How much sweat is too much sweat? There you are, minding your business, limbering up on your mat in a late evening yoga class when you notice another wannabe yogi completely drenched in sweat. You wonder, am I sweating too little? Or does she have a problem?
Although it’s one of the things your body does to help you, most of us would rather leave the sweating to the poolside glass of iced tea. That’s because excessive sweating is a lot like watching the Kardashians — tolerable in small doses, unbearable when you’re exposed to too much of it.
We speak to private fitness instructor Steven Jim and Dr Chua Han Boon from The SW1 Clinic to give us some insight on this ‘sweaty’ issue.
Why Do I Sweat?
Sweat helps maintain a normal body temperature. “Sweating is your body’s way of reducing your internal body temperature,” says Dr Chua Han Boon from The SW1 Clinic.
When temperatures rise — for any reason — the sweat glands kick in to produce more sweat, Farris says. You might have a fever. You might be nervous. It may be hot outside. Or you may be exercising. Even your diet can play a role in your sweat output. “Some people have a sweating response to spicy foods,” he says.
Sweating: What’s Normal, What’s Not?
“The amount of sweat considered normal is quite variable and depends on the demands of the body,” says Steven Jim, a personal fitness coach. People may sweat less than a liter, or up to several liters a day, based on what they’re doing. “When I am doing a crossfit session, almost all my participants are drenched in sweat. If they are not, then they are not trying hard enough” elaborates Steven. If you’re exercising or doing manual labor in a hot climate, expect to sweat a lot. It’s normal.
What Is Excessive Sweating?
Excessive sweating, also called hyperhidrosis, means that you sweat far more than your body needs you to sweat. For example, if you sweat while sitting calmly at your desk, that is excessive sweating.
In hyperhidrosis, the body’s cooling mechanism is so overactive that it produces four or five times the amount of sweat that you need. About 3% of the population has excessive sweating.Because people have different “sweat needs,” doctors say they can’t put a solid number on the question: how much sweat does it take to be diagnosed with excessive sweating?
”If you think you are sweating more than everyone else, or more than you used to, there is probably an issue going on,” says Dr Chua. “In fact, I would classify hyperhidrosis as excessive sweating such that it interferes with your normal daily functioning”. So if you feel that your sweating cannot be satisfactorily controlled by simple means of taking a regular cold shower or even anti-perspirants such that it is causing you distress or embarrassment at work or in social situations, then you may very well be suffering from hyperhidrosis.
Sweating without a need for it is another sign of abnormal sweating. “If you’re sweating constantly in winter, that’s probably excessive,” he says.
What can I do to stop excessive sweating?
Avoid spicy foods or caffeine
A strong coffee or a burrito doused in hot sauce might make your taste buds happy—but they could also stimulate your sweat glands in a not-so-comfortable way.
Swipe on antiperspirant
Sweat production is at its lowest at night, giving the active ingredients in antiperspirants a better chance to get into your pores and block perspiration in the morning. Some women, after hearing rumors that ingredients in antiperspirants cause cancer, use other tactics like applying rubbing alcohol, blow-drying underarms after showering — not so nutty, since bacteria is the cause of BO — or using products made from natural ingredients.
“There’s nothing at this time telling us [antiperspirant use] is dangerous,” says Dr Chua. Most antiperspirant isn’t absorbed, and any trace amount that might be would not likely make it to the lymph nodes near the underarm. Even if it did, lymphatic drainage flows to the rest of the body, not toward the breast.
Go for prescription-level help
Besides hot outdoor temperatures or a killer workout, emotions (such as feeling stressed during a job interview) can also make you sweat. Anything you can do to decrease your anxiety, such as deep breathing or other relaxation techniques, will decrease the potential stimulation of neurotransmitters that can then stimulate your sweat glands. If you often sweat a lot when you’re in a stressful situation, such as with public speaking, you can consider seeing a doctor who may decide to prescribe oral medications that can help decrease your sweating in these types of situations, or suggest other treatment options.
If antiperspirants aren’t able to stop the floodgates, you could ask your doctor about getting Botox injections, which were FDA-approved in 2004 for treating hyperhidrosis. The procedure takes about 10 minutes. Each armpit gets 10 to 20 shots of Botox — 50 milligrams in each pit (topical anesthesia is optional). Patients see a significant reduction of sweat (though not 100 percent) in 2 to 3 days Treatments costs from $500-800 per underarm and have to be repeated about every 6 to 12 months.
“I think a lot of people out there are suffering with hyperhidrosis and don’t realize there’s a treatment that can take care of it,” says Dr Chua. “These people are thanking me in tears when I introduce them to Botox. They become normal human beings again.”