We’ve all been there. You’re only halfway through your run but look like you just went for a dip in the pool. Meanwhile your neighbor runs past, barely glistening. Or you’re about to present your proposal to your biggest client. You feel the sweat dripping through your clothes while the rest of the team sits there, cool as cucumbers. It’s frustrating, uncomfortable and embarrassing. Why do I sweat so much, you ask?!
There are 2-4 million sweat glands all over your body. Most of the sweat glands (as you've probably noticed) are concentrated on your feet, palms, forehead, cheeks and armpits. Nerves activate your sweat glandsIn response to stimuli like hormones, emotions, exercise and body temperature.
Why Do I Sweat So Much?
When it comes to sweating, everyone is different. There are several factors that influence when and how much you sweat. Here are a few causes:
- Physical fitness. The more fit you are, the more you sweat. Top athletes sweat much sooner into a workout than a sedentary person — it cools off the body and allows them to continue training for longer periods of time.
- Gender. Even though women have more sweat glands than men, men produce much more sweat.
- Body mass. Individuals with higher body mass sweat more profusely than normal-weight individuals. Fat insulates the body, raising its core temperature. And higher body temperatures means your body needs to sweat more to cool down.
- Feeling hot after a cocktail or two? Drinking alcohol dilates your blood vessels, which can trigger sweating.
- Hot weather. While this is an obvious one, hot, humid environments raise your body temperature, activating your glands to sweat more.
How Much Sweat Is Too Much?
Let’s get one thing out of the way. Sweating is normal. Everyone sweats a certain baseline amount most of the time. When you overheat, your body needs a way to cool itself down. How much you sweat is a combination of genetics, your environment, medications, emotions and activity. There is no “right amount” of sweat — everyone is different, and every body varies in how much sweat it produces.
If you sweat chronically, you may have the medical condition hyperhidrosis, which affects 2 percent of the U.S. population.
Hyperhidrosis is divided into two categories — primary focal and secondary generalized. Primary focal hyperhidrosis is excessive sweating in specific areas of the body, usually in your hands, feet, underarms, face or head. Secondary generalized hyperhidrosis is excessive sweating caused by a medical condition or side effect of a medication.
With hyperhidrosis, sweat interferes with your daily activities. You visibly sweat even when not exerting yourself. You may struggle to turn the doorknob or hold a pen because your hands are so sweaty. Skin infections are also common.
What to Do About Excessive Sweat
While sweating is a natural phenomenon (and essential!), it can also be uncomfortable and embarrassing. Here’s what you can do to help ease your discomfort.
Watch your diet. Avoid spicy foods and caffeine, and opt for foods that reduce sweat. Certain foods, hot beverages and caffeine activate neurotransmitters in your brain, which stimulate your sweat glands. It’s why you immediately feel flushed when you take a huge bite of chicken curry. If you do have spicy food or coffee, eat slowly, and always have water and other dry foods such as chips or rice on hand.
Find ways to de-stress. Anxiety and stress can cause sweating. Be aware of how your body responds, and find ways to decrease your anxiety, such as deep breathing, taking a walk or other relaxation techniques.
Choose the right clothing. There’s nothing more uncomfortable than visible pit stains on your shirt. Choosing the right clothing can help alleviate any embarrassment and keep you comfortable all day long.
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