Sweating (perspiration) is a normal physiologic process that helps the body to control its temperature. Without the ability to sweat, the body temperature can rise to dangerously high levels and even lead to death. However, there is a point whereby sweating can sometimes be considered excessive.
Some people may suffer with a condition known as hyperhidrosis, which means excessive sweating and it is often due to overactivity of certain nerves. At other times, excessive sweating can be a sign of some underlying disease. Medical treatment may be necessary in both cases. However, excessive sweating can also occur in some people for no medical reason.
Why and How Does the Body Sweat?
There are tiny sweat glands in the skin throughout the body. The purpose of these sweat glands is to produce sweat in order to cool the body. When the body temperature rises, the small blood vessels in the skin widen. This carries heat from the body’s core via the blood to the surface. Heat is then passed out into the environment but sweating helps speed up the process.
Sweat is a fluid that is composed of water, some skin oils, electrolytes and some wastes. When sweat evaporates from the skin surface then it has a cooling effect. This allows the core body temperature to slowly drop. In this way the body can regulate its temperature when there is a risk of overheating. Therefore sweating or perspiration is necessary component for maintain health and wellbeing.
Read more on excessive sweating.
Reducing Excessive Sweating
It is important not to stop sweating altogether as it is required for temperature regulation. However, if sweating is excessive then intervention may be required. It is important to first determine what excessive sweating is and also where it occurs.
Excessive sweating refers to profuse sweating that does not correlate with the environmenal conditions. For some people it may be localized, particularly in the armpits, whereas at other times it may be generalized, where there is perspiration throughout the body.
If sweating is occurring in hot conditions and after strenuous physical activity, then it is not unexpected and should not be immediately considered as excessive. Some people are less tolerant to heat than others and may therefore sweat more profusely under these conditions.
Sweating will naturally be greater or even excessive in covered parts of the body like the armpits, groin and feet. This is also not considered abnormal unless the perspiration continues when these areas are exposed. However, it is not unsual for excessive sweating to occur on some parts of the body like the hands despite it not being covered.
Read more on how to stop palm perspiration.
Use an Antiperspirant
An antiperspirant can be useful for excessive sweating at a specific part of the body. It contains substances like aluminum which can affect the secretion of sweat from the sweat glands in the skin. This effect is short-lived but nevertheless effective to reduce sweating for a period of time. Antiperspirants do not only have to be applied on the armpits. It can also be applied on any other part of the body, like the feet, where sweating is excessive.
Deodorant helps to mask the odor of sweat but cannot stop it in the same way as an antiperspirant. Contrary to popular belief, antiperspirant should not only be applied in the morning. It is more effective in blocking sweat glands if used in the evening (before bedtime) as well as in the morning. This gives the substances within antiperspirant enough time to act on the sweat glands.
Stimulants can act on the same nerves that control sweating. This means that stimulants can increase sweating and should therefore be avoided when excessive sweating is an issue. Caffeine is a widely used stimulant, particularly in beverages like coffee and tea but it is also present in certain chocolates and sodas.
NIcotine is another stimulant as are various drugs, particularly pills used for weight loss, staying alert and even decongestants. Avoiding stimulants will not stop sweating altogether. Perspiration will still occur when necessary and excessive sweating may still continue in some people.
Reduce Spicy Food
Spicy foods can be a problem for some people and trigger or worsen sweating. Even hot foods and beverages can trigger sweating in some people. While uncommon, there are instances where any food can trigger or exacerbate sweating. It is not only spicy or hot (temperature) foods and beverages that are a problem. This is known as gustatory perspiration where the sweating is triggered by certain foods.
Wear Light Clothing
Light clothing is an important factor in minimizing perspiration. It should not only be light in color but also airy to help with ventilation. Natural textiles are often a better option. Just as important is dressing appropriately for the weather conditions. Light clothing is necessary during the summer or when in a hot environment.
Heavier apparel helps with retaining body heat. Darker colors also play a role in heat absorption and retention. When this type of clothing is used then the body will increase sweating in an attempt to cool down. The feet is also prone as footwear such as socks and shoes increases heat retention around the feet and minimizes cooling.
Lose Weight and Keep It Off
Studies have shown that excessive sweating is more likely to occur in people who are overweight or obese. There are several reasons why this may occur. One of the commonly accepted mechanisms is that the fat under the skin, which is an insulator, can hamper cooling. Therefore more sweat is secreted to achieve the same cooling effect.
However, it is important to note that obesity can also contribute to certain conditions. It is a strong risk factor for conditions like diabetes which in turn can contribute to excessive sweating. Just as important as losing weight is keeping the weight off in the long term in order to keep excessive sweating at bay.
Minimize Activity in Heat
The body’s constantly generating heat as part of its metabolic activity. This activity increases during physical exertion and heat generation also increases. Physical activity should not be avoided altogether. It is obviously necessary in daily life and exercise has a host of health benefits. However, if excessive sweating is a problem then physical activity should be minimized in a hot environment. Rather move into cooler surroundings, be it indoors, within an air conditioned room or simply moving into the shade.
Try to Stay Calm
Perspiration can be triggered even when the body is not hot. This is more likely to occur with certain emotional states like anger or anxiety, as well as with psychological stress. Sweating in these instances is not abnormal. It is not always possible to avoid stressful conditions. However, managing emotions and stress can play a role in minimizing sweating that is associated with these situations.