Sweating is like watching "Entertainment Tonight": No one wants to talk about it, but we all do it sooner or later. This is especially true in Orlando during summertime, when taking four steps from the car to the front door of Publix is enough to have even the best of us schvitzing harder than a tobacco-industry representative on the witness stand.
So what are we going to do about it? Well, we can start by doing what we always do: Blame our parents.
"Almost everybody sweats, but the amount of glands is genetically determined," says Dr. Alfredo E. Gonzalez, of Winter Park's Central Florida Dermatology (201 N. Lakemont Ave., Suite 2100; 407-645-2737). He draws a distinction between the eccrine glands, which secrete moisture that keeps our bodies cool, and the apocrine glands, which seem to fulfill no other function than to react with bacteria and produce a foul odor that's well known to anyone who's ever ridden a Lynx bus east of Semoran Boulevard in August.
"There's always been the question, 'What the heck are those things doing there?'" he says of the apocrines. "One theory is that, in other mammals, the scent is used for mating and that kind of stuff. There are people who believe that that sort of thing is still going on with humans." (So that's what Gérard Depardieu's secret is.)
"When you're trying to deal with problems of sweating," Gonzalez says, "you use medications or chemicals that will decrease the excretion of apocrine glands. And then use topical antibiotics to decrease the number of bacteria."
The former category includes antiperspirants, which actually retard perspiration (as opposed to standard deodorants, which simply mask its offensiveness). Topical antibiotics are available by prescription only, but an over-the-counter product named Certain-Dri earns the doctor's recommendation: It's a mixture that includes 12 percent aluminum chloride, which "actually decrease[s] the amount of sweating." (The prescription-strength version ups the dose to 20 percent.) More extreme cases, he says, can call for more extreme measures ... but more on that later.
Perspiration problems are only compounded when one engages in that self-punishing, sweat-producing activity that's so alluring to Central Floridians. Do we mean getting loaded at Sapphire and having easy, intimate relations with strangers? No. We mean working out.
"In my profession, if they don't sweat, then I'm not doing something right," says Kirk Klafter, a personal trainer who operates out of the Colosseum of Orlando health club (316 W. Colonial Drive; 407-872-6850). "[But] a lot of times, when someone sweats way too much, that's an indication that they don't drink enough water. The body is letting go of all the excess that they don't need."
"A lot of people these days drink more coffee than water," Klafter says. "They need to have at least five or six glasses a day, maybe more. The only problem is, you're always getting up to go to the bathroom.
"Then again," he admits, "some people are just genetically more 'sweaters' than others." Yeah, and have you seen their parents?
According to Patrick McCarty, a Winter Park-based macrobiotic counselor, author and lecturer, the importance of proper nutrition isn't restricted to H2O intake.
"Everybody sweats when they get hot," McCarty declares. "The macrobiotic diet can help. It's mostly a vegetarian diet, so you tend to be slightly cooler. When you eat a diet that's higher in meat products, the metabolism of those protein foods have residue by-products, kind of like charcoal when you burn wood." This is where the term "burning calories" comes from, he acknowledges.
Eating green vegetables, bean dishes and some fish, McCarty says, "sets up the quality of blood so that you will sweat, the pores will properly open and close and your sweat [won't] have as strong an odor. Someone who does change from a meat-eating diet to more of a vegetarian diet will notice the difference in about three months."
To get started on the path to proper food consumption, he recommends courses at Harriet's Kitchen Cooking School (1136 Oaks Blvd., Winter Park; 407-644-2167), where he'll deliver a May 26 lecture entitled "Macrobiotics: Healthy Diet for a Healthy Life."
"And we'll talk about sweat, too!" he promises.
Of course, it's self-defeating in the extreme to put your menu choices in order and then persist in walking out of the house dressed in a wool parka. E.S. Avery (407-381-7862), an Orlando-based fashion expert/designer, says that her idea of sensible, sweat-free summer attire is based on "fabrics that breathe," predominantly light cottons.
"Knits are better for the winter," she instructs, "although there are some lightweight knits that aren't too bad. As far as fashion's been going here, I've found that people are becoming more casual, probably because of the heat."
The rise of the professional woman, Avery says, has added new complications: Those female executives and office staffers who dot the downtown landscape have enough to sweat about on their jobs without suffering under oppressively heavy suits to boot. To that end, she's currently in the planning stages for a businesswear line that would combine "coolness and comfortability" with style.
"I would definitely choose lightweight materials," she foresees. "The jackets would be shorter-sleeved and the skirts would be a little bit shorter." In other words, moving to Orlando from Boston would make Ally McBeal's sartorial sense a lot more defensible.
So now you're appropriately dressed, your body is toned, you're drinking lots of water and your glands are being properly regulated ... you're ready to have your picture taken, right? Wrong! Charley McMahon (407-359-5304), an Oviedo photographer, says that summertime portraits should be carefully considered and kept indoors if at all feasible.
"Shooting in the outdoors is close to impossible," McMahon dismisses. "Makeup is a difficulty because you start sweating like crazy, and that bleeds off and makes a big mess."
Still, folks continue to choose the mid-year months for their weddings, raising the possibility of having their beaded, wilted selves captured on film for all time (or at least until the divorce comes through, and they cut each other's heads out of the photos). Although he doesn't shoot summer nuptials "and hopefully never will," McMahon nonetheless has some picture-perfect wisdom to share.
"Make sure that you're on the shady side of the church," he warns. Timing, too, is crucial: "I never shoot anything past 9 o' clock [a.m.] outside." And if you discover that your photographer is one of the few who still use the incredibly hot Tungsten lamps for lighting ... well, you might be better off with a courtroom sketch artist.
If adopting all of this expert advice doesn't make you the master of your own self-watering process, you may be a victim of hyperhidrosis -- a medical term that's assigned to humans who exhibit chronic, excessive sweating. (All right, who let Depardieu back in the room?) If that's your lot, you can always consider some of the more advanced procedures with which Dr. Gonzalez is conversant. In one, botox (the toxin that causes botulism) is injected into the nerves that go to the sweat glands, in order to block their moisture production. This operation carries "a major risk of terrible nerve damage," the doctor cautions, although some patients take the even more severe step of undergoing surgery that cuts their nerve terminals entirely.
Not a pretty picture, is it? So if you decide that you'd rather perspire like a farmer than go through life like Frances Farmer, we won't hold it against you. No sweat.