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Liver Disorders

Alcohol consumption and body odor.

10/02/1998

Question:

My husband has been drinking at least a fifth of wine every night for several years. Recently, in the morning his bedroom smells sour, like metabolized alcohol, and he has a strong body odor that I associate with someone who has had an extreme amount to drink. He is very clean -- takes showers, brushes his teeth, etc. Why, after so many years of consuming the same amount of alcohol, should he smell as if he were drinking to extreme? I'm worried that his body is no longer metabolizing the alcohol properly, and that is why he has the strong body odor. He is 53 years old.

Answer:

It is common to smell alcohol on the breath after drinking. If the liver becomes injured the rate of alcohol metabolism can slow and this odor will be present longer. Late stage liver disease is associated with a sickly, sweet odor called "fetor hepaticus." Drinking a bottle of wine every day is not healthy and should be stopped.

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Response by:

Kenneth Sherman, MD,PhD,FACP
Associate Professor of Medicine
University of Cincinnati