated by keeping the area clean. The navel should be properly washed inside-out. An anti-bacterial cream may also be applied to be on the safe side.

Anti-fungal creams are also available to treat fungal infection. Cleanliness also plays the major role here.

While bathing, navel is always neglected. Sweat, soap, water etc. seep inside of it and keep on depositing. We must daily clean this part as well to avoid any painful and ugly infection. Smelly Belly button becomes extremely embarrassing for a person as the odor is very bad. As soon as the symptoms are seen, one must seek for help and should not wait for it to subside on its own. It may lead to microbial overgrowth and the treatment may take more time. Smelly navel is hard to bear and should be immediately cleaned and treated. Following points should be kept in mind-

  • Always keep the belly button clean and dry.
  • Never scratch a swollen belly button.
  • Wash hands as well if you are infected with microbes resulting in foul odor, as the infection may grow at other warm and moist areas of body such as- nose etc.
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