People sweat differently. Some rarely perspire, while others do so in one area more than others. Some smell perennially fresh even with just five minutes in the shower, while others emit a strong odor regardless of how much they scrub their body. Want to understand how you sweat? Here, we give you the lowdown.
First, you need to know that there are two kinds of sweat. According to Vincent S. Roxas, M.D., "the eccrine sweat gland is found all over the body, producing clear odorless fluid. Apocrine is the usual culprit for smelly sweat. It is a thicker fluid and contains materials that can break down, causing the odor. This becomes active during puberty, concentrated around hair follicles–armpits, pubic area, etc." Asians like Filipinos tend to have more eccrine than apocrine, while Caucasians have a larger concentration of apocrine.
Woman’s Day says that there is a correlation between your fitness level and how much you sweat. When you work out, your body warms up and produces more sweat, so that it can cool down. The cooling process happens when the sweat evaporates on your skin. People who work out regularly, especially athletes, have grown so accustomed to producing increased sweat that they usually perspire more than non-active people on a normal basis.
Ever felt yourself perspire more than usual when under duress? Stress sweat is a combination of the eccrine and apocrine glands, but the latter, those that emit an odor, usually come first. Apocrine glands contain materials such as fat and protein, which, according to Prevention.com, produce an odor when mixed with bacteria on the skin. An interesting trivia: Did you know that people near you can also get stressed when they smell sweat brought upon by stress?
Ever heard of the phrase, "the smell of fear?" There’s a scientific explanation for that! Discover Magazine cites a study where psychologist Bettina Pause of the University of Düsseldorf in Germany and her colleagues studied how people reacted to sweat gathered from students before an exam and during exercise. The reactions to the sweat from the two activities were different and Pause concluded "that anxiety—and maybe also other emotions—can be chemically transferred between people."
Dr. Roxas explains that when someone has poor hygiene, bacteria in the apocrine sweat (which is thicker because it contains proteins and other material) will start to feed and multiply. As they break down, bad odor is produced. "The longer you don’t bathe, the more sweat you produce and the more bacteria grow. So more bad odor."
The kind of food you eat can affect your sweat. Spicy foods tend to make people sweat, and bacteria can build up and feed on that. Dr. Roxas cites that scientists suspect that garlic, onions, and certain spices all get broken down and released in the sweat, resulting in malodor. There is no actual scientific study that says there are chemical components released, but it’s a widely reported phenomena. If you’re B.O. is particularly fishy, then it may be due to trimethylaminuria, a rare genetic disorder, says Prevention, "where your body can’t break down the chemical compound trimethylamine, produced during digestion of foods like eggs, legumes, and fish."
Underlying Medical Condition
Dr. Roxas shares that some diseases can sometimes exacerbate body odor. Metabolic diseases can cause a buildup of chemicals that get released in the sweat. A good example of that is diabetes. Infections and thyroid problems can also cause that. "The list is long. However, it’s important to remember that body odor in itself isn’t a definitive symptom of a disease. It can be a helpful clue though. You can have one of the three causes or a combination of hygiene, food, and an underlying medical condition." Prevention cites that pregnancy and menopause can also trigger more sweat than usual.
If you’re sweating excessively even as you sit in an air-conditioned room, where everyone around you is wrapped in sweaters, and you know that you’re not under any kind of stress at the moment, then you might have something called hyperhidrosis. Hyperhidrosis or excessive sweating is a condition that only three percent of the population has. The body parts that get the most sweat action are usually the face, feet, hands, and armpits. Check in with your physician as it can be a side effect of a few health conditions, including Parkinson’s disease, gout, and hyperthyroidism.
Cold and Clammy
Many people have clammy hands and feet, but if they turn blue, you can rule out heart and circulation issues. Make sure enough oxygenated blood is pumping into the body. It can also be a genetic condition, where the hands turn blue after exposure to cold or stress. But typically, people get clammy hands when they’re excited or stressed.
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