Sweating is a natural process of the body. Sweating helps regulate your body's temperature. Sweating is also known as perspiration. The process of sweating releases salt-based fluids from your sweat glands and everyone sweats when it is hot outside, though there are people who experience severe or excessive sweating, a condition known as hyperhidrosis. Changes in the temperature of your body, changes in the outside temperature or even your emotional state can cause you to sweat. We take an in-depth look today at what exactly is sweating, what causes sweating, and what does sweating do to your body.

What is Sweating?

Sweating is an essential bodily process that has been designed to help keep your body's temperature under control. Sweating help regulate your body's temperature by releasing a salt-based fluid from your sweat glands. It is also known as perspiration.

The most common areas of the body from where you sweat the most from include.

  • Face
  • Armpits
  • Palms of the hands
  • Soles of the feet

A normal amount of sweating is considered to be absolutely essential for the body. However, sweating too much or not sweating enough can both lead to problems with your bodily functions. It can be dangerous if you do not sweat sufficiently as the absence of sweat will increase the risk of overheating. On the other hand, excessive sweating is known to be more psychologically damaging rather than having any physical effect on your body.

There are approximately three million sweat glands present all over your body. These sweat glands are of two types - apocrine and eccrine. It is important to understand the functioning of your sweat glands in order to understand the causes of sweating.

Apocrine Sweat Glands

This type of sweat glands are typically concentrated only in the hair follicles of these parts of your body.

  • Groin
  • Armpits
  • Scalp

Apocrine sweat glands are known to release a fat-laden and heavier type of sweat that has a distinct odor as well. The odor, often what we refer to as body odor. This smell occurs when the sweat from the apocrine glands break down and begin mixing with the bacteria present on the skin.

Eccrine Sweat Glands

These are the sweat glands that are abundantly located all over the body. Eccrine sweat glands produce an odorless and lightweight sweat.

  • The sweating function of the body is controlled by your autonomic nervous system. The autonomic nervous system is a part of the nervous system, but it functions by itself and without any conscious control on your part.
  • When your body temperature rises due to a fever or exercising or any physical exertion, or when the outside weather is hot, the body starts producing sweat. This sweat is released through the sweat ducts present on your skin. Sweat moistens the surface of the body and helps you cool down as it starts to evaporate.
  • Sweat is composed primarily of water, though just one percent of sweat is made up of salt and fat.

What Causes Sweating?

What Causes Sweating?

Sweating is a natural process and it takes place regularly in your day-to-day life. However, there are certain causes that can lead to increased sweating. Some of the causes of sweating include.

High Temperature. High body temperature or outside temperatures are the most common cause of sweating.

Foods. Sweating can also be a response to certain types of foods that you consume. Sweating caused by food is known as gustatory sweating and it is usually caused by consuming spicy foods, caffeinated drinks such as tea, coffee, and sodas, and alcoholic beverages.

Stress and Emotions. There are certain emotions and emotional conditions that cause you to break out in a heavy sweat. These include anxiety, anger, embarrassment, emotional stress, and fear.

Certain Illnesses and Medications. There are certain medications that also induce sweating. Certain illnesses also cause an increase in sweating. These include.

  • Cancer
  • Infection
  • Hypoglycemia or low blood sugar levels
  • Painkillers such as morphine
  • Fever and fever-reducing medications
  • Synthetic thyroid hormones
  • CRPS (Complex Regional Pain Syndrome) which is a rare type of chronic pain syndrome that affects just one leg or an arm

Menopause. Hormonal fluctuations that are generally associated with menopause are known to cause sweating. Menopausal women are known to often experience sweating during the hot flashes as well as experience night sweats.

Why is Sweating Important For Your Body?

While sweating is a natural bodily process, what does it actually do for the body? Let's take a look. Many people are wary of excessive sweating and take all possible measures to make sure that their sweat does not stink. However, the fact is that sweating has many health as well as beauty-related benefits for your body.

  • Keep in mind that the skin is the largest organ in your body and it serves a critical role in ensuring the smooth functioning of your body, just like your other organs do.
  • Sweating helps your body in the following ways.
  • Regulate and maintain a proper temperature so that you do not overheat
  • Sweating helps get rid of toxins, supporting proper immune function and also preventing diseases that are a result of toxic overload
  • Sweating cleans your pores, helping to eliminate acne and blackheads
  • Sweating also kills many viruses and bacteria that are unable to survive in temperatures that are above 98.6oF
  • Sweating is known to reduce kidney stones

As the temperature of your body rises, the body starts to automatically perspire in order to release salty liquid from your sweat glands for cooling you down. Sweating has been proven to fight off many types of skin infections as it has antimicrobial properties.

Dermcidin is the antimicrobial peptide that is released from the eccrine sweat glands and it gets secreted into your sweat. Dermcidin has a broad spectrum antimicrobial activity and research has shown that sweating causes a decrease in the number of viable bacteria present on the surface of your skin, thus lowering the risk of many types of skin infections.

A research study showed that people who have atopic dermatitis and also have recurrent viral or bacterial skin infections could be lacking the antimicrobial peptide dermcidin in their sweat, thus impairing the in-built defense system of the human skin.

What To Do To Minimize Sweating?

While a normal amount of sweating is not a cause of concern and definitely does not require any kind of medical treatment, you can nevertheless make yourself feel more comfortable and minimize your sweating if you experience excessive sweating. Some steps you can take include.

  • Remove layers of clothing as you start to feel hot.
  • Wear two to three light layers of clothing that will allow your skin to breathe and you will also be protected from UV rays.
  • For optimum comfort, wash off dried sweat from your face and body. This will also prevent body odor.
  • Drink plenty of water or sports drinks while exercising so that you can replace the electrolytes and fluids that are lost through sweating.
  • Change out of your sweaty clothes to minimize the risk of yeast or bacterial infections.
  • Restrict the consumption of foods that you know will increase your sweating.
  • Apply an underarm deodorant or antiperspirant to control sweating and reduce odor.
  • If you are still having an uncomfortable amount of sweating, then you can always discuss alternative treatments with your doctor.

Conclusion

Sweating if the body's natural way of regulating temperature. Starting from puberty, most people will start to use antiperspirants for minimizing sweating and body odor.

Sweating too little or too much can sometimes be an indication of an underlying medical problem. At the same time, sweating in combination with other symptoms could also indicate that you have an underlying medical condition. In such scenarios, you should consult your doctor who will help you manage your sweating and also diagnose any health problem if any.

If you are uncomfortable with your sweating, then you can always make certain lifestyle adjustments to minimize sweating and body odor.

Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

, MD,FFARCSI

Pain Assist Inc.

Last Modified On: April 19, 2019

This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer

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