We’ve all been there. You’re halfway through a morning run but look like you just went for a dip in the pool. Meanwhile your neighbor runs past, barely glistening. Or you’re about to present your proposal to your biggest client. You feel the sweat dripping through your clothes while the rest of the team sits there, cool as cucumbers. It’s frustrating, uncomfortable and embarrassing. Why do I sweat so much, you ask?!
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The Evolutionary Reason Humans Sweat
Before understanding why you sweat so much, let's unpack why we sweat in the first place.
Sweating is an essential, biological process to cool down the body, an advantage that separates humans from other animals. Unlike most animals, humans were designed for heat loss, not heat retention. We cool by sweating rather than panting, allowing us to stay cool at speeds and distances that would overheat other animals.
Early humans developed more sweat glands to run long distances in open areas and survive the equatorial sun, which allowed their brains to expand. So really, we owe our impressive evolution to our ability to sweat so much.
Why Do I Sweat So Much?
Your body contains 2-4 million sweat glands — mainly concentrated on your feet, palms, forehead, cheeks and armpits. Nerves activate your sweat glands in response to stimuli like hormones, emotions, exercise and body temperature. (Hence the hot, flushed feeling you get when nervous or angry.)
When it comes to sweating, everyone is different. There are several factors that influence when and how much you sweat. Here are a few reasons you sweat more than others:
- Physical fitness. The more fit you are, the more you sweat. Top athletes sweat much sooner into a workout than sedentary people. Perspiration cools off the body and allows you to train for longer periods of time.
- Gender. Even though women have more sweat glands than men, men produce more sweat.
- Body mass. Individuals with higher body mass sweat more profusely than normal-weight individuals. Fat insulates the body, raising its core temperature. And higher body temperatures means your body needs to sweat more to cool down.
- Alcohol intake. Feeling hot after a cocktail or two? Drinking alcohol dilates your blood vessels, which can trigger sweating.
- Hot weather. While this is an obvious one, hot, humid environments raise your body temperature, activating your glands to sweat more.
How Much Sweat Is Too Much?
Let’s get one thing out of the way: Sweating is normal. Everyone sweats a certain baseline amount. When you overheat, your body needs a way to cool down. How much you sweat is a combination of genetics, your environment, medications, emotions and activity. There is no “right amount” of sweat — everyone is different, and every body varies in how much sweat it produces.
If you sweat chronically, you may have the medical condition hyperhidrosis, which affects 2 percent of the U.S. population.
Hyperhidrosis is divided into two categories — primary focal and secondary generalized. Primary focal hyperhidrosis is excessive sweating in one specific area of the body, usually in your hands, feet, underarms, face or head. Secondary generalized hyperhidrosis is excessive sweating caused by a medical condition or side effect of a medication.
With hyperhidrosis, sweat interferes with your daily activities. You visibly sweat even when not exerting yourself. You may struggle to turn the doorknob or hold a pen because your hands are so sweaty. Skin infections are also common.
What to Do About Excessive Sweat
While sweating is a natural phenomenon (and essential!), it can also be uncomfortable and embarrassing. Here’s what you can do to help ease your discomfort:
Watch Your Diet
Avoid spicy foods and caffeine, and opt for foods that reduce sweat. Certain foods, hot beverages and caffeine activate neurotransmitters in your brain, which stimulate your sweat glands. It’s why you immediately feel flushed when you take a huge bite of chicken curry. If you do have spicy food or coffee, eat slowly, and always have water and other dry foods such as chips or rice on hand.
Find Ways to De-Stress
Anxiety and stress can cause sweating. Be aware of how your body responds, and find ways to decrease your anxiety, such as deep breathing, taking a walk or other relaxation techniques.
Choose the Right Clothing
There’s nothing more uncomfortable than visible pit stains on your shirt. Choosing the right clothing can help alleviate any embarrassment and keep you comfortable all day long.
If you're constantly asking yourself, "why do I sweat so much?!" add a layer of protection with Thompson Tee. The patented sweat proof undershirts trap heat and moisture and allow it to evaporate rather than seep through your clothes. When you stop thinking about sweat, you can get back to your daily life.