It is without shame that I am telling you that my feet stink, and this repugnant odor has been with me for years. But from the experience of some dorm visits on campus, I realized before long that I am far from the only victim of this pathetic phenomenon. College students, when compared to the average public, generally have more intense exercise on a daily basis. After sustaining substantial amount of perspiration, our first thought would be no more than to take a shower, which is obviously not a bad way to save the air of your room. But when the stench is thick enough with the potential to make a feisty bull bow down at your knees, perhaps you couldn't escape but ask yourself what has indeed happened to your feet?
Before our discussion, it will be beneficial to clarify one term. When I grew up, I've been fed up with the notion that athletes, who practice massive extent of physical exercises for a long run, are exposed to a much higher risk of feet odor. At that time, I've already been taught that athlete's foot is the ordinary name to describe this unbearable notoriety on a human body.
However, as I began to revisit this concept again today, surprisingly I found out my earlier comprehension about the athlete's foot is clinically wrong. Despite the stereotypic vision that athlete's foot only savages athletes, theoretically speaking, people stand for an equal chance of contracting this disease. "It affects the feet of athletes and non-athletes alike," explained a medical portal website. In addition, the further illustrations completely toppled my previous illusion about this disease. The article continues, "It is usually a scaly, red, itchy eruption and occasionally may be weepy and oozing." Having read about this, I ejaculated, "I would rather like to have a severe foot odor than an athlete's foot!" The latter, based on the description, involves skin infection and blood release. Without much difficulty, I was able to link the appearance of athlete's foot to the hand blisters incurred during frigid weathers, which at times leave the back of hands with a handful of grisly blood scabs.
Learning that athlete's foot by no means relates to the foot odor, I decided to look into the pathological aspect of foot odor. Not surprisingly, clinical professionals have a fancy obscure word for stinky feet. Footsmart, an online retailer selling smart-looking foot mattresses, put this medical terminology in a very recognizable way, "If taking off your shoes clears a room, you may be suffering from a condition known as bromhidrosis." Attention needs to be called for the referrals of bromhidrosis. Footsmart, perhaps whole-heartedly put its endeavors in podiatric products, skipped a crucial fact of bromhidrosis, so another medical reference portal came to rescue, "Bromhidrosis, also known as bromidrosis or body odor, is a common phenomenon in postpubertal individuals." This statement implies that bromidrosis not only applies for foot odor, but also many other parts of the body, armpits included. Therefore, to be accurate, foot odor is a subcategory of bromidrosis, and we shall use it with discretion.
In spite of these misconceptions of foot odor over years during my growth, it seems to me one thing must be certain, that people who exercise extensively are prone to have more serious bromhidrosis than those who don't. Immediately, my research confirms that observation, "When sweat glands work overtime, stinky situations can ensue. MayoClinic.com explains that eccrine glands are sweat glands that exist on most of the surface of the body. The autonomic nervous system responds to increases in body temperature by stimulating the secretion of sweat onto the skin's surface, thus cooling the body through evaporation," as LiveStrong.com put it.
Photo courtesy of HowStuffWorks.
This analysis about the mechanism of sweating makes perfect sense to me, since almost everyone has the common sense that excessive sweat on one's skin may lead to the development of a prompt cold if not removed after the entry of a cooler environment. This article also pointed out that an overwhelming amount of sweat, known as focal hyperhidrosis, may ensue after a drastic physical workout, and body odor of the feet can result from hyperhidrosis.
Andrew has told us over times concerning the analysis of a hypothesis. Obviously, in this case, alternative hypothesis should be stated as excessive sweating causes bromidrosis, and correspondingly the null hypothesis rolls in as excessive sweating does not cause bromidrosis. We may notice that in this study anecdotal observations may take the biggest part of the stage when alternative hypothesis is put to test. Since we had never failed to find a friend or family members who have various degrees of bromidrosis, and chances are the majority of them are males. Some basic logics soon brings us to the inference that because males engage labors more than females do---obviously in this occasion labors are only not limited to ones required by professions---males are more likely to be carriers of bromidrosis. The rarity of severe foot odor found among women seems also support the anecdotes, and the reality tells us that we barely expect any unwelcomed smell when women take off their shoes. Anecdotal observations are proved to be so convincing that no subsequent studies seem to be necessary for the alternative hypothesis.
Having reached this point, one of the most critical aspects of scientific studies reminded me that probably we have not done enough work to speak with certainty---the 3rd variables factors. My initial reflection tells me that genetic influences could be the most interesting confounding variable here, namely does any particular gene relates to body odor? It turns out that public research did cover this seemingly unlikely story. In this article from The Washington Post, 353 people who complained about their strong body odors were tested in a medical center, and a test showed that one third of them had a rare genetic disorder called trimethylaminuria, and the author further explains, "Healthy people's bodies break down trimethylamine into smaller compounds that are then excreted through urine. But for those with trimethylaminuria, the substance remains in the body, causing them to exude a fishy smell through their breath, saliva, sweat and urine." Honestly speaking, I was astounded to see that somewhere far-fetched in your genome, a defect could be the outlaw which produces bromidrosis. Though this story strikes me as mind-blowing, I noted the author mentioned that this genetic imperfection is rather rare to be found in human cases, so this 3rd variable is probably not a convincing one.
Some other 3rd variables I can think of were later rejected by me, such as the type of shoes or socks and the individual hygiene. Sneakers or basketball shoes by themselves do not nurture stinky feet, neither do cotton socks. For many times, we have heard the rumor that these athletic shoes and non-breathable socks really defeat you to have a pair of feet that smell fresh. However, if people do not sweat wildly to the degree that the moisture finds no way to escape thorough, neither our shoes nor socks should be blamed for the bromidrosis. As for personal hygiene, the factor of sweat becomes more prominent. Because our main purpose of body cleaning is to get rid of the sweat and metabolic wastes, apparently sweat still plays a big role in this 3rd variable.
It's time to make a conclusion. Even though we can't assert that sweat does cause bromidrosis, the correlation is strong enough thus far that a reasonable proposal should be easily attained--- backup shoes are our good friends, and personal hygiene needs to be maintained.
Stinky feet is not at all alien to college kids, and this discussion somewhat seems to be redundant. But instead of just reaching a solid ground of sweat theory, I took a long journey to reach this conclusion, during which I dismissed some misunderstandings and challenged my own conjectures. And I believe this would be something priceless Andrew loves us to develop in SC200, what we called scientific analysis. Can you perceive any other 3rd variables which may contribute to bromidrosis? After all, can we entirely shed off the pain of the bad smell if we follow those tips, or is this an "oh-so-man" feature, which no interference is needed at all? Please share your thoughts below.
Take good care of yourself with Hurricane Sandy and hope you enjoy the rain.