Did you know that our bodies host species that no scientist has ever studied? One of the closest habitats to us as humans is the belly button, yet it is relatively the most unexplored. As the belly button is a commonly neglected area for hygiene, it hosts a plethora of unstudied and unidentified species of bacteria. Diving into a belly button is just like diving into a rainforest. Rainforests support the greatest diversity of living organisms on Earth; and just like rainforests, belly buttons have a wealth of biodiversity and harbor an ecosystem of bacteria.
Biodiversity is defined as the number and types of organisms in a habitat, ecosystem, region or environment. In a recent study called the Belly Button Biodiversity (BBB) Project, researchers at North Carolina State University swabbed the belly buttons of 60 volunteers and found 2,368 bacterial species. Throughout this experiment not a single strand of the same bacteria was found on each volunteer. In fact, according to the PLOS ONE journal article written on the BBB Project, “2,188 of the bacteria types showed up on fewer than 10% of the volunteers, and most of them were present on just one individual.” However, according to the study “eight species were present on more than 70% of the subjects.” These species appeared in such large quantities; and as more belly buttons are swabbed more species are found. But let us be clear – bacteria in your belly button, like most bacteria associated with the human body, is either good bacteria or just simply present and not harmful!
However, it is still very possible to contract a bacterial infection by neglecting the hygiene of your belly button. Have you ever had your finger in your belly button and it did not smell so pleasant? Many factors can be a contributing cause to the unpleasant smell of a belly button. Often times the smell is just a reminder that one needs to give the area more attention in hygiene. According to the healthcare website Medical Treasure, sweat, soap and other deposited substances can foster bacterial growth. If there is an unpleasant smell and pus like substance excreting from the belly button, you may have a bacterial infection.
Diabetes and high blood sugar can also directly affect ones belly button condition. Diabetic patients are prone to infections, and the disease may also prevent rapid healing of infections. Diabetics with belly button infections may suffer from an unpleasant smell emanating from the belly button, as well as oozing of cheese-like fluids.
Another potential cause of infection in the belly button are piercings which are very popular among teens and young adults. A new or bleeding piercing is vulnerable to infection through contact with different germs in the surrounding area. Infections associated with a belly button piercing can lead to septicemia, a serious bloodstream infection. That’s why when a patient needs surgery anywhere near the abdomen, a cleaning of the belly button is required to ensure the prevention of infection and spread of bacteria, according to surgical nurse Trudy Weekes-Roach BSN, RN, CNOR.
While most of us aren’t facing abdominal surgery, we should maintain regular belly button hygiene. So when you’re at home, wash your belly button with soap and water and be sure to dry the area completely. A wet belly button can become a source of infection and is prone to harboring bacteria; which will cause an unpleasant smell.