Sweat is the body’s built-in cooling system, and no one enjoys it when her face is too damp to apply makeup on summer mornings or when every white shirt you own appears to be permanently stained, but sweat is the body’s built-in cooling system. Your body temperature rises, your neurological system sends a signal to your sweat glands, and liquid splatters onto your skin, quickly evaporating and cooling you down.
Despite this, we’re continuously at odds with our sweat: attempting to make it smell less, ceasing to sweat entirely during a crucial meeting, and then attempting to lose buckets of it at the gym. But, if you take a moment to think about it, all that sweat might teach you a surprising amount about yourself and your health. Here are a few things it’s attempting to tell you.
Take a moment to think about what’s been on your mind lately if you keep sniffing and wondering, “Is that me?!?” Your pits are more likely to blame if you’re upset or agitated. Eccrine glands all over the body create sweat, which is primarily water and salt and is produced when we’re hot. When we’re anxious, though, perspiration is produced by apocrine glands, which are only located in certain parts of the body, such as the armpits. This type of perspiration contains fat and protein, which combine with germs on our skin to produce a stink. If you’re nervous or afraid, it’s the same thing.
You’re at risk for heatstroke
Everything is going swimmingly on your summer stroll until you notice you have stopped sweating and are becoming dizzy. Anhidrosis, or the inability to sweat normally, is potentially harmful since it prevents your body from cooling down naturally. You risk heat disorders like heat exhaustion or heatstroke if you keep going without rehydrating. Take a break in a shady or air-conditioned area and sip something refreshing (without caffeine or alcohol). If you don’t feel better within a few days, get immediate medical help.
You’re eating the wrong foods
If your poop smells unusually fishy, you may have trimethylaminuria, a rare genetic illness in which your body is unable to break down the chemical complex trimethylamine, which is formed during the digestion of foods including eggs, beans, and fish. According to the National Institutes of Health, your body excretes extra trimethylamine through sweat, urine, and breath, which can smell like rotten fish, rotting eggs, or garbage. If you suspect you have trimethylanminuria, consult your doctor to determine the best course of action, which will most likely include avoiding certain foods and maybe taking supplements.
You might need more to drink than your workout buddy on your next long run
Have you ever had perspiration drip into your eyes, leaving you in excruciating, stinging pain? Do you get a gritty feeling or white streaks on your cheeks from dried sweat? You’re probably a salty sweater, which is frequent among people who drink a lot of water during the day and consume a low-sodium diet. More quickly than the average exerciser, reach for a sports drink or an electrolyte tablet that can be dissolved in water.
Your blood sugar’s low
If measured when fasting, your blood sugar should be between 70 and 100 mg/dL. However, if it falls below 70, whether due to diabetes or excessive activity, you may begin to feel the consequences (if you’re having trouble controlling your blood sugar, here’s what one woman ate to get her blood sugar under control). Excessive sweating or cold, clammy skin, especially at the back of your neck near your hairline, might be a sign. (A rapid heartbeat, shakiness, minor nausea, dizziness, and blurred vision are some signs to look out for.) Fortunately, if your blood sugar drops somewhat, you can quickly restore it by eating or drinking anything. However, if your blood sugar continues to decrease, you’ll likely develop additional, more dangerous symptoms that will necessitate medical attention.
You’re spreading happiness…
… fear. Surprisingly, the smell of your sweat can alert those around you to how you’re feeling. 36 women smelt sweat samples from 12 guys who had viewed videos aimed to either shock or delight them in a (very unpleasant) experiment. When a woman scented sweat from a man who had been startled by the movie, she was more likely to make a fearful facial expression. She was more inclined to grin when she smelled sweat from a joyful male. It can’t hurt to smile at the gym, right?
You’re pregnant…or hitting menopause
Anything that messes with your endocrine system (the collection of hormone-producing glands in your body) can make you sweat more than usual. There’s the dreaded hot flash, which up to 85 percent of women experience in the years leading up to menopause, but pregnancy could also be to blame. That’s because hormonal fluctuations appear to mess with the brain’s “thermostat,” leading you to believe you’re overheating—and triggering the naturally cooling sweat response—even though you’re standing right in front of the air conditioner.
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