Whether it smells or not, excessive perspiration is an often-unexplained phenomenon. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t any solutions.
First, let’s define “excessive” perspiration
Perspiration is the body’s way of cooling off naturally. We usually sweat as a result of physical exertion like playing sports, hot weather or environments, or stressful situations.
Hyperhidrosis is when you sweat profusely, so much so that you drench your clothes and water literally drips from your hands, even for no reason. For example, you’re on the couch watching a movie with your family on a cold January night and you’re sweating like a pig. No physical exertion, no stress and a cool environment. Not surprisingly, it can have a devastating effect on your quality of life and personal relationships.
Types of hyperhidrosis
There are two kinds of hyperhidrosis.
- Primary hyperhidrosis, which isn’t caused by an underlying condition, but is at least partly hereditary. This kind of sweating is usually limited to your feet, hands, face and underarms and to this day, we still don’t know what causes it.
- Unlike the first kind, secondary hyperhidrosis is caused by an underlying medical condition and generally affects the entire body. You’ve probably heard about the infamous hot flashes and night sweats that women suffer from during menopause. This type of excessive perspiration is typical of secondary hyperhidrosis. While menopause affects only women, it’s just one among many other conditions that can cause excessive sweating, including:
Sweat typically gives off an unpleasant odour when it mixes with bacteria found naturally on our skin, especially in our less aired-out body parts, like the underarms and feet. If you notice a change in the smell or abundance of your perspiration, consult your doctor to find out what’s causing it.
When you’re soaked from head to toe with sweat, a little deodorant won’t make a difference. Strong antiperspirants, surgery and Botox injections are just a few of the available treatments. The most natural solution, which many menopausal women have found very effective, is sage, which is used to lessen the intensity and frequency of hot flashes. Rather than affecting hormones, the plant works directly on the mechanisms responsible for sweating, so it works just as well for men.
Some foods can make the situation worse; it should come as no surprise that hot soup and spicy foods, for example, are best avoided. Garlic and onion make sweat smell stronger. Coffee and alcohol increase body temperature, so your best bet is to cut down on them. Instead, choose foods that promote digestion in order to minimize the amount of work your body has to do: less work equals less sweat. Try to include the following in your diet:
- Number one: water! Cooling down by drinking water reduces your body’s need to sweat.
- Fruits and vegetables that contain a lot of water and ease digestion, including grapes, watermelon, spinach, bell peppers, cauliflower and eggplant.
- Calcium-rich foods like cheese, sardines, tofu, milk and spinach.
- Olive oil, which boosts metabolism and eases digestion.
- Almonds, for their magnesium (and calcium) content.
- Oats, for their fibre content—a bowl of porridge every morning is a great way to stay regular.
- Bananas, for the potassium they contain, which helps us stay hydrated.
- Green tea (not too hot), for its calming effect.
- Whey, not only for its calming effect, but also its various health benefits.
To keep odours at bay, there are a few simple measures you can adopt. For example:
- Dry yourself off completely after a shower to keep bacteria from proliferating on your hot and moist skin.
- Wear clothing made with natural fibres such as cotton or wool, or those designed for sports.
- If stress or anxiety cause you to sweat profusely, try relaxing with yoga or tai chi.
You can also seek out a dermatologist who specializes in the treatment of excessive perspiration—yes, special “sweat doctors” do exist and they’re well worth consulting!