Is sweat healthy?

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Sweating is often seen as an annoyance, especially as the weather is warming up, and a short walk to our car will have us relentlessly wiping the moisture off our skin.اضافة اعلان

Despite being sometimes unsightly, sweating is important for us, especially during exercise.

Why do we sweat?
Our body maintains a certain body temperature between 36.1–37.2oC. Going above or below this range can result in hyperthermia or hypothermia, respectively.

Hyperthermia is the result of thermoregulation failure, which is not to be confused with a fever. A fever occurs when our body temperature rises due to some infection or other disturbance in the body.

There are two ways the body cools down and remains in a healthy temperature range: Vasodilation and sweating.

Vasodilation is when the blood vessels under the skin widen and blood flow to the skin increases, allowing warm blood to leave the inner body and radiate heat externally. Unfortunately, if the temperature outside is very warm, this may not be a very effective measure.

Sweating is likely the most important and most effective thermoregulatory mechanism we possess. As we begin warming up, our skin’s pores widen, and sweat glands start to secrete salty water. As the sweat begins to dry and evaporate, heat is carried off with it and the body, in turn, cools down.

If an individual is incapable of sweating, they can be at high risk for hyperthermia.

Why do we sweat as much as we do?
There are many causes of sweating, and not all are due to hyperthermia. Sweating is common for those experiencing a fever because the body is intentionally raising the temperature to help fight infection or an underlying condition causing dysregulation of temperature.

Certain substances can also increase body temperature and induce sweating. But the more common causes of sweating are high environmental temperatures and physical activity.

In terms of physical activity, men generally tend to sweat more than women, and younger people tend to sweat more than older people. Body mass, genetics, and humidity levels affect how much we sweat. Movement intensity, fitness level, and environment in which we work out are even greater factors in how much we sweat.

Note that the more we exercise in a warmer temperature, the greater our endurance and the more efficient our body is at regulating body temperature.

Benefits of sweating

The ability to efficiently regulate our body temperature is the top benefit. Through sweating, we can build endurance and sustain physical activity at a moderate to high intensity for longer periods.

Sweating can also help prevent a serious condition known as heat stroke, a potentially life-threatening condition where the body rapidly increases in temperature. Sweating can be a decent self-indicator of exercise intensity level. During cardio, many will use sweating as a positive indication that they are exerting enough energy.

Although sweat is made up mostly of water, there are many other components contained within it, and as we sweat, we lose water from within the body which can increase the concentration of certain chemicals such as salts (commonly referred to as electrolytes), ammonia, and urea.

To balance the concentration inside the body, we secrete these chemicals alongside the water lost.

Heavy metals, such as cadmium, lead, and aluminum, are normal in trace amounts within the human body. We accumulate them from the environment, pollution, and food. However, at high levels, these heavy metals can become toxic. A 2010 study assessed the amount of heavy metal excreted in sweat and urine and found that sweat can excrete many trace heavy metals but was more effective at eliminating cadmium, lead, and aluminum than urination.

A separate study conducted in 2016 found that those who exercised regularly had lower levels of most heavy metals.

Elimination of other toxic chemicals such as bisphenol A (BPA) and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB) is another benefit. BPA and PCB are man-made chemicals that have been shown to have adverse health effects on the human body.

Concerns of sweating

Sweating is a normal human body function and does not carry many risks. The only potential concerns are the cause of sweating and the quantity.

During physical activity or being in a hot environment, sweating is perfectly normal. If you are at rest and in a cool environment and sweating excessively, then there may be an underlying issue such as hyperhidrosis.

There are two major forms of hyperhidrosis: primary and secondary. Primary hyperhidrosis simply means that there is no underlying condition causing excessive sweating. It is an inherited condition that often begins in childhood and manifests as excessive sweating of the hands, feet, underarms, face, and head.

On the other hand, secondary hyperhidrosis is more concerning since there is an underlying cause for sweating. This often begins in adulthood and can affect the entire body or certain areas. Secondary hyperhidrosis is commonly caused by diabetes or low blood sugar, conditions relating to the thyroid, menopause, nervous system disorders, or gout.

In secondary hyperhidrosis, treating the underlying condition is important to stop the sweating.

Dehydration is another risk, as when there is not enough water in the body, it could be potentially life-threatening. And one of the most common causes of high water loss is sweating, followed by poor water intake. As a result, it is important to ensure that you remain adequately hydrated before, during, and after workouts.

Since normal electrolytes are also lost during sweating, it is important to ensure you receive the appropriate amount through your diet to replenish. Various sports drinks contain electrolytes that can help replace what is lost. Just be sure not to exceed the recommended amount, as an imbalance can result in adverse effects.

Not sweating can be potentially just as dangerous as you can no longer efficiently regulate your body temperature, which can indicate dehydration.

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