Sweating more than usual?4 min read . Updated: 25 May 2015, 05:27 PM IST
Too much perspiration is not necessarily linked to hot weather. Sometimes it can be an indicator of an underlying health problem
Sweating is our body’s built-in cooling system —water evaporates from the skin, helping the body to cool down. “Some people sweat much more than others. Medically, this condition is termed as hyperhidrosis. It is characterized by abnormally increased sweating/perspiration, in excess of what is required for the regulation of body temperature. Most people don’t consider it a serious issue," says Deepali Bhardwaj, dermatologist and director of Skin and Hair Clinic, New Delhi.
But it could be something to worry about. D.S. Chadha, associate director, internal medicine, Fortis Flt Lt Rajan Dhall Hospital, Vasant Kunj, New Delhi, says that while in some cases excessive perspiration could be a hereditary condition, in others it could be a sign of an underlying health condition. Don’t just blame heat and humidity if you are soaked always. Here’s a checklist of six possible causes why you could be dripping more than others.
“Cold, clammy, wet skin and excessive sweating, especially on the back of the neck and hairline could be due to hypoglycaemia —a drop in blood sugar levels due to skipping of meals or a medical issue (for example, when a diabetic takes too much insulin)," says Arvind Patil, consultant, internal medicine, Columbia Asia hospital, Pune. “In this case, sweating is usually accompanied with trembling, shakiness, nausea and irritability," he adds. Eat something to help stabilize your sugar levels, ideally complex carbohydrates, like a banana or wholewheat bread.
Overweight people sweat more than others, even when they are not doing any physical activity. “That’s because their body has to do extra work to maintain the body functions that are needed to support the excess weight," explains Dr Chadha. “This is another reason why maintaining a healthy weight is crucial," he adds.
“Hot, spicy food, and excess caffeine can lead to excessive sweating," says Neelanjana Singh, chief clinical nutritionist, PSRI Hospital, New Delhi. “Eating an extra hot curry (spicy food) actually triggers the same receptors in your skin that respond to heat, which is why one sweats a lot after eating them. The same reason occurs after eating capsaicin (found in peppers)," she adds.
Singh says you can neutralize the capsaicin by pairing it with dairy products like yogurt and milk. “Eating fewer chilli seeds helps as seeds are the storehouse of capsaicin. Quickly eating some fats such as butter when you feel the food you are eating is too spicy also helps avoid activating the sweat glands," she says.
Hot coffee, hot tea and soups too can raise your body temperature, enough to set off your body’s cooling mechanism. Too much caffeine is also known to stimulate sweat glands, making them more active. A study of 13 participants by researchers at Soonchunhyang University in South Korea had reported that caffeine increases sweating sensitivity in people. The study was published in 2011 in the Journal Of Medicinal Food.
“When you smoke, the nicotine you inhale causes your body to release a chemical called acetylcholine, which stimulates your sweat glands," explains Dr Patil. “This is another side effect of smoking. It should motivate people to kick the butt," he adds.
Are your palms sticky during a job interview, or during the year-end appraisal? Or during a date with someone you really like? Or at large gatherings, do you sweat more than usual? “This happens because when we are nervous (angry, excited, stressed or attracted to someone), the fight or flight system of the body gets activated, leading to a rush of hormones into the body and triggering an increase in heart rate and blood flow. Alongside, sweating starts to help cool the body down, and the sweat glands in the palms of our hands, underarms and the soles of our feet begin to sweat, making us perspire excessively," says Sameer Malhotra, head, department of mental health and behavioural sciences, Max Healthcare, New Delhi. Find a way to control your heartbeat and calm your nerves, so that your body stops heating up (and sweating). “Deep breathing can come in handy as it calms the body and cools it down," he adds.
Here’s when you should consult a doctor:
® Night sweating: You find your pillowcase and sheets are damp in the morning
® General sweating: If you’re sweating all over your body, not just around your head, face, underarms, groin, hands, or feet.
® Asymmetrical sweating: If you notice that you’re only sweating from one side of your body, like one armpit
® Late onset: If you suddenly start sweating excessively in your middle age. The more common primary focal hyperhidrosis usually starts during teens or young adulthood.
® After medication: An outbreak of excessive sweating after you begin taking a new drug.
Make it a point to mention to your doctor the medicines you are taking, including over-the-counter drugs and supplements, when you seek consultation.
—D.S. Chadha, associate director, internal medicine, Fortis Flt Lt Rajan Dhall Hospital, Vasant Kunj, New Delhi.