Embarrassing illnesses

We all know what they are - those embarrassing problems that we wouldn't discuss at a dinner party, or even, perhaps, with our GP. But they're all common and treatable, so don't suffer in silence.
We all know what they are - those embarrassing problems that we wouldn't discuss at a dinner party, or even, perhaps, with our GP. But they're all common, they're all treatable and your GP will certainly have helped other sufferers many times before! So don't suffer in silence.


We all have gas - partly because we all swallow air with our food, and partly because the 'good' bacteria which live in our gut and help digest our food produce it. Most of the gases in our wind have no smell - it's the tiny amounts of sulphur they contain which make our noses wrinkle.

Could it be something more serious?

Wind on its own is never serious. If you have other symptoms, such as change in bowel habit, weight loss, being off your food, tummy pain or blood in your stool, you must see your doctor.

How can I help myself?

  • Try avoiding foods which can cause wind, including: lots of fruit juice, 'slimming' products containing sorbitol; broccoli and cauliflower, beans and peas, root vegetables, raisins, prunes and apples, fizzy drinks and chewing gum
  • Avoid tight clothing around your tummy
  • Eat slowly, chew your food well and avoid large meals

Body odour

Did you know that sweat doesn't usually smell? It's only when bacteria on the skin get to work on sweat that the embarrassing odour starts.

Could it be something more serious?

Some people have more of a tendency to sweat than others. If you've always been unusually sweaty, you could be suffering from a condition called hyperhidrosis, which doesn't cause any other symptoms but can leave you prone to embarrassingly sweaty palms, feet and armpits. If you suddenly become sweatier, do see your doctor - occasionally it can be a sign of overactive thyroid, infection or blood disorders.

How can I help myself?

  • Avoid garlic, onions and spicy food, which can make sweat smell
  • One for the ladies (or men if they want to!): Shave your armpits, letting the sweat dissolve and leaving less for bacteria to work on
  • Wear loose, natural fabrics like cotton which let your skin breathe
  • Consider an antiperspirant containing aluminium. Contrary to popular myths, deodorants, including those with aluminium, don't cause breast cancer. You can get it from your pharmacist, but follow the instructions closely
  • As a last resort, talk to your GP. An electrical current treatment called iontophoresis, or even Botox® injections, may be indicated.


Vaginal thrush causes a whitish, curd-like discharge, as well as itching and soreness. Get it checked by your GP when you first have it to make sure thrush really is the cause. It's due to an overgrowth of yeast, which love warm, moist conditions.

Could it be something more serious?

As long as you have the same symptoms your GP has confirmed before are thrush, and it's a vaginal problem only, it won't do more serious harm. If you get it frequently, get yourself checked to exclude diabetes.

How can I help myself?

  • Avoid tight, synthetic clothes which make you sweatier
  • Always wear cotton underwear (the baggier the better!)
  • Avoid bubble baths and soaps to wash down below.

Avoiding urine infections

That painful burning sensation, the need to rush to the loo every five minutes, the dull ache in your lower tummy - at least half of women will know what I'm talking about because they've suffered a urine infection. But don't despair! Simple measures could cut your risk of future misery:

  • Drink 2-2.5 litres a day of non-alcoholic liquid - enough to keep your urine pale straw-coloured. This helps flush germs out of your bladder
  • Follow the instructions above for avoiding thrush
  • Avoid alcohol, which can dehydrate you
  • Try a glass of cranberry juice twice a day
  • Always wipe from front to back when you go to the toilet.

With thanks to 'My Weekly' magazine where this article was originally published.

Dr Sarah is unable to provide medical advice or respond directly to questions concerning your health. If you have health concerns we recommend contacting your GP.