Ten things sweat says about your health
Thursday, May 27th, 2021 00:00 | 3 mins read
Sweating is one of your body’s natural ways to not only cool itself, but also to rid itself of toxins. However, as Ann Wairimu explores, everything from how and what we perspire can give us indications about our overall well being.
1. You are stressed
The sweat we produce when it is hot is made by eccrine glands all over the body and contains mostly water and salt.
But when we are stressed, sweat is produced by apocrine glands, which are found only in certain areas such as the armpits, scalp and groin area.
That type of sweat contains fat and protein that mix with the bacteria on our skin, producing a stench in the process. Same deal if you are anxious or scared.
2. You have diabetes
People with diabetes can often experience sweating, particularly in response to low glucose (blood sugar) levels.
Because glucose drops at night, diabetics may also have night sweats during their sleep.
It’s important to remember, though, that sweating at night doesn’t necessarily indicate diabetes, or even dropping blood sugar levels, as everybody is different. So check with your doctor first.
3. You are taking the wrong foods
If you have a fishy smelling body odour, you may have a rare genetic disorder called trimethylaminuria, which means your body can’t break down the chemical compound trimethylamine, produced during digestion of foods such as eggs, legumes, and fish.
Instead, your body sheds excess trimethylamine via sweat, urine, and breath—often producing a smell not unlike rotting fish, rotting eggs, or garbage.
If you think you may have trimethylanminuria, work with your doctor to come up with the best treatment plan, which will likely involve avoiding those foods and possibly popping certain supplements.
4. You are pregnant or hitting menopause
Unusually intense sweating during pregnancy is a common complaint from expectant mothers. It’s a result of an increase in hormones, blood flow, and metabolism.
Night sweats tend to occur in the first trimester of pregnancy. Hot flashes (a sudden feeling of warmth in the upper body, which is usually most intense over the face, neck and chest) also occur during menopause as a result of similar hormonal imbalances.
5. You are overcoming an illness
Think your colleague smells a bit off this week? They might just be sick. One psychological science study found that healthy people are able to detect the amped-up immune system of someone fighting an infection.
The results suggest that smell is an important warning signal against contagious illnesses.
6. You need more sodium
Salty sweat is your body’s request for more sodium. If your sweat stings your eyes, burns in an open cut, leaves a gritty feeling on your skin, or produces white streaks on your face or clothes, it could be your cue to amp up your sodium intake.
7. You have hyperhidrosis
If you sweat a lot, it’s technically a condition called hyperhidrosis. Primary hyperhidrosis has no underlying cause, but secondary hyperhidrosis occurs because your body is reacting to medications, illnesses or disorders through sweat.
Hyperhidrosis can be caused by over-active thyroids, anxiety, certain drugs, and your body’s immune system; as you react to fevers or infections, you can sweat excessively to attempt to moderate your body temperature.
If you notice excessive sweating, especially all of a sudden, don’t assume it’s just a quirk of your body; it could be crucial info to take to your doctor.
8. Your body can’t cool itself
On the opposite spectrum, you may not sweat, even after vigorous exercise. Anhidrosis is a medical condition where you are unable to sweat normally.
It can be genetic or it can be caused by certain medical conditions such as diabetes, radiation therapy, heatstroke, certain skin conditions or even alcoholism.
Not sweating may sound awesome, but it can be serious and sometimes fatal. If you are unable to sweat, your body can’t cool itself, which can become quite serious.
9. You may have cancer of the lymph cells
Particularly troubling is that hyperhidrosis can be a symptom of lymphoma, or cancer of the lymph cells, which play a role in the immune system.
It’s not completely understood yet why lymphoma can cause drenching sweat; it could be something about lymphoma itself or how the body responds to it.
Perhaps it’s a reaction to another symptom—fever—as the body tries to cool itself down.
(Both fever and sweating are known as “B” symptoms and linked with more aggressive lymphoma.) Or, it could be caused by hormones and proteins produced by cancer cells themselves.
10. Your fitness goals are on track
If you break a sweat earlier in a workout than usual, it doesn’t indicate that your endurance has fallen behind.
In fact, it should signal the exact opposite. In one 2010 study, researchers found that fit people not only tend to sweat at a greater volume, but they also start sweating sooner.
A high fitness level allows you to exercise at a higher workload, which generates more heat, which in turn leads to more sweat.