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What’s Sweat Telling You?

Not only does a little sweat not hurt you, but it's also a necessary bodily function, and there's a lot more that goes into it than you may realize.

Lindsay Morris
June 28, 2019

Sweat can tell you more about yourself than you might think — everything from how in shape you are to how stressed you are. Like it or not, we can’t live without sweat. Perspiration keeps the body from overheating and short-circuiting.

But why do some people sweat more than others? Why is your husband soaking in sweat after a run and you’re only lightly glistening? What does your sweat say about you? Is there ever a reason to be concerned about your volume of sweat or type of sweat?

And of course, we all want to know if we can do anything to control our sweat, especially in the extreme Oklahoma summer heat. Is antiperspirant better than deodorant? Can anything else be done to tame sweat?

Don’t sweat trying to figure out the answers to all these questions on your own … keep reading.

Sweat is the body’s natural coolant. The body has 2 to 4 million fabulous sweat glands, all designed to maintain your body temperature.

A drop of sweat is 99 percent water, according to Cleveland Clinic. The other 1 percent? Well, that’s a mixture of urea (like urine), uric acid, ammonia, lactic acid, vitamin C and other substances.

Sweat glands cover your entire body. Your body produces two different types of sweat that come out of two different types of glands.

The first type of sweat is common sweat, or eccrine. This is the light, watery sweat that cools as it lifts off your skin. The second type of sweat is stress sweat, or apocrine. This is thick, fat-containing sweat that is found in your armpit, scalp or groin. This type of sweat is produced when you’re stressed and is formed by the glands at the roots of the hair in these areas of your body.

So why do some people smell when they sweat, and others do not? Surprisingly, sweat itself has no odor. However, when it mixes with bacteria on your skin, smells are a given.

Bacteria thrive on the organic particles in sweat and eliminate digestive gas. So what you’re smelling is bacterial flatulence, according to Cleveland Clinic. You can’t make this stuff up.

The thing is, everyone has a body odor — even your dog. Reasonable amounts of bacteria mingling with basic sweat contribute to your scent.

If you have too much bacteria on your skin or clothes, the odor level will increase to socially questionable levels. This is where showers and washing machines come in handy and should be used regularly.

Sweat glands are especially prevalent on your feet. According to Cleveland Clinic, each foot has 250,000 sweaty glands producing a pint of sweat a day. When those sweat glands are stuck in a shoe all day with the foot’s bacteria and fungus, they produce quite a sweaty feat.

Heat can cause our sweat glands to work overboard. Although we can’t control our climate, there are some ways to prepare your body for the heat. You can slowly acclimate yourself to warmer temperatures by inching your thermostat upward one week at a time starting in the spring.

Also, try sipping cold water anytime you’re out on a hot summer day. This will help regulate your internal temperature.

Continual sweating can be a sign of a medical problem. Hyperhidrosis is a condition that causes someone to sweat an abnormal amount all the time.

There is also localized hyperhidrosis, where someone sweats a ton only in one spot like the armpits, palms or feet. The good news is medical and surgical treatments are available.

A sudden outbreak of heavy sweating could be a symptom of a heart attack, according to Cleveland Clinic. It can also be associated with metabolic issues, menopause, cancers, and stress disorders.

Aside from medical conditions, there are a few other reasons why some people sweat more than others. In case you haven’t noticed, typically guys tend to be the sweatier of the genders. Women have just as many sweat glands as men, but their glands do not produce as much sweat.

Additionally, physically fit people tend to perspire sooner in their exercise routine because it’s more efficient to bust a sweat while their body temperature remains low. Someone who doesn’t exercise very often, though, may heat up faster and lose more sweat when he or she exercises, according to MedicalDaily.com. Since fat tends to trap heat and raise the body’s core temperature, overweight people usually sweat more, too.

Cutting back on caffeine, alcohol, and smoking can help reduce perspiration problems since those substances cause the sweat glands to go overboard. You can also avoid wearing synthetic materials that trap heat close to your body.

Antiperspirants and deodorants aim to reduce body odor caused by sweat and bacteria. They work differently, though. Deodorant controls odor; not sweat. Antiperspirant blocks sweat, but it isn’t meant to stop odor. Therefore, using them both together is the best way to beat sweaty armpits and foul body odor.