Is Sweating Good for You?

When you think of sweating, you probably find it gross and sticky (and maybe a little stinky too). But sweating is a completely natural, normal and healthy process that is good for you. Learn more about what happens when you sweat and how it benefits your health.

Why do we sweat?

To really start sweating, you usually participate in an activity that causes your heart rate to increase, your breathing to intensify, and your muscles to ache. Or you can just be relaxing on a hot day in the sun at the beach.

Yes, humans sweat a lot during physical activity and when exposed to heat. Think of your body as an engine.

If it gets too hot, it can malfunction. Like a car, your body will "break down" in the form of overheating or, in the worst case, in the form of heat stroke.

But how exactly does sweat cool the body? In fact, it is very simple. When sweat comes out of the pores and hits the air, it evaporates, which has an immediate cooling effect on the body.

If you live in a humid environment or you just sweat a lot, it can often seem like sweating isn't effective (because sweat doesn't evaporate either, and you end up wet and stinking). Moisture-wicking clothing made from fabrics like nylon and polyester can help with this.

While heat and physical activity are the main drivers of sweating, they are not the only two things that can make people sweat.

Emotions like fear, nervousness, and anxiety can also cause moisture to seep through your pores. Some people also sweat in response to spicy foods, alcoholic beverages, or caffeine. Fighting an infection, especially a fever, can also make you sweat.

Sweating is a natural process that occurs when your body goes out of homeostasis, that is, when something in your body is out of balance, usually in an attempt to lower body temperature.

What's in the sweat?

Sweat is primarily water, but it contains small amounts of salt, other electrolytes and minerals (including potassium, chloride, magnesium, zinc, and copper), protein, urea, and ammonia.

You'll want to replenish your electrolytes after a heavy sweating session, but everything else is waste and sweat is how your body excretes itself.

Why does sweat smell?

The truth is, sweat itself doesn't really smell. It is practically odorless! However, you suck when you sweat, so what happens?

When sweat reaches the surface of the skin, it mixes with bacteria and chemical reactions occur. The by-products of these chemical reactions include compounds that really suck.

For example, underarm sweat comes from the apocrine glands, which produce bacteria that multiply rapidly in the presence of sweat and turn it into odorous acids.

This is especially true with the apocrine glands that are concentrated around the hair follicles, because they produce more greasy sweat than the dilute sweat that comes out of the eccrine glands. This is why your armpits smell worse than, say, your forearms.

Is sweating good for you?

Yes, in general, sweating is good for you. If you don't sweat, you may overheat and pass out quickly or have other heat-related medical problems. You may have severe muscle cramps, feel very weak, and flushed.

When you don't sweat at all or enough to cool your body, it's called anhidrosis or hypohidrosis.

Health experts generally recognize sweating as a good thing because most people sweat when doing activities that improve their overall health.

Physical activity has a multitude of proven health benefits and is the key to keeping your body healthy as you age. All types of exercise can make you sweat, from walking and lifting weights to high-intensity interval training.

Does sweat really 'detox' you?

Kind of. Sweat helps the body excrete waste, but the amounts are so low that most experts do not consider sweating to be a "detox."

"Detox" is kind of a made-up word anyway, because your body has all sorts of systems running all the time that remove waste. Your digestive system, lymphatic system, urinary system, and cardiovascular system eliminate toxins in different ways.

However, some research has found that sweating is an effective route to remove certain toxins, including bisphenol A (BPA, a chemical found in disposable water bottles and other plastic items) and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). , another chemical class).

Sweating can also help remove heavy metal toxins from the body, according to limited research. Expert opinions differ on this and more research is needed to confirm the effects.

So while you may feel refreshed after a sweat session, that happy, healthy feeling is not the product of a "sweat detox," it is more than likely a product of all the endorphins your body releases in response to exercise.

Can you sweat a lot?

Like sweating a bit, sweating a lot can pose health risks. Excessive sweating, clinically known as hyperhidrosis, can cause dehydration if body fluids are not replenished. Whenever you sweat a lot, such as during exercise or on a hot day, you should be careful to drink plenty of electrolyte fluids.

Watch out for these signs of dehydration:

  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Muscle cramps
  • Dry mouth and lips.
  • Dizziness and vertigo
  • Reduction in the frequency of urination.
  • Dark colored urine

Mild dehydration can be remedied with adequate fluid intake, reduced physical activity, and seeking shelter from the hot sun. Severe dehydration may require IV fluids. If you think you are severely dehydrated, seek emergency medical attention.

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