Sweating is an essential function of the body that helps to excrete metabolic wastes, cool the body down and moisten our skin. The way in which we sweat is affected by a lot of factors including diet, medications, mood, hormone levels and the presence of certain medical conditions. How much a person sweats depends on how many sweat glands you have and how active they are.
Here are some facts about sweat and sweating.
1. Sweating / perspiration is medically termed diaphoresis.
2. Women have more sweat glands than men, but men’s sweat glands tend to be more active.
3. Sweat is made up of 99% water and 1% salts.
4. Your body does NOT expel toxins via sweat.
5. Approximately 360 million people, worldwide, suffer from excessive sweating, known as hyperhydrosis.
6. Night sweats are common, not just in menopausal women.
7. Sweat is in fact odorless. An odor is created when it reacts with certain bacteria that are on your skin.
8. Sweat is colorless. Those yellow stains that appear on your shirts, are caused by a reaction with chemicals in your antiperspirants or deodorants.
9. The most concentrated area of sweat glands is on the bottom of your feet, while the least is on your back. The reason you feel your underarms sweat so much is because the area isn’t very ventilated, making it difficult for sweat to evaporate.
10. On average humans sweat approximately 278 gallons of sweat each year.
11. The only areas of your body that do not have sweat glands are your ears, lips and nails.
12. Emotions can change the smell of your sweat.
Sweat is an important part of diagnostics in East Asian Medicine and we look at it as a form of treatment for some conditions. When someone complains of improper sweating, we pay attention to the location of the sweat, the time of day in which it occurs, the nature of the sweat (if it feels cold or hot), how the sweat smells, as well as the amount of sweat occurring, because all of these help us arrive at a more thorough diagnosis.
Sweating is divided into two subsets: sweating during the day and sweating at night. Usually sweating during the day is spontaneous and is connected to the lung, while sweating at night is connected to the kidney. The common denominator of both kinds of sweating is the heart, because sweat is defined as the liquid of the heart.
In a normal harmonic situation, the water and fire will be in balance and normal sweating patterns will be observed. In East Asian Medicine (EAM), if you perspire more than usual, that means that your bodily function is off. So if the people around you are not sweating nearly as much as you are, the yin-yang balance of your body could be out of whack.
In EAM, there are five main types of illnesses that present diaphoresis as a prominent symptom.
1. Lung Qi Deficiency – The lungs govern the skin and hair and control the defensive qi, also known as Wei Qi. Any deficiency of lung qi can result in a deficiency of defensive qi and may lead to the loosening of the interstices of the skin and muscles. Spontaneous sweating follows. In diaphoresis, the most common causes of lung qi deficiency are a chronically weak constitution, weakness following an illness and protracted cough and dyspnea consuming lung qi. The main symptoms may include sweating with wind aversion, high susceptibility to exogenous pathogens, lusterless complexion; lassitude and weakness.
2. Disharmony between Nutritive and Defensive Qi – Even mild attacks by exogenous wind, in a state of weakness, may lead to disharmony between nutritive qi and defensive qi. When this happens, defensive qi is unable to protect the exterior, thereby allowing abnormal spontaneous sweating to take place. The main symptoms may include sweating with wind aversion, generalized aches, malaise, periodic chills and fever or regional sweating.
3. Insufficiency of Heart Blood – Sweat is the fluid of the heart. Excessive brooding may injure the heart and the spleen. Or significant blood loss may lead to depleted blood failing to nourish the heart. In either circumstance, there is excessive discharge of heart fluid. Spontaneous sweating may ensue. The main symptoms may include spontaneous sweating or night sweats, heart palpitations, insomnia, lassitude, shortness of breath and a lusterless complexion.
4. Blazing Fire due to Yin Deficiency – Excessive strain, blood loss or strong exogenous heat may injure yin (water) and cause its deficiency. When yin is deficient, endogenous fire may arise. Such deficiency fire forces yin fluids outward as either spontaneous or night sweats. Main symptoms may include night sweats, sometimes spontaneous sweating as well, dry throat with thirst, flushed cheeks and a recurrent fever.
5. Heat Evaporating Fluids – Pent up passions may cause liver qi to gel and transform into fire. Overindulgence in acrid, spicy and strong flavored foods may cause turbid dampness to transform into heat. In such circumstances, liver fire or damp heat may become strong in the interior and evaporate fluids, forcing them to disperse as sweat. The main symptoms may include yellow sweat that stains clothing, flushed cheeks, restlessness, bitter taste in the mouth and dark urine.
By looking at the specifics of excessive sweating, EAM practitioners can determine a root cause for the sweat and identify why it is happening. Like Western Medicine, symptoms are used to determine a diagnosis. Unlike Western Medicine, EAM takes into account non-specific symptoms, and therefore, can treat a person long before a serious illness appears. In Western Medicine, the symptoms are used to determine the disease. In East Asian Medicine, the Western disease diagnosis is considered a symptom of the body imbalances. East Asian Medicine makes a constitutional diagnosis, which can take into consideration symptoms and a Western disease diagnosis. So, one Western disease may have many different EAM treatments based on the key reason the person’s body is allowing the imbalance to happen.
If abnormal sweating is an issue for you, consider giving EAM a try. The use of acupuncture and other modalities can be of great benefit. Contact us today to find out more about how we can help.