see also Body Odour
Sweat glands (eccrine glands) are most plentiful on forehead and scalp, palms of hands, soles of feet, in groin and armpits, and around nipples; sweating reduces body heat and gets rid of various wastes. Naturopathically speaking, it is not healthy to suppress perspiration with anti-perspirants.
Excessive perspiration (hyperhidrosis), if not obviously due to hot surroundings or exertion, may he a sign of Fever, Obesity, thyrotoxicosis (loss of weight despite increased appetite, bulging eyes, trembling - see Thyroid Problems), Hodgkin's Disease (swollen glands, especially in neck, itchy skin), or Tuberculosis (night sweats despite few bedclothes, weight loss, coughing); Tuberculosis and Hodgkin's Disease require prompt medical attention.
Body temperature, and therefore sweating, can also be increased by alcohol or withdrawal from alcohol, aspirin, Vitamin B1 deficiency, or wearing man-made fibres; Anxiety produces sweating on forehead, upper lip, soles, and palms - hot flushes suddenly feeling very hot and sweaty - are a common symptom of the Menopause; cold sweats can be a symptom of Hypoglycaemia. Adolescent concerns about increased sweating and Body Odour are related to the fact that sweat glands under arms and in groin do not become active until adolescence. Appreciable amounts of sodium and zinc are lost in perspiration. Smelly feet are a common problem, particularly in teenagers, due to hormone changes. This may also be caused by fungal infections and bacteria. Wash the feet daily and dry them carefully. Wear clean cotton or wool socks and leather shoes or sandals.
If excessive sweating is causing embarrassment, and does not seems to have any clear cause, constitutional homeopathic treatment may help. In the meantime, the remedies below should be tried; they should produce some improvement within about 2 weeks.
Specific remedies to be taken 4 times daily for up to 2 weeks
- Person overweight, cold and clammy, sweat smells sour; head sweats worse at night Calcarea 6c
- Person thin, chilly, prone to sweaty feet which smell unpleasant Silicea 6c
- Hot sweating on head, with diarrhoea first thing in the morning Sulphur 6c
- Sweating worse on head, sweat profuse and sour smelling, cold weather and walking reduce sweating Flouric ac. 6c
- Perspiration very pungent and sticky, made worse by heat or cold Mercurius 6c
- Perspiration smells unpleasant and is worst on feet and under arms, right foot may be hot and left foot cold Lycopodium 6c
Lack of perspiration (anhidrosis) is probably due to some fault in the autonomic nervous system (part of the nervous system which is not under voluntary control); over-heating and possibly Heat Stroke are risks in hot weather. Constitutional treatment is recommended but one or both remedies below should be tried first
Specific remedies to be taken 3 times daily for up to 3 weeks
- Aethusa 6c or, if no improvement, Alumina 6c
Self-help: If you suffer from excessive perspiration, shower night and morning to remove stale sweat (body odour is mostly caused by bacteria, which thrive on sweat), wear cotton underwear and shirts, and change them daily. The answer to smelly feet is to wash and dry them thoroughly at least once a day, avoid nylon socks and tights, and wear sandals rather than shoes. If you must use a deodorant / anti-perspirant, use one which does not contain aluminium (look in your local healthfood shop).