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The belly button, also known as the navel or umbilicus, can sometimes produce a bad odor and in some cases, is accompanied by discharge. There are a number of causes for this, ranging from common to rare. Most cases of belly button odor and discharge are not life-threatening and can be remedied with proper hygiene and antibiotics. In some cases, individuals struggle to get answers from their doctors or are simply told it’s nothing and are sent home. In order to find the right remedy for this issue it’s important to first understand what the umbilicus (belly button) is, what its connected to, and what its purpose is. Many medical doctors state the umbilicus is not connected to anything, but that is incorrect. This statement may be believed, in part, because the umbilicus has not been researched enough. The terms: umbilicus, navel, and belly button, will be used interchangeably in this article.

What is the umbilicus?

The umbilicus is the remnant of the umbilical cord. During pregnancy, the baby is connected to the mother by the umbilical cord. Nutrients and oxygen flow through the umbilical cord to nurture the baby. When the baby is born, the umbilical cord is clamped and cut to separate the baby from the placenta (which connects baby and mother). At this point the umbilical cord is no longer useful. The small remnant of umbilical cord left on the baby dries out and falls off within a month of the baby’s birth. What remains on the surface is the belly button, also known as the navel or by it’s medical term—umbilicus.

umbilicus baby

What is the umbilicus connected to?

Have you ever wondered what’s behind your belly button? We know that the belly button is where the umbilical cord once tethered us to our mothers, but what’s behind it? The answer is: the belly button is connected to the liver and the bladder via ligaments and veins. Paraumbilical veins run backwards from the umbilicus to the round ligament and end in the left portal vein— one side of the hepatic portal vein. Paraumbilical veins close within one week after birth. However, portal hypertension (high blood pressure of the hepatic portal vein) can cause the paraumbilical veins to reopen. The hepatic portal vein (a blood vessel) carries blood from the gastrointestinal tract and the spleen to the liver. When blood pressure in the portal vein is high, the paraumbilical veins reopen to help draw some blood away from the area, therefore relieving some of the pressure.


The belly button is also connected to the bladder via the urachus. The urachus is a remnant of the allantois- a canal that drains the urinary waste of the fetus. It is believed that the urachus is sealed off and obliterated in most fetuses, the only thing remaining being a cord connecting the bladder to the umbilicus, known as the median umbilical ligament. However, there is some evidence that in up to one third of adults, the urachus does not completely seal off and is microscopically still open (patent). We believe this is one of the channels the body uses to eliminate bacteria and lymphatic drainage in times of heightened toxicity.

What is the purpose of the umbilicus?

Most individuals believe the umbilicus does not serve a purpose after birth. However, being practitioners of alternative medicine for over two decades has taught us that the umbilicus may have a a useful purpose. Over the years, we’ve seen various people with belly button odor and/or discharge. A common factor they all shared was lymphatic congestion. When addressing the issue as lymphatic congestion, the navel odor and discharge quickly dissipated, typically within 2-3 days. It seems the umbilicus may sometimes function as an exit for excess lymph. Belly button discharge that is either off-white or yellow fluid, or solid off white pieces that resemble a grain of rice, may stem from lymphatic congestion.

Disclaimer: Our services and information do not diagnose or prescribe for disease conditions. Individuals are encouraged to seek competent medical help when those services may be indicated. Individuals accept total responsibility for their own health care and maintenance.

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