Armpit Microbes and Your Health

For months we’ve obsessed over our gut health because, well, what happens in the gut affects what happens in your life.  It’s about balancing the good bacteria in the gut with the bad, and maintaining your health.   Unbelievably this bacterial balancing act may not only be about your stomach but rather about the microbes in your armpits too .

A microbe is a tiny single cell organism that lives on your skin, in your mouth and in your gut. Some of them defend against pathogens we encounter; others keep our gut health in check.  If the colony of organisms  in your gut is healthy, they break down your food; maintain balance in your stomach and immune system. If the organisms are unhealthy, you end up with leaky gut.  The microbes under your arms play a role too, although antiperspirant and deodorant may cause an imbalance.

Antiperspirants keep you from sweating, and deodorants inhibit under arm odor.  It’s the microbes under your arms that lend themselves to smelly sweat.  If you don’t sweat there’s not much for these organisms to feed off of.  This disrupts the natural order of your own microbiome, or so scientists surmised.

Scientists at the microbiology research lab at the Museum of Natural Sciences wanted to understand whether antiperspirant or deodorant had any connection to the bacterial growth in underarms.  If so, to what extent did it disturb ones microbiome?

Yes, they researched bacterial colonies in the armpits. The study looked at those that wore deodorant, those that wore antiperspirant and those that skipped the products all together.  At the start, antiperspirant wearers had fewer microbes compared to those that did not use the products and deodorant wearers had more.  All of those in the study went without underarm product for a few days, and then had their pits examined again.  At that point, the level of microbes was fairly even across the sample.  The study continued with all of the participants wearing antiperspirant and having the level of microbes tested again.  This time, the microbes were all but wiped out.

Antiperspirant wearers had more variation to the type of microbes present on the skin, and from other studies, scientists know variation is good. Hypothetically, antiperspirants could offer both positives and negatives, while deodorants seem to keep more balance within the microbe community.  More studies would be required.

In the short term, if you want to maintain a healthy underarm, trade in your clinical strength antiperspirant for an aluminum free deodorant.