Do You Stink! Do you have Odor Sensitivities? It may be the Ammonia.
Are you tired of putting on deodorant and antiperspirant to cover up your smell? Do you always keep a little cologne or perfume with you? Ever wondered why some people smell more than others? Do you have any neurological symptoms that are random or you can’t seem to figure out?
Two of the major reasons why you or someone you know might smell like a used sock in a high school football locker is due to two chemical compounds called ammonia and aldehydes.
Ammonia toxicity and aldehyde toxicity are two common findings in clinical practice and both can wreak havoc on your health and not only leave you searching for a stronger deodorant, but also with physical, mental and neurological symptoms. This article will cover ammonia toxicity and part 2 will cover aldehyde and chemical sensitivity. If you are someone that can’t stand to smell perfume or gets headaches when walking through the mall, you may have an aldehyde problem.
Ammonia is a normal byproduct of the digestion of fats and proteins in the body. When athletes do a hard workout they are known to have “ammonia sweat” that is often due to the breaking down of their own muscle to provide sugar to their body. (Gluconeogenesis) Overproduction of cortisol due to high stress can also lead to an overproduction of ammonia as the body breaks down tissue. These can lead to excess odor, but also to more important neurological symptoms.
Not all ammonia is bad. A healthy intestinal tract produces ammonia daily and as it reaches the blood stream it is shunted to the liver to be turned into a product called urea. The urea is put back into the blood stream and then the kidneys are supposed to dispose of the urea (which contains ammonia) in the form of urine. A problem in either the liver or the kidneys can lead to inadequate detoxification and thus a backup or excessive buildup of ammonia in the bloodstream.
Currently most medical institutions only recognize ammonia toxicity when it shows up in blood work, but ammonia toxicity that doesn’t show up in labs is also possible. Finding someone that is familiar with functional ammonia toxicity is important. Some symptoms of functional or overt ammonia toxicity include:
- Fasciculations (muscle twitches)
- Brain swelling
- Increased brain glutamate
- Low serotonin levels
- Brain fog/delirium
- Excessive body odor
If you look at hyper-excitability, brain swelling, high glutamate (an excitotoxin), low serotonin, etc. you have a perfect picture for ADD/ADHD and Autism. Thus, in patients with these concerns, ammonia is more important than just having an excessive odor problem.
Sources of Ammonia
Water – Some public water sources use a chemical called Chloramine, which is a combination of chlorine and ammonia used to clean the water. The problem is that getting the ammonia out of the water after it has been put in is difficult.
Fast Foods Meat – About 70% of meat in America has ammonia added to it in order to kill off E. coli, salmonella and other possibly harmful bacteria. This ammonia is then consumed and can get into your blood stream.
Dysbiosis/SIBO/Fungus – Probably the most well documented fungal infection to produce and thrive on ammonia is candida albicans. There is a normal amount of ammonia that is produced and later detoxified in the human body, but overgrowth of candida, parasites and other bad bacteria can lead to a huge increase in the production of ammonia, thus overwhelming the liver and making it impossible to detoxify all of the ammonia.
Protecting Your Brain from Ammonia
Studies on mice show that by taking Acetyl-L-Carnitine you can protect your brain from the damage that Ammonia can cause, but usually I find that people need nutrient support to help the ammonia do what it is supposed to in the body.
The detoxifying of ammonia goes through 3 major systems in the body. The urea cycle, purines (uric acid) and creatinine. An interesting overlooked association with gout may include the over production of uric acid (the primary culprit in gout) DUE TO excessive ammonia.
The urea cycle depends on the citric acid cycle. (CAC – also called Krebs cycle or TCA cycle) The citric acid cycle produces CO2 as an important byproduct as well as it creates aspartate, which are both required for the urea cycle to function. Thus both the CAC and the Urea cycle nutrients should be considered. Some of these nutrients include B vitamins, manganese and the enzyme arginase.
Uric acid is the end product of the breakdown of purines. Each molecule of uric acid contains four nitrogen groups taken from ammonia. The body has to convert purines into uric acid in order to effectively eliminate the nitrogen groups. Nutrients required to make this cycle work include iron and molybdenum. This cycle is often overburdened from candida and fungal infections due to depletion of molybdenum that is used to break down the toxic chemical acetaldehyde given off by yeast or mold. (Aldehyde toxicity is another common finding, but too comprehensive to cover here.)
An intermediate product in the urea cycle is called arginine. This is combined with glycine and is then converted into creatine phosphate for short term energy needs. Creatine phosphate gives off energy and then turns into creatinine which goes into the urine. This is supposed to be a backup system for ammonia disposal and not the primary mechanism. When the urea cycle isn’t working properly or when you are you do too much high intensity training, the body uses this pathway to dispose of ammonia, but it isn’t as efficient.
By now you should be thoroughly confused about these cycles and processes in the body that you probably haven’t heard of before.
Ammonia Detox Simplified
- You need a healthy liver in order to detoxify ammonia from the body.
- If the liver is not functioning optimally and you lack certain nutrients, then the ammonia is release back into circulation to wreak havoc. (aka cause symptoms)
- Kidneys filter the urea from the liver before it is removed in urine.
- Proper blood sugar levels are important to allow the kidneys to filter properly.
- Dysbiosis, Parasites, Bacteria and Fungus can cause excessive production of ammonia that that body will not be able to handle until the infection is taken care of.
- Lab testing for ammonia is limited and only seems to appear elevated if your ammonia levels are severely elevated. Also, brain levels of ammonia can be significantly higher than blood levels of ammonia.
After reading all of this, you can now use body odor as a guide to the status of your health. While body odor isn’t an absolute sign of ammonia toxicity, if you have any foul odors leaving your body, you know you have an underlying health imbalance that you could benefit by looking into.
Part 2 on Smelling Sensitivity will cover aldehyde toxicity and why people are so sensitive to perfumes and chemicals in their environment.