If you’ve been cooped up all winter and can’t wait to get active outdoors, more power to you. But be warned: Whether youre hitting the track, the links or the tennis courts, youre going to build up a real sweat, which, if left unchecked, could leave you facing a host of unappealing side effects. Were talking body odor, jock itch, athletes foot, and the dreaded bacne.
Fortunately, all of these conditions are largely avoidable -- and also treatable. Men’s Life Today consulted with three experts from very different backgrounds -- a dermatologist, an herbalist, and an Olympic athlete -- to get a range of approaches to these all-too-common afflictions. Pick an approach or mix and match from all three, but ignore their advice at your peril. Girls really don’t like bacne.
Sweat and Body Odor
“As you perspire, particularly in areas under the arms and feet and around the groin, bacteria grows that can create an odor,” explains Dr. Francesca Fusco, a New York City-based dermatologist with more than 25 years of experience. “Anything you can do to minimize perspiration will help cut down on that odor.” She recommends an antiperspirant with deodorant, and daily or more frequent showers. Little-known fact: If you have excessive sweating on your hands or feet, you can use deodorant there too.
A healthy liver assists in dealing with some of the toxins that can cause you to stink, says Barry Sherr, who opened Chamomile Natural Foods in Danbury, Conn., more than 30 years ago. If your liver is overtaxed or unhealthy, it simply can’t keep up. To help get it back on an even keel, Sherr recommends chlorophyll tablets, spirulina, chlorella, mixed greens, wheatgrass or barley grass. Fiber in the diet is also important, and hydration is essential -- particularly when engaging in athletic activity -- so that the body can continue to flush out the toxins, even as it loses water through perspiration.
“I sweat a ton,” says three-time Olympic triathlete Hunter Kemper, “so I always have towels ready and a spare shirt too.” Mostly, Kemper recommends staying hydrated. “If you’re running a loop, put water bottles out along the route beforehand so you can hydrate as you go.” If you’re running particularly hard, he adds, it’s a good idea to occasionally pour the water over your head. “Not only will it help you stay cool, it will help you in your performance.”
Athletes Foot and Jock Itch
“Moisture is your worst enemy here, so it’s very important to keep these areas dry,” says Fusco. “Towel between each toe and in all the nooks and crannies of the groin area.” If you get a fungus despite your best drying efforts, try an over-the-counter product such as Lamisil, she says, which should clear up your issues within two weeks. If not, you’ll need to seek assistance from a dermatologist.
Sherr recommends a three-pronged approach. “Fungus lives off glucose, so you should cut down on carbs; yeast in the body can mutate to a fungal form outside the body.” Second, Sherr advises consuming antifungal foods and supplements, such as garlic, caprylic acid and black walnut. Lastly, he counsels a diet with an ample supply of probiotics -- the good bacteria that will help your body fight the good fight.
“When I go cycling, my shoes get really wet,” says Kemper, who is hoping to qualify in London this summer for his fourth Olympic games. To keep them from becoming fungal breeding zones, he changes out the insoles regularly, and never steps into a pair of shoes with a wet insole. His key to avoiding many fungal issues is simply to be smart -- for example, wearing sandals in the locker room and gym shower to protect himself from contagious fungus.
Good hygiene is particularly important here, says Fusco. As your pores get clogged from sweating, and dead skin begins to build up, acne can take hold. To prevent it, she says, you’ll need to exfoliate and make sure you keep yourself clean, ideally with a deodorant soap. If you’ve already developed a bad case of bacne, don’t fret: Your dermatologist can prescribe a low-dose antibiotic such as Oracea, or a prescription-strength benzoyl peroxide.
According to Sherr, the herb sarsaparilla will prevent testosterone -- which can contribute to back acne -- from getting to the skin. Zinc supplements, omega-3 fish oils and B-vitamins can also help keep problems at bay. The larger issue, though, could be that you need to detoxify. “Skin problems stem from impure blood and impure lymphatics,” he explains. For those with intolerances, cutting out gluten and/or dairy can work wonders toward correcting skin issues.
Kemper suggests investing in clothes that wick moisture and dry quickly. Or you can make it even easier on yourself: “Outdoors, I run without a shirt,” he says.