What Does Your Sweat Mean?

11/19/2012

Body odor photo

Have you ever wondered what effect smell has on both you and those around you?

Body odor has to do with sweat which shows up by two means: eccrine glands and apocrine glands. Eccrine glands cover most of your body and excrete a thin, watery sweat and apocrine glands show up in hairier areas like the armpits. They produce a thicker more fatty sweat. 

Sweating is inherently a good thing, it regulates the body’s temperature, cooling us down when necessary. The smell isn’t actually caused by the sweat but bacteria on the skin that feed on the sweat and break it down.

Sweat and Your Body

Your sweat can tell you different things about what’s going on in your body. During puberty body odor is stronger as well as at other hormonal changes like pregnancy and menopause. Foods rich in garlic, onion, and spices end up in your bloodstream and eventually in your sweat. Just as with bowel movements, what you put in your body really is a reflection of what comes out. Excessive red meat, caffeinated beverages, and alcohol can also cause smellier sweat. 

Health Conditions and Sweating 

Health conditions cause excessive sweat as well. Low blood sugar can also cause excessive sweating. When your blood sugar drops below a certain level or when you’re taking insulin and other oral medications your body can sweat more than usual. If your thyroid is overactive you may also sweat a lot as a result of excess amounts of the hormone thyroxine, which causes increased sensitivity to heat.  

While your intuition is to cover up your sweat, diving deeper into its cause is helpful. While some people do sweat more than others, diet and health conditions also play a role. 

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Sara Novak writes about health and wellness for Discovery Health. Her work is also regularly featured in Breathe Magazine and on SereneKitchen.com. She has written extensively on food policy, food politics, and food safety.


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