May 31, 2016

We All Sweat, But What's Normal?

We All Sweat, But What's Normal? - ZALEA Article Banner

As members of the mammalian order, it’s only natural that we sweat. However, not all people sweat in the same degree or even in the same places. If you tend towards the sweatier side of life, read on.
You’ll know you’re a sweater if some of the following scenarios have happened to you:

- All of your white shirts have yellowish stains in the armpits.
- You think twice about shaking hands, high fiving or hugging someone.
- Anything above room temperature sends your sweat glands into action.
- You keep a safe distance from others so as not to reveal your stinky secret.

So you sweat, perhaps a little more than the average. Is this a sign of something else? What makes some people sweatier than others? What situations are more likely trigger sweat? What can be done about this naturally occurring but socially awkward process?

Looking to experts from fields that deal with sweat - neurology, dermatology and surgery – let’s address these questions and consider some possible solutions. 

First off, as any scientist will tell you, everyone sweats. As professor of dermatology Dr. Mark Denis explains, perspiration is "a normal body function involving the release of fluid from the sweat glands of the skin." This fluid release serves a “cooling” function that is the body’s way of maintaining a stable temperature. The body is almost three-quarters water, and so is sweat. As such, sweat is odorless, but when it mixes with the bacteria on your skin, you get the pungent smell.

Basically, there are two types of sweating: thermoregulatory and emotional. According to Dr. Robert Fealey, an assistant professor of neurology at the Mayo Clinic, emotional sweating "can be caused by stress or excitement.” Thermoregulatory sweating, on the other hand, occurs when there's a rise in core or skin temperature, as happens when you go jogging on a hot day.

Some people sweat more than others, though Fealey claims this doesn’t have any bearing on your level of health. Why some people tend to sweat a little more than others not fully understood by science.
What is known, however, is for some people, the sweat glands are overactive to the point where it's an actual medical condition, called hyperhidrosis. For some, this condition manifests in the excessive sweating of the hands, while for others it’s the feet or armpits. What differentiates hyperhidrosis is the excessive sweating happens for no good reason – there hasn’t been a rise in temperature, the person hasn’t engaged in rigorous activity and isn’t under immediate stress. While surgery, which involves a cutting of nerves beneath the sweat glands, is possible for hyperhidrosis, it is only advised if the condition is having a significant negative affect on a person’s daily life.

For the average or perhaps slightly above average sweater, less invasive solutions include using antiperspirant, opting for more breathable natural fabrics, and regular bathing. Destressing techniques such as yoga breathing and meditation can also help with sweating related to anxiety and emotionally intense situations.  

This Zalea Original piece was edited and approved by the Zalea Editorial Team.


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