4 Things You Need to Know About Your Weird Sweating

April 13, 2016

Quick anatomy lesson: you have two types of sweat glands: eccrine and apocrine.

Eccrine glands are found most all over your body while apocrine glands are mostly located under the arms and in the anogenital region (yup, just what you were thinking: the crotch).

  • Apocrine glands respond to hormone changes and start to work during puberty.
  • Eccrine glands secrete mostly water and salt in effort to cool you off, while apocrine glands are paired with hair follicles. They are more continuous secreters of a fattier type sweat into the gland tubule of each hair follicle, vs. only responding to elevated temperature. Their sweat is greasier and because of it’s fatty acid content (which bacteria on your skin metabolize) it accounts for smellier sweat.

Both types of sweat are essentially odorless, but apocrine sweat once it’s worked on by your skin’s bacteria, will then get smelly.

1. What makes you sweat at odd times or not at all?

Many hormonal fluctuations and issues can create some odd sweats – or lack of it. Here’s what’s up with weird sweating:

Excess Sweating

There are two types of too much sweat: primary and secondary.

  1. Primary hyperhidrosis is excessive sweating in the hands, underarms, face, and feet without any apparent reason.
  2. The secondary type is excess sweating all over the body and typically due to a medical condition (such as Fabry’s disease or certain inherited metabolic disorders) or overmedication of certain prescription meds.

What we’re talking about here is considered primary and is often due to hormonal shifts. For example, hyperthryoidism (elevated thyroid hormones) can certainly crank up your temp and leave you sweaty. This can happen transiently with Hashimoto’s (keep scrolling down to find out more in a bit) or more consistently with hormone secreting nodules or Grave’s disease (also autoimmune, like Hashi) for example.

But more commonly it can be in response to adrenaline, your short term, high octane stress hormone.

This can happen in an obvious situation of stress, like nearly getting smacked by a NYC cab, having an argument, hearing distressing news, exercise, or anything else that jolts you into stress. This can also show up as what feels like sweating for no reason or even at rest when you are running low cortisol and a seemingly benign stress like low blood sugar can cause a burst of adrenaline to keep you going. We see this with HPA Axis Dysfunction (the communication between your brain and adrenal glands) or hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).


What About Excess Sweating During Or After Exercise?

While sweating is of course part of exercise, if you find yourself excessively sweaty when you try to cool down, your face flushed and your heart rate unable to come down, or with blotchy, red and possibly itchy skin, then you may be dealing with histamine intolerance.

I cover histamine intolerance in depth on this episode of the Dr. Brooke Show  and in this post.

If you’d like to download a FREE guide to Histamine Intolerance to take a closer look at what symptoms can be part of this issue, what supplements can help and a collection of low histamine recipes then grab that here.


Other Causes Of The Spontaneous Sweats

The one you’ve probably already heard of: estrogen.

Think menopausal hot flashes and night sweats. It isn’t so much that low estrogen causes the temperature control problems but rather the fluctuating estrogen levels as your ovaries sputter to make hormones during the months to years of peri-menopause. They sorta try and try and then finally kick out some estrogen so you’re in an overall low estrogen time but with intermittent spikes.

This up and down sends a very mixed signal to your hypothalamus – the part of your brain that controls temperature by directing your sweat glands and muscles to make changes in sweating and pore opening.

If you’re dealing with low or fluctuating estrogen and hot flashes there are so many natural herbs, like black cohosh that can be helpful (check out this blend) as can bioidentical hormone replacement.


I talk all about perimenopause, HRT and more in these two episodes of the Dr Brooke Show and of course, this is what I do in my practice! Email me for more info about working together.


Estrogen is probably what comes to mind for most when they think of hot flashes, however, there’s another relatively common cause of hot flashes and seemingly random sweating if you have Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism and that’s: a temporary, hyper-thyroid situation or Hashimoto’s flare.

What happens is this: you get a flare in your immune system due to some trigger and the attack on your thyroid gets turned up a bit. When it does, tissue gets destroyed and those damaged thyroid cells will dump their contents, thyroid hormones, into your system. This often lasts a day or two but can for sure make you feel sweaty, hot and wound up.

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If you’ve ever felt like a Hangry B*tch and are ready to balance your hormones and restore your joy in just 5 simple steps then Hangry is for you!



2. What If You Don’t Sweat?

Lack of sweating, or sweating with very little exertion, is often low electrolytes as part of HPA Axis Dysfunction.  This can be easily remedied by supplementing with electrolytes such as sodium, potassium and magnesium – and more than what’s in coconut water as you need a decent dose of the sodium and potassium in particular. This blend is great as is the high sodium electrolyte, LMNT. 


If you have Hashimoto’s or other autoimmune issue, lack of sweating can be due to something more serious like Sjogren’s disease (which is an autoimmune disease that can damage the sweat glands) or autoimmune damage to the autonomic nervous system such as Parkinson’s or diabetes.

Next to low electrolytes though, perhaps the most common cause of not sweating is being hypo- or low thyroid.

When your thyroid hormones are low, you won’t respond to temperature changes as quickly. You’ll also feel “heat intolerant”, like you just can’t stand a hot room or hotter temps outside.

“But, Dr. Brooke, I had my thyroid checked and was told I was A-OK”. Most often when we ask for our thyroid to be checked or have it screened on routine bloodwork we get one, maybe two markers (TSH, thyroid stimulating hormone and maybe a T4, thyroxine, your main thyroid hormone) but this is a far cry from a full thyroid workup – it’s just not what is typically ordered from a conventional standpoint both in terms of how most docs practice and constraints of insurance.

There are so many more aspects to ensuring you have adequate thyroid hormones in your system including sufficient levels of T3 which is your more active form of thyroid hormone vs. the more commonly assessed T4, high enough levels of free hormones (seen on a blood test as free T4 and free T3) and thyroid antibodies (TPO and TG antibodies on a blood test).


To be sure you’re getting a full thyroid panel and that you’re assessing especially T3 levels, check out this FREE Guide for Lab Testing for women. 


3. About The Smell

Again, it’s not the sweat itself so much but the bacteria on your skin metabolizing the fatty acids in sweat.

Smellier sweat can be in response to changes in your female hormone balance and higher testosterone or other androgens. Many women notice changes to their body odor or sweat smell at ovulation or at the start of their period, during perimenopause or in conditions where androgens are typically high such as PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome).

And if you have PCOS it’s easy to have a couple of sweaty problems on your hands as Hashimoto’s is very common in PCOS, as are adrenal issues and many of us have elevated testosterone which increases oil production but not necessarily sweat. But added oil to the bacteria and sweat combo you’ve got going and you get smellier.

One other cause of added sweat with PCOS is if you have an elevation in less discussed androgens like DHEA and androsteinedione (very, very common in PCOS but rarely tested for). This active androgen can not only make you a bit oilier but will also drive cortisol so you may be sweatier…and smellier.

Order Hangry right now!

If you’ve ever felt like a Hangry B*tch and are ready to balance your hormones and restore your joy in just 5 simple steps then Hangry is for you!


4. What To Do

When you don’t understand the cause, this can be a seriously stressful and embarrassing situation leaving one running to the doc for answers.

Medications like beta blockers or anti-cholinergic medications are available to block the stress response, as are botox injections to the sweat glands themselves. In severe cases, there’s also surgery to block the constant stimulation of autonomic nerves that turn on the sweat glands. And of course there’s more heavy duty anti-perspirants with more toxic ingredients like aluminum.

However when we understand what’s causing the sweating with an adequate hormonal workup and investigate lesser known issues like histamine intolerance you we can get you back in balance with less invasive treatments.


Here are a few things to try and some suggestions on anti-perspirants, etc.:

If you’re feeling intermittently sweaty or have noticed a sudden change in sweating pattern, get your hormones checked: cortisol, estrogen, thyroid, testosterone, etc. Ideally a combination of blood and saliva (for cortisol) in this case. Again, grab this lab guide to help.

Hormonal changes will often change your body odor or sweat smell, but so will the bacteria present on your skin. Start with a good rotation of probiotics including a soil based probiotic like this one.

Sage is a long used herbs to decrease sweating (however, do not use if you have estrogen positive breast cancer or otherwise need to avoid estrogen related medications and herbs.)

Herbs that support your stress response and calm the nervous system such as adrenal adaptogens like rhodiola and ashwaganda found in my adapt+cope product and chill out herbs like valerian, chamomile, hops, etc. found in calm+sleep. B vitamins are a great addition here too, this blend will cover your B bases with activated forms of your key B vitamins.

And if you’re a sweaty mess consider these deodorant/anti-perspirant options:

  • Keep the heavy duty, more toxic deodorants (i.e. with aluminum) for when you really need them i.e. a big date, giving a talk, etc.
  • If you want some natural under arm action try BeautyCounter Clean Deo – the best natural deodorant around in my opinion as it’s free of baking soda. Baking soda is a common ingredient in natural deodorants and it works great…until you get a rash. The baking soda rash happens is incredibly common and often happens after using a natural deodorant with baking soda for a week or more, so skip that issue that try the Clean Deo in a few amazing scents and help your smell and your hormones with clean beauty.


While most sweating problems are part of hormonal imbalances, it’s important to see a doctor right away if you:

  • Get goosebumps when it is hot
  • Have a rapid heart rate
  • Feel dizzy
  • Are experiencing muscle weakness
  • Have nausea and/or vomiting

As always, I’m in your corner so reach out for more customized help and to work together to get your sweating or other hormonal issue under control. Just email!

Order Hangry right now!

If you’ve ever felt like a Hangry B*tch and are ready to balance your hormones and restore your joy in just 5 simple steps then Hangry is for you!






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