Why Does My Belly Button Smell? Causes and Treatment

Why does my belly button smell? Is this a question that is on your mind? A smelly belly button can be indicative of a medical problem such as an infection or a simple discharge. In some cases, it points to poor hygiene, especially where one’s belly button is an innie.

This problem is common amongst people who have piercings on their navels as they sometimes get infected and emit a foul smell. There are many factors that can lead to a smelly belly button and if one suffers from this problem, it is best to seek medical advice rather than self medicate.

What makes a belly button smell like poop or cheese?

A smelly belly button can be indicative of any of the following:

  • A fungal infection in the navel that could be a result of poor hygiene
  • A developing wound in the navel. When wounds get infected, they tend to emit foul odors
  • A piercing healing. Sometimes piercings bleed and get infected, leading to foul smells
  • Poor hygiene leading to build up of dirt, which attracts bacteria and causes bacterial infection in the navel
  • Healing surgical operations, such as tummy tucks
  • A bruised belly button

These and many more can be the reasons behind a smelly belly button.

What causes a smelly belly button?

  1. Yeast infections

These infections are caused by a buildup of fungus in the area, which is mostly caused by lack of proper hygiene in the navel area. The navel should be kept dry and one should ensure that the navel has been properly dried after a bath to avoid fungus buildup. A yeast infection in the navel makes it emit a foul odor. Candida albicans is the fungus that causes this smell. This type of fungus prefers to live in humid regions, such as mouth, and if the conditions in the navel are favorable due to poor hygiene, this fungus can survive in the navel. Other symptoms associated with a yeast infection in the navel aside from a foul smell include the following:

  • A discharge from the belly button. This discharge is usually slightly yellow in color
  • The discharge is often accompanied with pain
  • The belly button emits a foul smell that does not go away even after cleaning the area.
  1. Bacterial infections

The lack of proper hygiene leads to such infections. When an area is left in a dirty state for a period of time, dirt builds up, creating an environment where bacteria can thrive. When one has a bacterial infection in the navel, it manifests itself in the following ways:

  • When bacteria builds up in the navel, one is likely to experience a warm sensation in that area
  • The belly button has a foul odor
  • The belly button emits a discharge that looks like pus and has a foul smell. If one does not take proper care of the navel once the discharge has started, it can worsen the bacterial infection and, in this case, one will suffer from abdominal pain and discomfort. The infection can turn into a wound.

This problem is common with people who have “innie” belly buttons which can accumulate dirt. 

To prevent such an infection, it is necessary for people to take the following steps:

  • When using soap to wash the navel, it is very necessary to rinse the area thoroughly so as to ensure that all the soap and dirt has come out. Not doing so creates a bacteria-friendly environment, paving way for an infection.
  • One should ensure that the navel has been cleaned after conducting activities that cause a lot of sweating, such as exercise. Taking a bath daily is also recommended. Sweat encourages the growth of bacteria and thus should be washed off.
  • Prevent the accumulation of moisture in the navel. After taking a bath, it is important to ensure that the navel is dry.
  1. Surgical operations

It is common for the belly button to emit a foul smell after surgery around it has been carried out. The reason behind this smell is that after a while, the scar that is created after the surgery starts healing and in the process it contracts. Once the scar has contracted, the navel becomes tighter and its circumference reduces in size. As a result of this, the skin starts sloughing and leaving debris in the navel. This debris attracts bacteria which cause bacterial infections that make the belly button smell. However, if one experiences belly button odor months after surgery, one should seek medical attention urgently as it is likely that a mistake occurred during the surgery such as the retaining of sutures that should have been removed.

  1. Pregnancy and menstrual periods

Some women experience a smelly belly button while they are pregnant or on their period. The reason behind this is that during pregnancy and menstrual periods as well as ovulation, the metabolism of the woman’s body picks up. As a result of this, there is more sweating than usual and if a woman does not practice proper hygiene, sweat and dirt can accumulate in the navel, leading to a bacterial infection that emits a foul odor. In some cases, the woman already has a bruise in the navel and the change in metabolism aggravates the problem further, causing the bad smell.

  1. Patent urachus

When a woman is pregnant, the urachus enables the fetus to pass its urine to the mother’s bladder. The urachus acts as a link between the umbilicus and the bladder to allow the excretion of waste during the first three months of pregnancy. Patent urachus is a congenital problem that occurs when the urachus fails to close up and it leaves an open link between the umbilicus and the bladder once the pregnancy is over. Bacterial infections can occur in the opening which leads to emission of a foul odor from the navel. In addition to the foul odor, this condition is also accompanied by a yellowish green discharge.

  1. Diabetes

Diabetes and hypertension have been linked to smelly belly buttons. When this happens, one emits a foul odor from the navel which can be accompanied by a discharge that looks like cottage cheese. Sometimes, the discharge and the foul smell are accompanied by pain.

  1. An infected navel piercing

An infected navel piercing exhibits the following symptoms:

  • A foul smell from the navel
  • A yellowish green discharge from the navel that has a bad odor
  • Crusts start forming around the piercing
  • Bleeding can occur
  • Pain accompanies the discharge
  • The infected area can become itchy
  • Redness or a rash around the piercing

At times, people experience bleeding in the navel which can occur in people who scratch themselves in the navel, after operations in the stomach region or during pregnancy. This bleeding leads to creation of crusts in the area which could lead to buildup of bacteria and could cause the foul odor. In such a case of bleeding, one should seek medical advice before the problem worsens.

Other causative factors:

  1. Inflammation of the navel

If the skin around one’s navel gets inflamed due to bacteria, the infection could spread to the belly button, causing the emission of a foul smell.

  1. The shape of the body

If one has a large stomach, that person is more likely to have a smelly belly button as compared to a person with a small stomach. This is because a person with a large stomach has a larger belly button exposed to dirt which causes accumulation of bacteria easier.

  1. Exposure to Ultraviolet rays

These rays damage the skin and as such can cause an infection that could lead to a smelly belly button.

  1. Some skin conditions

Conditions such as sebaceous cysts and eczema can cause the emission of a foul odor by the navel.

Why does my belly button smell like poop?

People ask that question at times. The thing is that when a belly button is infected, there is a high chance that there are rotting dead cells inside it. As such, the dead cells attract bacteria which cause a deep odor from the navel which can be compared to the smell of poop. This is because with the introduction of bacteria in the presence of decaying cells, a lot of bacterial activity takes place leading to a very strong decaying smell. The smell can also be compared to that of cheese or fish. One should seek medical help in such a scenario.

How to get rid of belly button smell

One can use both medical and home remedies to treat this problem. The best option is to deal with the cause behind the smell so as to get rid of the belly button smell for good.

  1. Medical treatments

 Cream to get rid of smelly belly button

Doctors use various methods to deal with belly button smell. Bacterial infections are treated differently from fungal infections. As such, it is best not to self medicate as one can end up using the wrong medication which could lead to other problems. Doctors use both ingestible medicines and topical creams to deal with this problem.

Medical treatments include:

If one has a problem such as patent urachus, this can only be rectified through surgery in order to close up the opening and prevent further bacterial infections. Other problems that can be dealt with through surgery is the removal of sutures causing smelly belly buttons.

  • Antibacterial topical creams


These ointments are administered to people who have been diagnosed with bacterial infections in the navel. The creams get rid of the bacteria which prevent the emission of odors from the navel.

  • Antifungal drugs

The doctor can administer both ointments and medication to solve the problem caused by a fungal infection.

  1. Home remedies for a smelly belly button

Belly button smell is often caused by lack of proper body care; hence the best way to prevent such a problem is to learn how to take care of the body. The following steps are quite useful when it comes to prevention and treatment of a smelly belly button:

  • Use of a salty solution in the navel. Once you have cleaned the navel, cleanse it with a saline solution. Salt prevents the growth of bacteria by creating an unfavorable environment. Use of salt on your belly button regularly will keep bacterial infections at bay. Ensure that the area is patted dry afterwards to prevent fungal infections.

salty solution to get rid of smelly belly button

  • If the area is swollen, painful or has redness around it, it is advisable to use warm compresses on the area. This helps to alleviate the pain and discomfort that one is experiencing.

warm compresses to get rid of smelly belly button

  • Use of tea tree oil. This essential oil is blessed with numerous benefits, key among them being its antifungal and antibacterial properties. If one is experiencing a smelly belly button, this oil is the way to go as it will get rid of the causative pathogen and ensure that the navel is healthy again. To use it, one just applies a few drops of the oil to the affected area using a clean cotton ball.

 tea tree oil to get rid of smelly belly button

  • Using alcohol. Alcohol has amazing antibacterial properties. To use it on an affected area, just put a few drops of it on a cotton ball and apply the alcohol on the affected area to keep away bacteria.

Alcohol to get rid of smelly belly button

  • One should avoid using soaps and lotions in the navel. The navel is very sensitive and when these substances are not washed away, it is very easy for bacteria to build up and cause an infection. If one uses these substances, it is important for them to ensure that they are washed off the navel.

The belly button can emit a foul odor if it is infected or if there is an underlying medical issue. Some common causes of this smell are bacterial infections, fungal infections, surgical procedures and piercings on the navel. To treat this problem, medication as well as home remedies can be used. It is important for people to take extra care to ensure that the belly button does not become infected.

Sources and References

  1. NHS What should I do if I have discharge from my piercing?
  2. National Institute of General Medical Science Armpits, Belly Buttons and Chronic Wounds: The ABCs of Our Body Bacteria
  3. WikiHow How to Clean Your Belly Button

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