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Alcohol and Excessive Sweating

Have you heard about the connection between alcohol and sweating? Alcohol is known to increase excessive sweating related to hyperhidrosis, and here is why!
Alcohol and Excessive Sweating

You probably enjoy a drink every now and then, but have you ever stopped to wonder how it may be affecting your excessive sweating? Alcohol consumption is a common practice, especially among young adults. Most people are aware that drinking alcohol causes certain physiological side effects in the body, like a hangover the day after. However, most are unaware of the connection between alcohol and certain medical conditions. Recent data suggests that about 4% of all deaths globally can be attributed to alcohol.[1] While most of the potential effects from alcohol are not so morbid, the side effects of alcohol use can have a negative impact on an individual's health, especially for someone who has a pre-existing condition. This is the case for anyone who suffers from hyperhidrosis.

Hyperhidrosis is a condition that causes a person to sweat in excess of what is needed by the body to maintain a healthy internal temperature.[2] For a person with hyperhidrosis, alcohol consumption is not the maincause of their excessive sweating, but it can greatly increase the amount of sweat they produce. Essentially, drinking alcohol increases the amount of sweat the body produces and this is an issue for people who already sweat excessively. Alcohol intolerance can also cause a person to sweat more excessively than normal, as can alcohol withdrawal. So, it is important to note how your body responds to alcohol when you're drinking. If you notice that drinking increases your sweat production, then practicing moderation should help.

Does Alcohol Make You Sweat?

So, how exactly does alcohol cause someone to sweat more? Alcohol affects many of the organ systems in the body, but it's notable symptoms come from how it impacts the brain. This accounts not only for the changes in behavior that people experience, but for some of the physiological side effects as well. Alcohol is a known sedative and a mild anesthetic, which means that it works on the parts of the brain that are responsible for certain physiological functions. Some of the physiological changes caused by alcohol are flushing, sweating, tachycardia (increased pulse) and increases in blood pressure.

These physiological changes are thought to occur due to stimulation of the hypothalamus and the release of chemicals called sympathetic amines and pituitary-adrenal hormones.[3] While this sounds complicated, it can be explained fairly simply. The hypothalamus is responsible for regulating physiological processes like body temperature, breathing, thirst, hunger, and other automatic regulatory systems. So, when the hypothalamus is stimulated by alcohol, excessive sweating can be the result. This is because it is interfering with the part of the brain that controls temperature regulation which is why the body produces sweat in the first place. This is important for someone with hyperhidrosis to be aware of because the extra sweating alcohol causes will impact them more strongly than someone who does not have a preexisting sweat condition.

Interestingly, it is thought that hyperhidrosis may be caused by a dysfunction of the sympathetic nervous system, which also happens to be controlled by the hypothalamus.[2] This is one of the parts of the brain that is specifically affected by alcohol, so it makes sense that excessive sweating is a symptom of both alcohol intake and hyperhidrosis. Some people also report experiencing night sweats and an increase in stress sweating after consuming alcohol, although the association has not been confirmed.

Alcohol Withdrawal and Excessive Sweating

Intoxication is not only way alcohol causes excessive sweating - alcohol withdrawal can also cause it. This happens when a person with an alcohol addiction consumes it on a regular basis and then suddenly stops drinking. Alcohol acts as in a way that depresses the nervous system and slows its activity, and the opposite effect is seen in people who are going through withdrawal. This means that the activity in their brain will be overstimulated and they experience painful side effects as a result. Physical signs that someone is experiencing an overactive autonomic nervous system as a result of alcohol withdrawal include rapid heartbeat, excessive sweating, and shaking. Alcohol withdrawal is actually one of the underlying causes of secondary generalized hyperhidrosis, a condition that explains the development of sudden excessive sweating. Other symptoms that can be caused by alcohol withdrawal include seizures, hallucinations, delirium, and other psychological distress.[4] Alcohol withdrawal is a serious condition and it is important for someone struggling with it to receive medical attention.

Alcohol Intolerance and Excessive Sweating

Some people suffer from a condition called alcohol intolerance which causes them to have a negative reaction to consuming alcohol. This is due to a genetic variation that prevents them from being able to metabolize alcohol normally. Some people with this condition experience excessive sweating as a result. Other symptoms include facial flushing, GI issues, and other physiological manifestations. Alcohol intolerance only causes symptoms after it has been ingested.[5]

Is Alcohol Safe for Someone With Hyperhidrosis?

If you have hyperhidrosis it is still safe for you to drink alcohol, but it is a good idea for you to understand how alcohol affects you and your condition. Once you know how alcohol affects your sweating you will have more control over your circumstances. You can choose how much you drink and be aware of any discomfort caused by the extra sweating it may cause. This information can empower you to make informed decisions about your alcohol consumption. If you are struggling with excessive sweating it is probably beneficial for you to drink in moderation so you don’t exacerbate your condition, but the decision is up to you. Typically, the more someone drinks, the worse their excessive sweating will be.

For some people, the connection between hyperhidrosis and anxiety can be a concern when it comes to drinking. Hyperhidrosis has been associated with an increased likelihood for using alcohol due to the fact that it can cause social anxiety. However, a recent study has found that although there is a connection between these factors, participants did not have a significant problem with alcohol abuse.[6] Essentially, a person with hyperhidrosis should look at drinking in a practical way. It is relatively harmless for them to indulge in a glass or two of their preferred drink, but they should be aware of how drinking affects their body. They will ideally learn how much drinking causes them discomfort and only drink up to that point. It is never recommended to drink excessively, and anyone drinking alcohol should be aware of its potential for abuse.

Sources
  1. Eze, N. M., Njoku, H. A., Eseadi, C., Akubue, B. N., Ezeanwu, B. A., Ugwu, U. C., & Ofuebe, J. I. (2017). Alcohol consumption and awareness of its effects on health among secondary school students in Nigeria. Medicine, 96(48). doi:10.1097/MD.0000000000008960
  2. Huddle, J. R. (2014). Hyperhidrosis: Causes, Treatment Options and Outcomes. New York, NY: Nova Science.
  3. Paton, A. (2005). Alcohol in the Body. British Medical Journal, 330, 85-87. doi:10.1136/bmj.330.7482.85
  4. Morozova, T. B., Mackay, T. F., & Anholt, R. R. (2014). Genetics and genomics of alcohol sensitivity. Molecular Genetics and Genomics, 289(3), 253-269. doi:10.1007/s00438-013-0808-y
  5. Skin Diseases and Conditions - Hyperhidrosis; Researchers from Umea University Detail Findings in Hyperhidrosis (Primary hyperhidrosis: Implications on symptoms, daily life, health and alcohol consumption when treated with botulinum toxin). (2016, October). Health and Medicine Week.
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