5 Embarrassing Body Issues You’re Too Afraid To Talk About
If staying home during the pandemic taught us anything it was the power of introspection. But while meditation and mindfulness can be great when it comes to thinking differently about problems, physical issues can be a little more difficult. Here, we look at five body issues that give many of us sleepless nights (and anxiety-ridden days) offering tips on how to overcome them and find our self-worth.
The issue: Profuse sweating
Also referred to as hyperhidrosis, extreme sweating is not uncommon, with an estimated 365 million people suffering worldwide. For most, the sweating occurs in feet, hands, face, head or underarms. For the latter, the first obvious step is to switch to stronger antiperspirants containing sweat blockers. Bear in mind, extra-strength and clinical varieties contain aluminum chloride–not ideal for those wanting to reduce heavy metal intake so this will need to be a judgement call. For best results it’s advised to use under your arms at night, and reapply in the morning along with regular deodorant. Stronger deodorants will often require daily use for the first few days only, then weekly or as required. Elsewhere, ditching caffeine and spicy food as well as avoiding stress can also help. Try keeping a food diary to determine if particular foods are problematic.
Of course, there is another option: Botox. Not just for eradicating wrinkles, Botox has been approved for use in people aged 18 and older. And according to Harley Street Surgery, “patients who received Botox injections for sweating reported up to a 75% reduction in armpit perspiration within four weeks of treatment.” Doctors also reported an 80-90% success rate when used to treat sweaty palms. Botox injections work by blocking the nerves, which are responsible for activating sweat glands. However, with results lasting between three to six months, repeat treatments would be required.
The issue: A little extra body hair
Hirsutism is a condition in which a person has excessive hair on parts of the body where follicles are normally absent or minimal. This can range from a hairy back to extremely coarse pubic and facial hair. It affects 5-10% of women and is caused by the overstimulation of hormones called androgens. For some women polycystic ovary syndrome is also a cause.
There are many effective ways to tackle excessive hair with shaving and strong hair removal creams being the quickest and cheapest solution, but laser treatments could be a better long-term investment. Take it from someone with direct experience–I lasered my bikini line more than 10 years ago and only now is it starting to reappear.
Laser techniques work by using a light source (a powerful laser or intense pulsed light) to generate heat and destroy hair follicles in the skin, disrupting hair growth in the process. The number of treatments required depend on skin and hair color. While there are many at-home laser products on the market, this is a cosmetic procedure, so for best results it should be performed by a reputable professional.
The issue: Bloating and excessive gas
Food allergies and intolerances are common causes of bloating, with typical offenders including lactose, fructose, wheat, gluten and eggs. And anyone with a form of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) will be all too familiar with the battle of the bloat, and worse still, the excessive gas that can come with it.
Avoiding ingredients you are intolerant or allergic to seems simplistic but it's often advice ignored. If you insist on consuming trigger foods then maybe try to eliminate them on days leading up to you going out–especially if it’s a date! If you’re unsure of the food that affects you then keep a diary and take a food sensitivity and allergy test, available at most medical centers.
However, it's not just diet that triggers bloating; stress is another major culprit. According to the World Journal of Gastroenterology, IBS causes disturbances in the balance between the brain and gut, meaning that it is a stress-sensitive disorder. Therefore, the treatment of IBS should focus on managing stress–try looking into meditation, exercise, mantras and therapists.
“IBS has everything to do with diet, lifestyle and stress levels,” adds Lily Mueller-Valkenberg, a nutritionist, therapist and colon hydrotherapist, suggesting the more stressed we are the less optimal our digestive system. “When we’re stressed, we often don’t chew well, we don’t eat well, and our bodies go tense, making it harder to digest the food.“
The issue: Smelly feet
Everyone has fallen foul to foot odor, particularly after a gruelling gym session, but for some it’s an everyday occurrence often caused by hormonal changes, hence why it's so common among teens and pregnant women. For some it can be a side effect to excessive sweating and, thankfully, is relatively easy to address.
“The odor in feet is caused by the sweat and moisture ‘fermenting’–it’s actually a byproduct and can be any combination of bacteria, fungus, mold, or yeast,” says podiatrist Dr. Jacqueline Sutera. “These odor-causing germs thrive in dark, damp spaces, which makes your shoes an ideal environment. Feet that are not well ventilated can deposit moisture, sweat, and odor into the shoes which will become absorbed into the materials of the shoe from prolonged contact with feet.”
Her advice? Wash your feet everyday–preferably with antibacterial soap. Also, sprinkle your feet with a powder or antiperspirant to help keep them dry. Try to avoid wearing the same pair of shoes more than two days in a row and always keep toenails clean. When it comes to the socks versus no socks debate Dr. Sutera is firmly Team Socks, but in natural fibers, explaining, “When you don’t wear socks there isn’t a barrier and the material in your shoes ends up absorbing the sweat, which in turn grows odor-causing bacteria.”
The issue: Feeling body shame
While this isn’t an embarrassing issue as such, it is an important area to address. Body Dysmorphic Syndrome (BDD) is a mental health disorder in which a person has negative thoughts about a perceived flaw in their appearance. Their obsession over the “flaw” can have a serious psychological effect, affecting confidence and self-worth. It can cause extreme anxiety with some sufferers choosing to avoid social situations as a result.
According to studies published by the U.S. National Library of Medicine, BDD impacts between 0.7% and 2.3% of the general population. However, the more startling find was that 80% of adults suffering from the disorder had suicidal thoughts.
While there are no hard or fast rules in overcoming BDD–or any mental disorder for that matter–Soniyaa Kiran Punjabi, therapist and founder of Illuminations Well-Being Center* recommends making small efforts toward doing things that make you feel body positive.
Punjabi says, “While researchers found that having a negative body image can lead to depression and eating disorders, conversely, on the flip side, having a healthy body image plays an important role in how we view ourselves and how we judge our self-worth.”
As such Punjabi believes changing the narrative in your mind can help you achieve a better outlook on life. “The more you accept all the parts of you–flawed, perfect, awkward, beautiful–the more you will fall in love with yourself and really amp up your self-worth factor,” she recommends. “It’s not easy but the more you find things that feel good about yourself, the easier it will be to feel body positive.” For those truly struggling to change perspective, Punjabi recommends seeking professional help from holistic healers and therapists “who can challenge deep-rooted subconscious beliefs that are keeping you from accepting yourself fully.”
The biggest take home here is to recognise that you are not alone in your suffering, whether it’s an overambitious bikini line, work shirts with the dreaded ring marks or smelly feet, we’re all experiencing at least one form of so-called embarrassing issues. So, rather than dwell on the negatives, focus on what makes you great. Remember, out of all the people in the world there is not one exactly like you, which makes you pretty special. You’re a rare and valuable gem, warts and all.
*Please speak to a medical professional first before following any of the above advice, to rule out any potential underlying conditions.