We break down the science behind sweating, what happens when you sweat too much, and natural ways to sweat less.
How Much Is Too Much?
Excessive sweating is known as hyperhidrosis disorder, where frequent sweating happens in response to triggers that wouldn’t be considered normal reasons for sweating. (1)
Nearly five percent of Americans suffer from excessive sweating, although more might have hyperhidrosis but have been undiagnosed. (2)
Sweat happens in the body when the internal temperature rises. It is the body’s way of maintaining a normal and stable internal body temperature, which our organs, cells, and tissues rely on. Too much of a swing in either direction would be detrimental, so the body has a built-in cooling system.
How do you know if your sweating is too much? If your sweat doesn’t seem to be an appropriate response to your situation or is excessive, you might have an underlying health reason. For example, if you had a hard workout, it would make sense to get sweaty. But you shouldn’t still be sweating hours later. If it’s really hot outside, sweat makes sense, but you probably shouldn’t be soaked head to toe from it. If you’re in a normal temperature room, you’re sleeping, or you’re just going about life as usual and you’re still sweating a ton, that’s a sign that you’re experiencing sweat at higher than normal proportions.
Additionally, sweating disorders can be localized to certain areas. You may not be covered in whole body sweat, but maybe you sweat profusely from hands, feet, face, or armpits. Or maybe you only excessively sweat on one side of your body or the other. These are signs of dysfunction with your body’s cooling system.
Even though sweating is a normal, healthy body response – not to mention a protective mechanism – it can still get out of balance like many other body systems. There are many ways to correct this imbalance, however.
Causes of Hyperhidrosis (aka Excessive Sweating)
Excessive sweating can be caused by several different disorders or underlying imbalances, making it hard to make a quick diagnosis.
Several causes of hyperhidrosis include: (3)
- Perimenopause and menopause
- Hyperthyroidism, Graves’ disease, or other thyroid problems
- Menstrual cycle imbalances
- Hormone fluctuations or unbalanced hormones
- Medication side effects
- Family history of hyperhidrosis (aka genetics)
In rarer cases, excessive sweating can be caused by heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and other serious disorders, so it’s always a good idea to check with your doctor to rule out serious causes. (4)
Natural Ways to Sweat Less
There are several medical ways to treat hyperhidrosis, including a specialized type of antiperspirant, prescription medication, or even Botox injections that block the nerves that make your glands produce sweat. In severe cases, surgery might even be used to address the problem.
If you want to address the problem naturally, there are several key ways.
Balance Your Hormones
Since thyroid and other hormone imbalances, like menopause or menstrual cycle irregularities, can be a cause of excessive sweating, getting all of your hormones thoroughly tested is an important first step. Make sure you’re working with a doctor who understands the relationship between the thyroid and reproductive health. You’ll also want to make sure that the right thyroid tests are being run to evaluate your thyroid hormones: free T3, free T4, reverse T3, thyroid antibodies, and TSH.
For other reproductive hormones, women should have estradiol and estrone tested (if you’re post-menopausal), along with progesterone and prolactin (if you’re of reproductive age). Additionally, checking testosterone levels in both men and women is important.
What do you do if your hormones are a mess? Work with an integrative or functional medicine practitioner to get to the root of your hormone chaos and work toward a plan that not only addresses sweating, but also the other symptoms associated with the imbalance.
People who have overly sensitive sweat glands and hyperhidrosis might benefit from showering daily to ensure that there are no bacteria on the skin which could be exacerbating the sweat glands on the surface of the skin, especially in the armpits. While this won’t address hormonal causes of hyperhidrosis, if your condition is caused by topical irritation, this could help immensely.
Wear Breathable Clothing
Regardless of the cause of your sweat, if you’re wearing synthetic materials that trap the heat and sweat in, you’re only going to sweat even more. Wear organic cotton that allows air to freely flow through your clothing. This will help keep you comfortable as you investigate the underlying cause of excessive sweating while also helping to prevent chafing or irritation from sweat that is trapped by itchy fabric that doesn’t breathe.
While these aren’t backed by research for hyperhidrosis, several natural treatments are beneficial for skin conditions like acne or eczema, primarily for their benefits of killing bad bacteria that live on the skin. These might be helpful for bacteria-related causes of excessive sweating, as well as being able to close pores and reduce sweat gland activity. Note: Always test a small patch of skin before widely applying any topical remedy.
These natural remedies include:
- Apple cider vinegar
- Lemon juice
- Tomato juice
- Green tea
- Black tea
- Baking soda
If you suffer from excessive sweating, the good news is that you don’t have to live with this problem forever. There are usually underlying causes that can be addressed. Make sure you work with your doctor to find answers and explore treatments that you’re comfortable with.
(Read This Next: 6 Ways to Balance Your Thyroid Problems)