Nine things you didn’t know about sweat

Differences between men and women, medical concerns and foods that make us sweat excessively: Everything you didn’t know but wanted to know about sweat is explained here.

Man with Hyperhidrosis sweating very badly under armpit (photo credit: INGIMAGE)
Man with Hyperhidrosis sweating very badly under armpit
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)

Why does sweat smell, or why doesn’t it? The distinct odor is definitely the biggest problem with sweat. Besides seeing moisture stains spreading on shirts in the armpit area, we cringe when we imagine the unpleasant odor that will be noticeable to anyone unlucky enough to be close to us. So why does sweat smell?

The strange truth is that sweat itself has no smell at all! The problem is in the sweat glands. In our body there are two types - apocrine glands, which are found mainly in the armpits, chest and groin, and eccrine glands, which are in the armpits and also in other locations, such as the forehead and palms. After the apocrine glands secrete sweat, bacteria on the skin mix with it, creating the characteristic odor we all hate.

Who sweats more - men or women?

The average person will guess that those who sweat the most are men, while women remain graceful and resistant to weather damage, as always. But the truth is that both sexes sweat, and what affects the amount of sweat more is our size, not gender. Men tend to sweat more because they’re usually bigger but in menopause it’s reversed, and women will suffer more from sweating and often will wake up with their sheets soaked.

What is hyperhidrosis?

In July-August, we all feel like we sweat too much. But some people suffer year-round from excessive sweating throughout the body, particularly in the armpits and/or hands which are always soaking wet. It’s also the secretion of sweat regardless of the weather or exercise, in larger than average amounts. Those who suffer from this condition, leave home with an extra shirt and shower five times a day even in winter, should know that there are non-surgical treatments for hyperhidrosis without compensatory sweating from other areas and with long-lasting results.

The VIV Medical Center for Hyperhidrosis, headed by Dr. Tzachi Wieder, a surgeon, one of the world's top doctors in the field of hyperhidrosis, offers a variety of solutions to the problem of hyperhidrosis through technological and non-surgical treatments.

Which foods cause sweating?

Those who live in the West may make efforts to avoid sweating, but in hot countries in Asia and Africa people prefer meals with spices which lead to excessive sweating, thus helping the body to cool down. These are, for example, curry, chili peppers, etc. It’s worth knowing that the type of food we eat also affects the smell of sweat. According to studies, meat-eaters have a less pleasant sweat odor than vegetarians.

At what age does it get worse?

Parents of kids already know that by the time they reach adolescence, what until now was odorless or had a warm baby scent has turned into a heavy cloud that bothers everyone nearby. But this is only the first stage in the deterioration, as it turns out that from the age of 40 onwards, the smell of our sweat changes again, and this time, too, it's bad. But there is a bonus. As we age, the amount of sweat decreases, due to changes that occur in our skin.

Do all human beings sweat?

Almost all human beings share this basic human trait but there are those whose sweat doesn’t stink at all. Not because they make sure to eat non-spicy food and avoid exercise, but simply because they are blessed with rather rare genes.

Which countries sweat more?

As mentioned, in Asian and African countries people eat hot and spicy food in order to get rid of excess body heat. In general, and not surprisingly, in warmer and wetter countries people sweat more. We would say that this is a great reason to move to Alaska, but even there the temperatures have been rising recently.

Connection between sweat and tattoos

Everything that happens inside our body can affect sweating and so does what happens on our skin, the largest organ in the body. It turns out that the needles used to insert ink into the top layer of the skin during a tattoo can also reach the sweat glands and affect them. According to an interesting study, tattooed skin not only sweats less but also contains higher levels of sodium.

Can sweat imply disease?

In Israel, sweat is an integral part of life, but it turns out that sometimes it’s also a warning light. Excessive sweating can indicate various diseases and medical conditions from overweight and overactive thyroid gland, to tuberculosis and cancer, as well as stress and anxiety. The phenomenon of "cold sweats" is also known, which can indicate hypoglycemia i.e. low blood sugar.

The bottom line: Sweat is a common denominator for almost all human beings, but for those who feel they are sweating too much, for no good reason, there are effective solutions.

This article was written in collaboration with VIV Medical Center, owned by Dr. Tzachi Wieder.