GLOWING with vitality
WITH SUMMER COMING, DON’T SWEAT THE SWEATY STUFF
Sweating is a necessary bodily function – we’d be in trouble without it. But is your sweating normal? THE TRUTH ABOUT SWEAT
• There’s one very good reason you sweat – to cool your body. Sweating is regulated by the body’s nervous system. When you get hot or stressed, your nervous system sends signals to your sweat glands, instructing them to release a salty liquid onto the skin. As this liquid evaporates on your skin, it cools the body.
• We each have between two and four million sweat glands. The highest concentration of these glands is on the palms and the soles of the feet. Not surprisingly, we also have a lot of glands in our armpits.
• Sweat is odourless. But when it mixes with bacteria on the skin, the proteins it contains are broken down, emitting that pungent smell.
• How much you sweat is a very individual thing. Some people might sweat only half a litre of fluid during an hour of intense activity, while others could lose between three and four litres. Both are in the normal range.
• How fit you are can determine how and where you sweat. People who are out of shape tend to sweat in the centre of their body, such as the middle of their chest or back. Those who sweat evenly across their body are more likely to be quite fit.
• Women sweat less than men. This is because they not only have fewer sweat glands, but also because they tend to have less muscle mass, so they produce less heat and therefore need to sweat less.
• However, during menopause, women may sweat more than normal. This is due to changing levels of hormones. You may also feel very hot but not actually sweat.
• Skin diseases such as psoriasis or heat rash can also interfere with the ability of sweat glands to function properly.
• Some people sweat excessively. This condition is known is hyperhidrosis and it causes the body to sweat more than is needed, thanks to overactive sweat glands. It can lead to excessive sweating from the palms, soles, face and underarms.
• Some people sweat excessively for no obvious reason. This is known as primary hyperhidrosis.
• Excessive sweating that can be attributed to an underlying medical condition is known as secondary hyperhidrosis. This can be caused by diabetic hypoglycaemia, heart attack, leukaemia, endocarditis (an infection of the lining of the heart), HIV/Aids, anxiety disorder, non- Hodgkin lymphoma and
hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid).
• If someone starts sweating profusely for no obvious reason and also has chest pain, chills, light-headedness, nausea or a high temperature, get medical help immediately.
• If you don’t sweat when you are hot, it could be a sign of a medical disorder such as heat stroke, which occurs after prolonged exposure to high temperatures and a lack of hydration. It can be very serious if you don’t get treatment.
• Sweating too little is called anhidrosis. It can lead to your body overheating and being unable to cool down, which can be life-threatening.
• You may not sweat very much or even at all if you have nerve damage caused by diabetes, alcoholism, Parkinson’s disease or trauma to the body.
• There’s a lot of debate over whether you can sweat toxins out of your body. Because tests on sweat have shown tiny amounts of toxins such as heavy metals and BPA (found in plastics), there’s been a theory that sweating is an effective way of removing these substances from your body. In fact, toxins are removed via urine after being processed by the kidneys and liver, and the amount that exits through sweat is minuscule.
• Some people think that sweating will help them lose weight. While it’s true that you shed a little weight when you sweat, you are in fact losing water and you’ll regain that weight as soon as you rehydrate. Any real weight loss that occurs when you sweat happens because of what you are doing that makes you sweat – such as intense exercise that burns calories.