Hyperhydrosis – The Health of Sweating, and When to be Concerned

Hyperhydrosis is an uncomfortable and often embarrassing condition in which a person will sweat unpredictably and in excessively from various areas of the body. Sweat glands are located all over the body to help to regulate temperature and prevent overheating in warm environments, provides a way for the body to detox and helps to fight illness in the form of a fever. Sweating can also be triggered by stressful situations due to physical or emotional stress. When it comes to excessive sweating, it is important to differentiate between primary focal hyperhydrosis and secondary/general hyperhydrosis as some forms of excessive sweating can indicate an underlying serious health conditions.

The ability to sweat is a normal response to heat and mild stress, in fact it is healthy! Sweat naturally cleanses the skin through detoxification. Being exposed to the environment can clog pores with debris and toxins. Sweating helps to open pores and release toxic build up and in this way sweating regularly through sauna or exercise can improve the look and quality of skin.

Fevers, although uncomfortable, is really a response mounted by the body to help fight off invading pathogens. “Sweating the fever out” is the best way to help the body do its job in ridding infection. The skin being the largest organ in the body, it is good to keep the skin active via sweating. Without regular exercise, there is probably not a lot of sweating responses being elicited; making exercise something that should be aimed at becoming a part the daily routine.

Primary focal Hyperhydrosis

Primary focal hyperhydrosis is defined as excessive sweating in one or more areas of the body, most often the hands, feet, underarms and face. Sweating is typically bilateral, meaning sweating will occur in both hands, underarms or feet. While the exact cause of focal hyperhydoris is not known, it is speculated to be due to an inappropriate overreaction of the nervous system signaling excessive sweating. Interestingly, primary focal hyperhydrosis can run in families with as much as a 1 in 4 chance of developing this condition if a parent has symptoms.

Conventional treatments for primary focal hyperhydrosis range from topical prescription antiperspirants to botulinum toxin (botox) injections to the area locally to stun the nervous system input to the sweat glands. Surgical removal of local sweat glands has also been employed in severe situations. These treatments are usually costly and in some circumstances only offer temporary relief.

Naturally speaking, treatments are aimed at reducing triggers like inflammation and stress that can disrupt the nervous system input to sweat glands.  Reducing inflammation through a variety of ways including avoidance of food intolerances, dietary sugar reduction and removal of poor lifestyle habits like smoking all reduce stress on the body which can lead to increase in sweating responses. Food intolerances can be determined through an elimination and reintroduction diet, meaning a period of time spent eliminating potential offending foods and then reintroduction of foods one at a time to determine potential contributing factors in hyperhydrosis. Sugar is known for its pro-inflammatory properties, not only for its ability to cause tooth decay but also in the sense that it can clog the nervous system and inhibit appropriate signaling to sweat glands. Smoking increases metabolism which in turn can increase body temperature and can induce sweating.

Managing stress can be helpful when treating hyperhydrosis symptoms. Increases in  stress hormones like cortisol provides erratic input to the nervous system signaling distress and therefore excessive sweating. This can occur in seemingly non threatening situations like when a giving a speech. There are a several avenues in which to balance cortisol levels depending on when they are spiking in the day. It can be helpful perform cortical test to determine when stress hormones need to be supported. At the very least, preventing stress hormone surges during non threatening events through calming and relaxing herbs and nutrients can help to prevent excessive sweating.

Generalized Hyperhydrosis

Generalized or secondary hyperhydrosis is classified as sweating all over the body that is not localized to a specific part of the body. Excessive generalized sweating can be due to an underlying medical condition including hyperthyoridism, menopause, viral infections, HIV, diabetes and even cancer. Full body sweating can occur even during sleeping hours, commonly waking an individual with sweaty bed sheets and clothing. While any form of excess sweating should be discussed with your physician, this form in particular must be follow up upon due to its likelihood to be due to something serious.

Treatment of general hyperhydrosis depends on its cause. Testing for endocrine balance, immune system function and inflammation are all imperative when it comes to finding the cause of excessive general sweating. While sweating is a normal and natural response, it can be a sign of something wrong. Weather it is excessive sweating or changes in sweating patterns, always let your physician know about your sweating concerns, no matter how embarrassing it may seem, there may be  support available.

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