What can we infer from the amount of sweat and the way it smells? Not only the amount, but also its smell can be a tell-tale sign.
Sweat is produced by the sweat glands. The amount of depends a lot on individual characteristics and external conditions: we sweat more in the summer, in hot weather or after heavy physical exertion.
The primary function of perspiration is to prevent the body from overheating and to maintain a healthy temperature balance. Most of the time we start sweating because of the environment, i.e. when we are too hot, but it is very common to try to compensate for “overheating” of our muscles (e.g. during exercise) by sweating.
It is relatively common, however, that the sweating is not caused by the warm environment or physical exertion. Increased sweating is a so-called non-specific symptom, meaning that it can be caused by a wide range of physical and psychological conditions. For example, increased sweating may be a reaction to certain medicines, to eating spicy or strong foods, or it may be linked to hormonal changes.
It may occur during puberty or menopause, but it can also be in the days or weeks before or after childbirth that a woman starts sweating more profusely. Many people also experience increased sweating due to strong emotions, such as excitement, fear or anger.
Sweating can also be a sign of illness
Sweating or increased perspiration can be a sign of acute or chronic illness, but it is not a decisive enough sign on its own: other symptoms must be considered to make the right diagnosis. For example, sweating is common in people with thyroid disease (which can also cause weight loss, palpitations and shortness of breath), but it can also occur in people with diabetes, especially if their blood sugar levels are too low. Sweating can accompany many infectious diseases, often accompanied by fever or chills.
Can too much coffee make you sweat?
Sweating can be one of the side effects of many mind-altering drugs, medicines and stimulants, but the body can also respond by sweating even if it does not have access to these drugs, for example, as a withdrawal symptom in alcoholics or drug addicts.
Sweating can also be a side effect of caffeine overdose, but this is quite rare, as sweating and other symptoms (such as shaking, trembling, rapid heartbeat, nervousness and irritability) are only experienced when large amounts of caffeine are consumed in a short period of time. This requires a minimum of 500 mg of caffeine, which is roughly the equivalent of 5-6 strong cups of caffeine.
Is it worth a sniff?
Body odour is a perfectly normal phenomenon and can play a very important role in mate selection or in distinguishing blood relatives from strangers in mammals. Body odour can be influenced by many things, such as the bacterial flora on the skin, genetic heritage, lifestyle, gender and age. However, some medicines and foods can also alter body odour.
There are rare diseases that can cause body odour to change dramatically: for example, a metabolic disorder called trimethylaminuria can cause people to smell very strongly of fish. Severe, advanced, chronic kidney or liver disease or diabetes can also alter body odour (or cause halitosis).
Harmful toxins are also eliminated through sweating.
There is a lot of research into body odour and sweat, and more specifically how they can be used in medicine. For example, an increasing number of dogs are being trained around the world to detect certain odours that could indicate disease: dogs with their heightened sense of smell can help diagnose some cancers.