Perspiration is a normal bodily function. The human body contains up to five million sweat glands, which release perspiration to the surface when our body temperature rises. When the fluid on our skin surface evaporates, we cool down. This is the body’s way of maintaining our body temperature at an average of 37°C.
Sometimes, though, our sweat glands kick into overdrive. For example, you perspire more on a hot day, when you wear more clothes, when you are drinking hot soup, when you are feeling emotional or when you exercise. However, people who suffer from hyperhidrosis, the medical condition in which one perspires excessively and unpredictably, can produce up to 10 times as much sweat as others! What’s going on?
In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), if you perspire more than usual, that just means that your bodily function is off. Take a hint 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.
According to Senior Physician Zhou Bin Rong from the Eu Yan Sang TCM Clinic at Ang Mo Kio, it is possible to diagnose a patient based on when he perspires most, how much he perspires, the parts of his body that perspires most frequently and the accompanying symptoms. For example, if a patient perspires often in the morning and feels fatigued all the time, then he may be suffering from weak qi. If he is experiencing sweaty palms or feet, then the problem could lie in the spleen. “If the sweat has a yellowish tint, or you find a lot of sweat stains on your clothes, then your body may have a lot of damp heat,” she advises.
Senior Physician Zhou also explains that there are two categories of sweating: spontaneous perspiration and night sweats. Spontaneous perspiration happens mostly in the day and increases during physical activities. Night sweats, as the name suggests, happens mostly at night, especially when the person is sleeping; some people will even be awakened by this type of perspiration. “These symptoms do not discriminate against gender nor age, but are usually more prominent in children under the age of 12,” she reveals. “Senior citizens who are weak, women experiencing menopause and teenagers are also susceptible to these symptoms.”
Senior Physician Zhou does not believe that these symptoms are hereditary; they are more likely due to the imbalance of body functions. If the condition is not accompanied by other symptoms, such as low energy (qi) or dry mouth, then there should be no cause for concern. However, she points out that when it comes to alleviating the condition, diet, TCM and acupuncture are all especially effective.
Photo courtesy of Thinkstock. This article first appeared in NATURA magazine issue No.8. Find NATURA at Eu Yan Sang retail outlets, newsstands and major bookstores in Singapore.