Why Does My Belly Button Smell Bad? Causes and What to Do

From a health point of view, when a belly button smells like poop, fish or cheese or generally produces a foul smell, it could be a medical concern.

Foul discharge from the navel can mean an infection or a disease. However, if you don’t have a fluid or pus oozing from it, it could just be poor hygiene especially if you have an innie navel.

  • The smell or odor that comes from your belly button (navel) could mean an infection or poor hygiene.
  • The problem is common in people with a healing navel piercings.
  • Piercings, before they heal, or for some reason end up getting infected, bleeding or forming wounds.

Symptoms such as fever, moistening and warmth in the area could indicate a problem that should be addressed medically.

What does stinking mean?

It means bad odor, stink like that of rotten cheese or fish, or just a mild foul smell coming from your navel.

Sore, bleeding, smelly belly button
Sore and bleeding navel.

Foul smell and a smelly discharge from your navel can mean different things. While most of the times it should not be cause for concern, it is important to note that when it is accompanied with discharge, it means there could be a serious medical concern.

Check for any of the following:

  • fungal infection
  • a wound developing
  • a piercing healing
  • buildup of dirt and sweat which attracts bacteria whose activity will lead to a bacterial infection etc.
  • A bruised skin can also start producing odor.


Why does the inside of belly button stink so bad? Navel piercing infection, yeast infections, healing surgeries such as tummy tuck and laparoscopy are all listed as some of the reasons.

It is important that you see a doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment. The following may be the reasons for the symptom.

1. Yeast infection

Yeast infections are also called fungal infections. One of the most common symptoms of a yeast infection on skin folds is foul odor or stink.

Crusty navel from a yeast infection.

Candida albicans, a fungus that lives in a warm and moist area such as the navel hole and also in the mouth is likely to cause the cheese-like odor. Other symptoms of a fungus in the navel include:

2. Bacterial infection causes umbilicus to smell

Bacterial activity inside the navel fold will cause signs such as warmth, a foul stink and sometimes discharge.

When you leave the area uncleansed or unwashed, bacteria will start to thrive and grow, causing a warm sensation.

This problem is common in people with innie belly buttons.

Apart from the bad odor from the umbilicus, there is likely to be a pus-like discharge. If you do not clean this area well with the discharge coming out, the bacterial infection will worsen and you will start experiencing pain and a lot more discomfort as it becomes a wound.

Here are tips to help you prevent a bacterial infection here.

  • When you use soap to clean your stink on the stomach, ensure you rinse thoroughly afterwards.
  • Always clean the hole after exercise to prevent accumulation of sweat. Sweat encourages bacterial growth and activity, which results in a smelly belly button.
  • Always dry the fold well after showers to prevent it from being moist.

3. Surgery, tummy tuck or laparoscopy

Surgical procedures usually leave scabs on the skin to facilitate healing. But that is not all, discharge and infections may follow such surgeries such as tummy tuck and laparoscopy.

Tubal ligation and gall bladder surgery is also a procedure that can leave you with a smelly belly button.

According to Dr. Leslie H. Stevens, MD from Beverly Hills, tummy tuck or abdominoplasty (plastic surgery of the abdomen), “the scar around the navel contracts leaving the opening too tight and small in circumference.”

This usually causes the skin to slough and leave debris to accumulate in the area and encourage bacterial growth. That is what makes it produce a poop-like smell after surgery.

However, if you get an unusual odor after tummy tuck a few months after the surgery, there could be sutures that were retained and should be removed. See a surgeon as soon as possible to have the problem treated properly.

4. Increased metabolism during pregnancy period

Some people report having belly buttons smelling like poop during pregnancy and during period. One woman commenting on Embarrassing Problems says, “…it only happens once a month beginning during ovulation and continuing until my period is completed.”

So, what causes discharge and rotting smell from during pregnancy and during period?

  • During pregnancy and sometimes during ovulation or period, the metabolism of your body increases, meaning you are likely to perspire more. If you don’t clean your navel fold well, you might end up with a bad smell coming from it.
  • An infection could also cause increased smell from your navel. If you think you are pregnant and the area is bruised and feels sore, consider seeing a dermatologist for treatment.

5. Patent urachus

During pregnancy, urine drains from the fetus into the mother’s bladder via the channel called urachus. This tube connects the bladder and the umbilicus to help with the excretion of waste during the first trimester of pregnancy.

Patent urachus types

A foul-smelling discharge from the umbilical could be caused by the condition called patent urachus or a urachus cyst.

Being a congenital problem, it results from the failure of the urachus to close up, leaving an open channel between the umbilicus and the bladder after pregnancy.

Bacterial infections in the opening can cause a clear discharge (or sometimes yellow or green) and also odor from the navel.

6. Diabetes

Diabetes or high blood pressure has been found to worsen the health of the snin. For instance, it can lead to drainage from the navel, one that resembles rotting cheese or fish. The discharge may look like cottage cheese.

At times, a bad smell is not all that you may be dealing with. In some cases, there is pain that accompanies the odor and some discharge.

7. Navel piercing wound

According to HealCure, one of the signs of an infected belly button piercing is a foul smell or discharge oozing out of the navel, especially when it appears to be a yellowish or greenish drainage. The wounds can turn into abscesses or crusty scabs especially on the part of the ring.

You may also experience bleeding or bumps, pain and an itchy feeling around the piercing hole. Ensure that you clean the area with rubbing alcohol or antiseptic in order to prevent the infection from growing or spreading.

Discharge & bleeding

White discharge from an infected navel.
White discharge from an infected navel.

Is your belly button leaking smelly fluid? A skin infection in the area around the umbilicus can cause drainage and discharge from your navel. If the belly button is itchy and produces a discharge that smells awful, you should see a doctor so that the infection can be treated. A bleeding belly button may be experienced:

  • When pregnant
  • In babies who scratch themselves a lot
  • After laparoscopy and in some cases in males too

After the bleeding, you are likely to have a crusty spot due to the healing in case any part was injured, torn or scratched.

Why does my belly button smell like poop or anus?

A deeply foul smell is commonly described as that of poop or the anus.

In most forums, the smell that emanates from the inside of a navel can have the smell of poop because if there is dead skin cells rotting from the inside and bacterial activity increases, you are likely to end up with a smell like that of the anus or poop odor coming out of your umbilicus.

Why does your belly button smell like cheese or fish?

Another way to describe it is with the smell of cheese or rotting fish. It is the same thing as that of poop above.

The deeply foul smell can arise from the increased bacterial and fungal activity, an infection as described above and probably uncleansed discharge.

If this persists, see a doctor for proper cleaning or treatment to get rid of the bacteria buildup on the umbilical fold.

How to get rid of the bad smell

Treating the underlying cause of the stinky smell will get rid of the odor. You can treat infections naturally or with medical treatments.

Home remedies include aloe vera, rubbing alcohol, warm salt water (saline solution) and tea tree oil.


Your doctor will determine the best treatment depending on the cause of the problem. For example, fungal infections and bacterial infections cannot be treated the same way. Both topical creams and ingestible medications can also be used.

  • Surgery is recommended to correct the problem of patent urachus. The procedure is meant to get rid of infections in the urinary tract, cancer and urinary incontinence that can all cause belly button odor.
  • Antibacterial topical creams may be prescribed by your general practitioner to help solve the problem of a bacterial infected belly button.
  • Antifungal creams and medications are also used to get rid of belly button smell that results from yeast infections.

Home remedies

Since your belly button is one of the favorable places on your body for bacteria to grow, learning how to care for it and also treat some of its problems by yourself can go a long way in improving its health. Here is how to reduce navel odor or foul smell and get rid of it completely with natural treatments.

  • Use salt water or a saline solution to get rid of the infection. It absorbs any moisture around the area and makes it difficult for bacteria to thrive and spread. Clean regularly to prevent growth of bacteria.
  • Use warm compresses if there is pain or the area is sore and red.
  • Tea tree oil is also a good remedy to heal infections on the navel. This one is recommended because it has an anti-fungal and antibacterial property that are good for healing belly button infections.
  • Rubbing alcohol is also good. Just dip a clean cotton ball in rubbing alcohol and then swab it gently on your newborn’s umbilical cord if it stinks. Do this twice a day to minimize the smell.
  • Avoid applying soaps, creams or lotions to the navel. When you fail to cleanse the navel area properly, you are likely to attract bacteria by creating a good medium for them to grow and multiply.

Apart from these natural remedies, keeping the navel clean is highly recommended if you really don’t want to ask why does my belly button smell again. If you see the problem recurring or won’t go away, ensure that you see a dermatologist for proper diagnosis and treatment of any recurring infections or problems.



  1. I have had both gallbladder and tubal surgery but belly has discharge

  2. I’ve had the same problem but it stopped when I started drinking 1/2 squeezed lemon in 8oz water daily it was the first thing I would do Soon as I got up out the bed every morning don’t eat or drink anything else before doing this And wait about 30 mins afterwards

  3. serena vanderwoodson

    ur supposed to wash it?? and also, black juice comes out of my belly button. please help.

  4. Person who doesn't really want their possible peers to know their belly button smells

    umm… when i was born, I had 4 knots in my umbilical cord. I nearly died. But, I think my doctor must’ve tied my belly button a weird way, and now I have like… “sort of” an outie? but also not really? my belly button is weird. and.. I think that’s why it smells. I hate it. it makes me feel like Patrick Star from Spongebob or somethin….

  5. Hi my belly button smells so much and yellow coming out of it. I keep it clean and show 3 times a week i have a shower. and still have the problem

  6. I,m having trouble with my belly button smelling,I always take care of it,but now I,m having pain I feel like I,m in labor,what should I do

  7. Thank You for this article. My belly button stinks like poop so I just get a q tip and clean it out and when I take showers, I turn it inside out to clean it but I never dry it out. I figured that smelled came from my mom not taking care of it when I was a baby so that’s why it stinks now. My belly button has always been stinky but it hasn’t effected my life in any way. I just wanted to know why it stinks and what I could do about it.

    • Angelica Sampson

      All you have to do is have you loved one lick inside everyday.

      • Person who doesn't really want their possible peers to know their belly button smells

        I don’t think that’s really the best idea

    • Hi my belly button as had a bad smell now for years I have tried lots of ways to get rid but it won’t go away.

  8. Just cleaning with soap and water in the shower is adequate for proper hygiene of the belly button?

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