Thursday, June 4, 2009

Health Care and Workin' up a Sweat

You are about to do something really big -- maybe ­a job interview, a presentation, a first date or your wedding -- and you notice that your palms and underarms are sweating. Perhaps, you've just completed an aerobic workout and your whole body is drenched in sweat. How can such different activities have the same effect on your body? What is sweat and why do we make it?
Perspiration, or sweat, is your body's way of cooling itself, whether that extra heat comes from hardworking muscles or from overstimulated nerves. In this article, we will examine your body's sweat glands, how sweat is made and what it does. You will learn that there is difference between the sweat on your palms and the sweat in your armpits and why your skin tastes salty after a workout!

Most people sweat when they exercise or exert themselves, are in a hot environment, or are nervous, anxious, or under stress. According to the Mayo Clinic, this type of sweating is both natural and healthy. Sweating is usually only a minor nuisance. The odor is probably more troublesome. Although perspiration is practically odorless, perspiration can sometimes cause an unpleasant smell when it comes into contact with bacteria on your skin. Unusual changes in sweating — either excessive perspiration (hyperhidrosis) or little or no perspiration (anhidrosis) — can be cause for concern. Likewise, changes in body odor may be a sign of a medical problem. For normal sweating and body odor, however, lifestyle and home treatments can effectively manage your symptoms. In some cases, a prescription antiperspirant or deodorant may be needed.
According to HowStuffWorks.com, the average person has 2.6 million sweat glands in their skin! Sweat glands are distributed over the entire body -- except for the lips, nipples and external genital organs. The sweat gland is in the layer of skin called the dermis along with other "equipment," such as nerve endings, hair follicles and so on. Basically, the sweat gland is a long, coiled, hollow tube of cells. The coiled part in the dermis is where sweat is produced, and the long portion is a duct that connects the gland to the opening or pore on the skins's outer surface. And, nerve cells from the sympathetic nervous system connect to the sweat glands. There are two types of sweat glands:
--Eccrine - the most numerous type that are found all over the body, particularly on the palms of the hands, soles of the feet and forehead.
--Apocrine - mostly confined to the armpits (axilla) and the anal-genital area. They typically end in hair follicles rather than pores.
The two glands differ in size, the age that they become active, and the composition of the sweat that they make. Compared to apocrine glands, eccrine glands are smaller are active from birth (Apocrine glands become active only at puberty) and produce a sweat that is free of proteins and fatty acids.
Healthy people sweat, but when, where and how much varies widely according to the Mayo Clinic. Factors that cause most people to sweat include:
--Exercise, especially strenuous exercise.
--Hot weather.
--Nervousness, anxiety or stress.
Perspiration that's triggered by emotion is most likely to occur on your face, in your armpits, on your palms and on the soles of your feet. But how much you sweat and even the way your sweat smells can be influenced by your mood, your diet, some drugs and medical conditions, and even your hormone levels. What's more — unfair as it seems — some people inherit a tendency to sweat heavily, especially on their soles and palms. Because it's almost impossible to define normal sweating and body odor, try to learn what's normal for you. That will help you pinpoint any unusual changes. Contact your medical provider if you experience any of the following:
--You suddenly begin to sweat much more or less than usual.
--Sweating disrupts your daily routine.
--You experience night sweats for no apparent reason.
--You notice a change in body odor.
--A change in body odor may be a sign of certain medical conditions, such as diabetic ketoacidosis, or kidney failure.
According to the Health Guide in the NY Times, The glands start to become fully active during puberty. Women actually have more sweat glands then men -- men's glands are just more active. Because sweating is the body's natural way of regulating temperature, people sweat more when it's hot outside. People also sweat more when they exercise, or in response to situations that make them nervous, angry, embarrassed, or afraid. If sweating is accompanied by fever, weight loss, chest pain, shortness of breath, or a rapid, pounding heartbeat, talk to a doctor. These symptoms may indicate an underlying problem, such as hyperthyroidism. Excessive sweating in women may also be a symptom of menopause. After sweating, you should:
--Wash the face and body.
--Change clothes and bed sheets.
--Drink plenty of water to replace lost body fluids.
--Slightly lower room temperature to prevent more sweating.
Sweating is one of the body's ways of cooling down and it is important that we do sweat, according to CYH.com. There is a very rare condition where people do not sweat, and they are at a very high risk of overheating.
--Hot drinks, drinks that contain alcohol or caffeine, and spicy foods can also make you sweat more than usual.
--Having a fever is part of the way that a body fights an infection. The temperature drops when the body is recovering from the infection. If you have a fever, your body cuts down the amount of sweat that you make (keeping your temperature high). When your body is ready for its temperature to drop you may sweat a lot (this is sometimes called 'breaking of the fever').
--If you are dehydrated - perhaps it is hot weather and you have not had enough to drink, or you have been ill with diarrhoea and vomiting - you will make less sweat than usual.
Sweat by itself does not have much of an odor, according to CYH.com. Most of the smell is caused by bacteria which live on the skin and in clothing. These bacteria use the sweat for growing. Some foods that we eat, such as garlic and spicy foods, can change the smell of sweat. We all have our own particular scent. This is why dogs can track a particular person by their scent. Have you noticed that perfumes and deodorants don't always smell the same on different people? That's because of our different scents. After puberty, it may be a good idea to start using underarm deodorants and antiperspirants.
--Underarm deodorants make the sweat acidic which stops bacteria from growing. We still make the same amount of sweat, but there are fewer bacteria to make the smell.
--Antiperspirants block the sweat ducts with aluminium salts, so that less sweat is produced.
--Less sweat equals fewer bacteria and less smell. They should only be used on underarms - you need to be able to sweat over the rest of your body to keep yourself healthy.
--There is no evidence that these products are linked to any health problems.
--Some deodorants are highly perfumed. Make sure that you are not replacing one smell with another one that other people will not enjoy either.
--Be aware that some people may be allergic to deodorant sprays and perfumes, so don't spray them around other people in change rooms.
Ever wonder why you can't handle hot days in the spring as well as you can in late summer? It seems that your sweat glands need time to acclimate, according to AZCentral.com. A person who hasn't been in a hot climate for a while can produce about one liter of sweat an hour. After about six weeks of hot weather, however, he or she will be able to produce two to three times that amount. (Anecdotal evidence suggests that people who sweat a lot while exercising year-round are automatically acclimated in the spring and thus able to handle the heat better.) About 3 percent of the population suffers from hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating). It most commonly affects underarms, hands and feet and can mysteriously strike in the coldest of conditions. We are constantly sweating, even though we may not notice it. The humidity of the air around us affects the rate at which sweat evaporates. If humidity is high, the air cannot absorb any more moisture and our sweat won't evaporate and cool our bodies as efficiently as when the air is dry. Losing excessive amounts of sweat can quickly dehydrate you, leading to circulatory problems, kidney failure and heat stroke. Never wear a plastic sweatsuit or lots of warm clothing while working out on a hot day. You won't burn any more calories, but you will lose lots of water weight, which can precipitate heat stroke. Sweat is made from fluid in your blood, which means the more you sweat, the thicker your blood becomes and the harder your heart has to work to pump that blood. People who are more fit are better able to cope with low or even moderate degrees of dehydration than those who aren't fit. The Gatorade Sports Science Institute has found that in conditions of 85 degrees and 40 percent humidity, the average runner will lose two to four pounds of sweat an hour. An hour or two before exerting yourself outdoors in the heat, drink 16 ounces of water or sports drink, then take in between 5 and 12 ounces every 15 to 20 minutes while working or exercising, says Runner's World magazine. And, Americans spend more than $1 billion a year on antiperspirants and deodorants.
When you sweat, know that it can be a good thing. Too much is not good. Check it out with your doctor if your personal situation changes for any reason--either too little or too much.
Until next time. Let me know what you think.

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