Sweat and odour
Sweat commonly symbolises the struggle to succeed. In this sophisticated world, A/C restricts sweating and modern cosmetic makes deodorants, that mask odour, to hit roof-high sales. They all suppress the sweating process and give more importance to fragrance. In spite of all this, axilla and feet sweat smell. Shoe odour often makes heads turn. Sweat also does not allow a dear one to get near. This becomes a sensitive issue causing a lot of embarrassment where the sufferer could not (sometimes) realise the offensive odour as he/she lives with it.
Skin is an air-tight and water-proof covering, but it can drip sweat. Some think sweat is dirty, waste water which should be eliminated in compulsion. Some think of sweat as a natural body shower/scent. Some think sweat can cause sexual attraction. But most people feel it is an unpleasant sensation and wish to stay free of sweat to feel more comfortable and fragrant.
Sweat – is otherwise termed as perspiration. Everyone sweats, knowingly or unknowingly i.e. in the way of insensible or perceptible. The insensible sweat accounts approximately 300 ml/day and is felt as just moisture. The perceptible perspiration accounts for more than a litre or depends upon the exertion or works even up to 4 litres a day. The insensible sweat will be more in the palms, soles, neck folds and in other skinfolds.
Science reveals that sweating is a process of maintaining body temperature by way of external cooling. It also maintains fluid and electrolyte balance in our body. Sweat constitutes mostly water with a little urea and salts. Sweat pH will usually be alkaline but may vary with acid secretion.
Our body can modify sweat process depending upon the requirement. During fever, the sweat process is arrested by the nervous system to increase body temperature to fight against infection. Likewise, with raised BP, sweat process and urination process will be more to reduce BP. During exercise, anxiety or in a fearful state, sweat will be more to combat the increasing temperature caused due to increased metabolism. If there is a problem with sweating in a hot climate, heat stroke may result with amplified BP, pulse and suffocation. Some people may suffer from congenital absence of sweat glands. They suffer with heat.
Excessive sweating in medical terminology is termed as ‘hyperhidrosis’. Usually, it is seen in the under arms, on the forehead, hands and feet. Absence or reduced sweating is termed as ‘anhidrosis’. Increased sweating often causes discomfort and irritability with disturbance in work/lack of concentration.
In addition, increased sweating can cause great exhaustion and let out a foul smell. Likewise, decreased sweating causes dryness of the body with restlessness and discomfort.
Sweat glands – Sweat glands are coiled, long, corkscrew-like structures present in the subcutaneous tissue adjacent to the hair follicles. It opens to the outer skin through a duct. There are nearly 2-3 million sweat glands distributed all over the body except in the nipples, lips, nail beds and penis. Injured skin usually results in scar formation which are usually devoid of sweat glands and hair follicles. Sympathetic nervous system supplies nerves to sweat glands and controls its sweating. There are two types of sweat glands present in our body. They are:
- Eccrine glands – are smaller, most commonly distributed all over the body to regulate the body temperature. They are concentrated more on the forehead, palms and soles. Usually, the secretion of these types of glands will not have any smell/offensiveness as it is diluted and tehre is an absence of fatty acids in the secretions. The only place where it smells bad is the feet. This is also because of bacterial action on persistent dampness and not due to the secretion.
- Apocrine glands – are bigger and present only in certain places i.e. groin, axilla, areola, anus, etc. Its secretions usually contains fatty acids, proteins, carbohydrates, etc. which has its own peculiar odour and tinge. It becomes more offensive only with bacterial invasion. This type of glands secretes more after puberty and responds more with hormonal changes.
Incidences – Offensive sweating commonly occurs in every person irrespective of age and sex. But the intensity of sweating may vary depending upon races, weather, environment, nature of work, food, exercise, emotion, etc.
Usually, temperate hot climates causes more sweat than cold ones. Likewise, black people sweat more than the whites due to increased existence of sweat glands to combat heat.
Hereditary – in many cases sweating is found to be inherited.
- Strenuous exercises or starvation – ketone breath due to mobilization of protein and protein metabolism
- Aromatic or spicy foods which increases body metabolism
- Habits of smoking, chewing tobacco and drinking
- Food habits – spicy foods, protein rich diets, garlic, onion, etc.
Pathological or abnormal
- Diabetic coma – acetone breath due to keto-acidosis
- Renal failure – ureamic breath
- Liver failure or in severe jaundice – fetor hepaticus
- Hormonal changes (thyroid, adrenal & ovary problems) can cause foetid odour.
- Nervous disorders – Parkinson’s disease, sympthathetic nerve affection, paralysis.
- Medicines – used for fever, vomiting, fits, diabetes, hormonal imbalance, psychological complaints often cause fetid odour.
Diagnosis – The tests often required are:
- Blood investigations to rule out diabetes, infection, allergies, metabolic disorders
- Urine investigations to rule out diabetes, bile salts, ketone bodies, etc.
- While diagnosing the problem, age, sex, health status (physical and mental), environment, clothes, smell of sweat should be considered before advice/treatment, i.e. Suspect
- Menopause in a middle age lady flushing
- Tuberculosis and cancer when there are night sweats often
- A yeast infection when there is sweat smell of beer
- Diabetes when sweat smells sweetish or acetone like or fruity
- Liver or kidney disorder when sweat smell like ammonia
Usually to prevent the discomfort arising from sweat and its odour, care must be taken to:
- Dry it fast
- Cut down the sweat process
- Maintain cleanliness
- Destroy bacteria / fungus / yeast
- Maintain personal hygeine, cleanliness
- Drink plenty of water and juices
- Have good shower twice daily
- Wear cotton under garments, socks
- Wear loose dresses which allows good aeration
- Clean and dry the shoe every time before wear
- Wash sweat/sweating area at least twice daily
- Trim hair in the sweaty areas
- Tight fitting clothes/synthetic clothes/shoes
- Spicy foods, onion and garlic
- Using clothes/socks for more than a day in temperate climates
- Congested/crowded places
- Coffee, alcohol, smoking and chewing tobacco
- Preservative-added tinned foods/drinks
- Stress and strain
- Unnecessary medications
Also, one should beware that systemic illnesses like liver disorders, kidney disorders, diabetes, etc., can cause its own specific odours while complicating the disease.
General treatment – Normally, no one goes for treatment regarding sweat, unless the sweat and its odour affects them severely.
For masking the odour, people use soaps, talcum powders, deodorants and perfumes that are only temporary management. Other than these masks, some use washing solutions which contains hydrogen peroxide for cleansing the sweat area. Doctors may advice anti-perspirants/topical applications (for obliterating ducts with salt/gel formation) after ruling out thyroid, heart, diabetic problems and hormonal imbalances. These topical applications work give only temporary relief. Rarely, if increased sweat (in palms/soles) disturbs the sufferer more in regard to work, surgical resection of sympathetic nerves will be performed as a last resort.
Sweat is one of the most important general symptoms which affect one as a whole, compared to other localized symptoms. Homeopathy always gives importance to the general symptom more than to any particular disease symptoms. Even though sweat process can be altered with air-conditioner and rest, when it is corrected to normal with Homeopathy treatment the body will feel lasting comfort and well-being. Homeopathy medicines will not arrest the sweating process altogether, since it may often cause other discomfort in the course of treatment or afterwards. Also, one should beware that sweat suppressed in one area will reflect in increased sweating in another area. If it is suppressed altogether, the kidney will be affected due to increased work load. Homeopathy treatment aims at regaining the normal sweat process rather than stopping it. Homeopathy acts neurologically to attain normalcy against increased sweating to absence of sweat with dryness.
Regarding odour, treatment differs from person to person depending upon the secretions, odour, bacteria, cause and the person’s nature. Homeopathy can also correct/reduce odour by making quality secretions. Deodorants and perfumes can only mask the odour temporarily, but symptomatic Homeopathic management can make one perfect once and for all. The congenital absence of sweat glands and increased existence of sweat glands cannot be corrected by medicines. It may need surgical intervention.
Homeopathy can show its best results in complaints of sweat in patches, sweat on only one side, sweat only on the forehead or sweat only in the occipital. These types of symptoms are treated as peculiar and characteristic symptoms in Homeopathy for individual patients and for selecting the apt drug.
Homeopathic medicines commonly used in cases of sweat disorders are – Acetic Acid, Ars Iod, Artemisia Vulgaris, Aurum M, Benzoic acid, Butyric acid, Caladium, Calc carb, Flouric acid, Gelsemium, Graphites, Hepa sulf, Hydrocotyle, Lac can, Lachesis, Lycopodium, Nat mur, Nitric acid, Osmium, Petroleum, Psorinum, Pulsatilla, Salicylic acid, Silicea, Sulphur, Tellurium, Thuja, Tuberculinum Urtica urens, Verat alb, etc. These medicines should be taken under the advice and diagnosis of a qualified Homeopath.