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How Can I Get Rid of Fishy Odor?: Vaginal Smell

Medically reviewed by Mary Rani Cadiz, MD · Obstetrics and Gynecology

Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. · Updated Jun 02, 2021

How Can I Get Rid of Fishy Odor?: Vaginal Smell

According to sexual health experts, it’s common for the vagina to smell from time to time. But generally, normal vaginal smell can be described as “fleshy” or “musky.’ Hence, if you notice a strong odor, one that is “fishy,’ then there may be a problem. How can I get rid of this fishy odor? Read on.

How to Improve Vaginal Odor and Discharge

What Can Cause Fishy Vaginal Smell?

A lot of things can cause your vagina to have a fishy smell. Below are some of the most common reasons:

Bacterial Vaginosis

Women can get bacterial vaginosis (BV) after sexual intercourse, but please note that it’s not a sexually transmitted infection. Mainly, it is an imbalance in the vaginal flora that causes BV. Aside from the fishy odor, it also results in vaginal itching, and green, yellow, or grey discharge.

Pelvic Inflammatory Disease

PID, which is a vaginal infection that has traveled up to the pelvic region (uterus, fallopian tubes, ovaries), can also cause a fishy vaginal smell. Another warning sign of PID aside from fishy odor is bleeding during sexual intercourse and even deep pelvic pain during penetrative sex.

Sexually-Transmitted Infections

To answer the question, how can I get rid of this fishy odor?, you might need to get screened for STIs. This is because some sexually-transmitted infections, like trichomoniasis, can cause fishy vaginal odor. The other symptoms that “trich” might present with are painful urination, painful intercourse, and vaginal itching and soreness.

Other Factors

Reports say that conditions like excessive sweating, poor hygiene, and an unhealthy diet can also cause a fishy vaginal smell. You might even notice the strong odor right before or after your menstrual period.

If none of the reasons described above caused your fishy vaginal odor, it’s possible that you have Trimethylaminuria or “Fishy Odor Syndrome.”

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What is Fish Odor Syndrome

Fish odor syndrome or Trimethylaminuria is a rare metabolic condition in which the patient cannot convert the chemical trimethylamine into trimethylamine N-oxide.

When trimethylamine builds up, it produces a fishy odor that lingers in the person’s breath, urine, sweat, and vaginal discharge.

Some patients with Trimethylaminuria give off a strong fishy odor, while others have a moderate smell. Additionally, the odor may vary in intensity depending on the situation. For instance, the following factors seem to make the symptoms worse:

  • Menstrual period
  • Stress
  • Sweating
  • Eating foods such as beans, eggs, and fish.

Other than the moderate to strong odor, patients with Fish Odor Syndrome appear generally healthy.

It’s also worth noting that Fish Odor Syndrome is more common in women than men. Researchers still do not know why, but they suspect that it has something to do with the hormones estrogen and progesterone.

how can i get rid of fishy odor

What Causes Fish Odor Syndrome?

Before we enumerate the different ways to get rid of the fishy odor, let’s first establish what causes Fish Odor Syndrome.

Patients with Fish Odor Syndrome have problems with the enzyme flavin monooxygenase 3 (FMO3). This enzyme is responsible for the conversation of trimethylamine to trimethylamine N-oxide.

Because genes are involved in this condition, reports emphasize that Fish Odor Syndrome is usually inherited.

How to Get Rid of the Fishy Odor

The treatment for Fish Odor Syndrome focuses on preventing and removing the strong smell. The following measures could help get rid of the fishy odor:

Modify Your Diet

To get rid of the fishy odor, it’s important to modify your diet. This means you have to avoid foods that contain trimethylamine and its precursors.

Examples of foods to avoid are:

  • Milk obtained from wheat-fed cows
  • Beans
  • Peanuts
  • Peas
  • Liver
  • Eggs
  • Kidney
  • Soy products
  • Brassicas (cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage)
  • Fish and fish oil supplements that contain lecithin

Take Medication

To get rid of the fishy odor, the doctor may prescribe an antibiotic or laxative drug for you.

Antibiotics and laxatives can help suppress the production of the chemical trimethylamine, thereby improving the symptoms.

Take Supplements

In some instances, the doctor may advise you to take activated charcoal or supplements with riboflavin or B12.

Activated charcoal can help improve symptoms of Fish Odor Syndrome by removing excess trimethylamine in the body. On the other hand, B12 can help “enhance” the residual FMO3 – the enzyme that helps metabolize trimethylamine.

Modify  Your Lifestyle

Finally, to get rid of the symptoms of Fish Odor Syndrome, consider following these little steps:

  • Switch to gentle workouts. Exercising is an important part of being healthy, but people with Fish Odor Syndrome might find it difficult to maintain a fitness routine because their sweat smells. Experts advise switching to gentle or low-impact workouts.
  • Reduce stress. Not only does stress makes you sweat, but it might also worsen the symptoms of Fish Odor Syndrome. Reduce stress by trying meditation or doing deep breathing exercises.
  • Use soap with a moderate pH. This means a pH level of 5.5 to 6.5. Doctors explain that using soaps that have almost the same pH as the skin can help remove trimethylamine.
  • Use an antiperspirant. Because the fishy odor lingers in sweat, it will be helpful to use antiperspirant products. Additionally, experts also advise patients to wash their clothes often to get rid of the sweat.

How To Do a Vaginal Self-Exam

Key Takeaways

The presence of a strong, fishy odor in your vagina may be indicative of infection or poor nutrition. It can also be caused by excessive sweating or menstrual period. However, if you cannot pinpoint the cause and you realize that the odor lingers not only in your genital area but also in your urine and sweat, you could be suffering from Fish Odor Syndrome.

Please don’t hesitate to consult your doctor as they will be the only one who can give you a correct diagnosis.

Learn more about Women’s Health here. 


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

Mary Rani Cadiz, MD

Obstetrics and Gynecology

Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. · Updated Jun 02, 2021

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