This can be an embarrassing problem and I understand how it affects your self-confidence. Let me explain a little bit about the biology first. There are two types of gland that produce discharge: endocrine and exocrine. Endocrine glands release hormones, which are transported to different cells of the body. We are concerned with the exocrine glands, which produce discharge on surfaces that are exposed to air. These include the skin, eyes, lungs and gut among others.
There are four types of exocrine gland, of which the apocrine glands concern you most. These are targeted by the deodorant and antiperspirant industry. They’re found in the armpits, around nipples and in the groin. Because they communicate through ducts linked to the hair follicles, they begin to release a discharge at puberty when hair grows in these areas.
Apocrine discharge is sticky, cloudy and relatively thick. It is also potentially odorous, which may be due to diet, pharmaceutical drugs and some supplements (such as vitamin B complex). The problem is made worse because perspiration is a rich source of nutrients for bacteria, so they cluster around it and create a smell as they decompose.
What’s more, the activity of these gland cells is an involuntary reaction. In some cases, the warm moisture in these areas can encourage a bacterial or fungal infection; the body tries to counter this with a thicker, disinfectant type of discharge – more perspiration. If this happens, the smell may get worse and the thick discharge ‘rots’. So it is essential that people with perspiration problems shower thoroughly twice a day.
The other type of sweat gland, merocrine, is distributed all over the body, particularly the palms and soles of the feet: some sufferers often find their hands and feet perspire profusely. This can be uncomfortable but it is a more benign discharge, as it is 99 per cent water, which is odourless and also helps to cool the body and discharge toxins.
Your excessive sweating may be caused by a combination of factors, including nervousness or anxiety, which causes tightness of muscles and tends to make circulation sluggish; overheating of the body (because you have eaten chillies, for instance, or had a hot drink, or your bedclothes are too heavy), and possibly your diet. You can have surgery for this condition or Botox injections, and I advise you to talk to your doctor about the options.
However, before embarking on more drastic measures, I suggest hat you follow this non-invasive regime:
- The higher centre for the parasympathetic nervous system (which controls gland activity, among other things) and the thermostat for regulating body temperature are located in the hypothalamus in the brain. Massaging the neck can improve blood flow to that area, enhancing the function. Ask someone to massage your neck and shoulders in the evening, a couple of times a week for ten minutes. Details are on my Lifestyle DVD (Integrated Health Group).
- Avoid all processed or prepared foods and eat fresh, simple food with lots of vegetables and fruit preferably organic.
- Particularly avoid yeast products, canned or cured foods, red meat pork, very spicy food, fungal cheeses (eg, blue cheese), vinegar, mushrooms, ginger, garlic, alcohol, coffee. These can all overheat the body and cause sweat to smell.
- Include cooling foods such as live organic natural yoghurt, buttermilk, cucumber, squash, spring onions, courgettes, marrow, kiwi, parsley, mint, camomile, melon and summer berries (buy frozen in winter).
- Use antiseptic neem oil (available from health food stores) or Alive Skin Oil, which also contains neem, to massage the underarms at bedtime. Wash in the morning with mild glycerine or baby soap.
- Consult a qualified homoeopath or acupuncturist.
- Stay calm and don’t rush. Whenever you feel nervous or the sweating starts, practise this simple breathing exercise. Breathe in for. three seconds, hold your breath gently for three, then breathe out slowly for six seconds. Practise this for five minutes daily until you can do it automatically.
- Synthetic fabrics trap heat so wear light layers in natural fabrics such as cotton or linen.