What Your Sweat Can Tell You About Your Health

Shopify API August 03, 2022 No Comments
Discover what different sweat smells mean for your health and what's happening when you sweat too much or don't at all.
Learn about your health: man sweating while exercising
August 2022. This article is independently written by Shelby Golding. All opinions given are hers. Shelby has been certified as a personal trainer and nutritional specialist since 2007. In 2008, she found her passion for writing about these topics and hasn't looked back.
Learn about your health: man sweating while exercising

Sweating is a normal bodily function, indicating that your organs and nervous systems are working smoothly. Sweat cools you down on a hot day, evaporating off the skin's surface and dropping your body temperature.

Sweat comes from two main glands: eccrine and apocrine. Eccrine glands are responsible for most of your perspiration and usually contain a little salt, protein, urea, and ammonia. These glands are primarily found in the forehead, armpits, soles of the feet, and palms. However, they span the whole body. Apocrine glands are larger than eccrine glands and are associated with foul-smelling BO. These glands are located in the armpits, groin, and breast area.

Every once in a while, the way you sweat may change. For example, you may stop sweating on a hot day or suddenly start soaking the armpits of your t-shirt. Maybe you notice a change in the smell of your sweat, making you self-conscious of your odor and sending you scrambling for a new deodorant to mask it. Keep reading to learn about your health and what your sweat can reveal.

What Your Sweat Can Tell You About Your Health

Body awareness is one crucial way to learn about your health. Your body usually gives indications of an imbalance before it becomes life-threatening, but you must be aware of the changes to catch them. Paying attention to your sweat is one way to read the body's signals.

Not Sweating at All

If you ever stop sweating, especially on a hot summer's day, you need to do something about it. Something may be jeopardizing your body's ability to cool down, which could have dramatic repercussions, including heat exhaustion and heatstroke.
An inability to sweat is a condition called anhidrosis. It can be caused by pore-clogging diseases, trauma to the sweat glands, nerve damage, autonomic nervous system disorders, central nervous system diseases, and extreme dehydration. Certain drugs and medications also interfere with the body’s ability to sweat.
Symptoms might include dizziness, feeling flushed, lack of sweat, muscle cramps, and weakness. You may also notice that your body sweats a lot in one location but not another. This may indicate an imbalance but is less dangerous since your body can still cool off.

Excessive Sweating

Excessive Sweating

Excessive amounts of sweat are not quite as dangerous as not sweating at all, but they can be uncomfortable and embarrassing. Excessive sweating is expected on a hot summer's day or while exercising.
Sometimes excessive sweat appears to have no cause, which is called hyperhidrosis. In people with hyperhidrosis, the nervous system triggering the sweat glands becomes overactive. As a result, you sweat even without exercise or a temperature rise.
Primary focal (essential) hyperhidrosis, one type of hyperhidrosis, is hereditary and not caused by a medical problem. It affects the palms, soles, and face. The other common type is secondary hyperhidrosis, usually caused by a medical condition. In the case of secondary hyperhidrosis, sweating occurs all over the body and may be triggered by conditions such as diabetes, menopause, thyroid imbalances, heart attack, or infections.

Certain medications can cause hyperhidrosis, including antidepressants, NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), and pain-relievers.

Excessive sweating is also common in people who are overweight. More body mass means more energy is needed to move around, which also means more heat. A larger body also requires more sweat to cool off.
The sweat glands are affected by emotion, particularly stress. Your body temperature rises when you're stressed, resulting in more sweat. Perspiration from stress also has a distinct smell, slightly sulfurous from sweat mixing with bacteria.

 Bad Smelling Sweat

Sweat does not smell on its own. Smelly BO happens when it comes into contact with bacteria on the skin's surface and the two cause strong odors. Bad-smelling sweat is caused by hormones, diet, infection, medications, or underlying conditions.
The hormones that regulate a woman's cycle cause changes in how their sweat smells, so women may notice differences in sweat patterns and smell during ovulation, menstruation, menopause, and pregnancy.
Diet also plays a crucial role in the way sweat smells. An excess of MSG (monosodium glutamate), caffeine, spices like curry, hot sauce, spicy food, and alcohol also change the smell and quantity of sweat.
Foods like onions, garlic, cabbage, and red meat contain high levels of sulfur which create bacteria on the surface of the skin and cause stinky sweat. In addition, protein is difficult for your body to break down, so you may notice an excess of sweat while your body digests, especially red meat. This is why people usually complain about "the meat sweats" after a barbecue.

The change in the smell of your sweat may have been preceded by adding a new medication, such as an antidepressant. Consult with your doctor to see if a different brand may provide some relief from the excessive sweating that causes smelly sweat.

Bad-smelling sweat also might indicate underlying conditions such as diabetes, gout, menopause, thyroid imbalances, liver disease, cancer, kidney disease, and infections.
High levels of ketones in the blood in people with diabetes cause fruity-smelling sweat, while liver and kidney diseases result in a bleach-like smell. Metabolic disorders affect the body’s ability to break down the trimethylamine found in eggs, fish, and legumes. A build-up of trimethylamine causes fishy-smelling sweat, breath, and urine.
Whatever the odor, bad-smelling sweat can make you self-conscious and uncomfortable. Take note of any changes and talk to your doctor to see what you can do to help regulate body sweat.

Is It Time to See Your Doctor?

Changes in the amount or smell of your sweat could indicate a more significant, life-threatening condition or a disease. If you notice excessive sweat, no sweat, or a lasting odor, you should talk to your doctor to investigate what your body is trying to tell you. As you continue your journey to learn about your health, know that even the most minor and seemingly inconsequential bodily functions, like sweat, are signs pointing you toward overall wellness. Other seemingly-minor issues, like aches and pains, are also worth bringing up at your next visit to the doctor.
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