You know that you sweat when you’re hot and you sweat when your body is exerted, but there are other things that our sweat can tell us besides the more obvious stuff. Strangely a lot of how your sweat is reacting to what’s happening in your body can communicate things to other people as well.
When we are stressed for example, our sweat might be giving us away. People who are stress sweating as opposed to sweating from physical exertion are perceived as less confident, less competent, and even less trustworthy.
There are actually totally different sweat glands on the body for different types of sweat, and since the types of sweat are released from different areas on the body, they will also mix with different bacteria to create different types of smells. Studies have shown that people change their judgements of people after smelling their stress sweat, despite not thinking that the sweat smelled worse than sweat from exercise.
Our sweat also seems to let people know that we’re scared. One study found that when men were exposed to something scary and then women smelled their sweat, they were more likely to respond with fearful facial expressions without knowing that they were mimicking the feelings of the men. According to some researchers this shows that emotions might be contagious in a way.
Your sweat can also reveal some things about your diet. One study that took place at the Charles University in Prague found that women prefer the sweat scent of men who are vegetarians as opposed to heavy meat eaters. The study had the same men follow different diets at different times and tested their sweat to keep some element of control involved.
Changes to the scent of sweat can start to happen within a couple hours of eating. Other foods that have been known to change the way that your sweat smells include alcohol, cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower, asparagus, and fish. Some people don’t metabolize fish well and can actually give off a bit of a fishy odor after eating it. When that is the case it is actually due to a genetic disorder called trimethylaminuria.
Diets that are too low in carbohydrates will also cause your sweat to smell strange as well. We use carbs for energy so when we don’t get them the body starts to produce ketone as fuel. Ketones are partly made of acetone, which not only smells but is a clear sign that it’s time to get some healthy carbs into your diet.
Sweat can also share some things about depression levels. One study found that as many of 97 percent of depressed people who end up committing suicide might show signs of hyporeactivity in their sweat.
Hyporeactivity is the reduced ability to react to stimuli, which can play out in feelings of deep apathy that can go along with depression. This could be caused from a wide variety of factors, including inflammation in the brain, long term stress levels, or other things that are caused by their genetic makeup.