Summer: the season of beach days, camping trips, park walks, picnics, and sweating! Okay, maybe sweating isn’t one of our favorite things about this season. But it is one of the most important functions our bodies carry out to keep us healthy and balanced. Read on to find out just how important it is!
What exactly is sweat?
Sweat is composed primarily of water and sodium chloride (NaCl), or salt. It’s created by three main glands in our skin: the eccrine, apocrine, and apoeccrine glands. Most of the sweat on our bodies comes from the 2-4 million eccrine glands found all over our bodies, while the apocrine and apoeccrine glands are responsible for smaller areas such as our faces, scalps, and armpits. And before you blame sweat for any stinky clothing in your hamper, remember that it's the bacteria on our skin that causes odor-- not the sweat itself.
Sweat regulates your body temperature
You’ve probably heard before that sweat is what keeps our bodies cool. How exactly does that work? Sweating is an essential function of thermoregulation, which is our body’s natural ability to stay balanced within a certain temperature range. In warm weather, when the temperature of the air is warmer than the temperature of our skin, that heat is transferred to the body. And when we exercise, the contracting of our muscles creates large amounts of heat as a byproduct of metabolism. So when we sweat, this heat gets transferred from the body to the water on our skin where it evaporates, keeping our internal body temperature in check.
Sweating is good for your skin
Sweat has developed a bad reputation for its part in causing acne, but it’s actually not to blame for breakouts. On the contrary, sweat plays an important role in keeping our skin barrier healthy. It brings water and natural moisturizing factors, including amino acids, lactate, and potassium, to the surface of the skin and helps it remain hydrated. Because of this, research suggests that sweating may be beneficial in improving eczema, dermatitis, and other conditions related to dry skin. Sweat is also full of antimicrobial peptides, molecules that are part of our innate immune response, which help defend our skin against infection.
When sweat mixes with dead skin cells, oils, and outside bacteria to clog your pores, that’s when acne can strike. Just be sure to cleanse your face after sweating, and you should be good to go!
Sweating might help flush toxins from your system
There’s a reason that saunas and other forms of induced sweating have been a staple of different cultures worldwide for thousands of years. While our bodies requires a wide array of natural chemicals that help them bodies, the environment also contains metal elements with no physiological benefits for our bodies. Often carcinogenic, these toxic metals can increase the likelihood of problems for the nervous, endocrine, renal, musculoskeletal, immunological, and cardiovascular systems. It’s impossible to completely avoid coming into contact with them, but there is evidence that sweating can help eliminate them from your body. One study conducted in a highly industrialized and densely populated area of China found that levels of heavy metals were lower in the sweat of people who performed regular exercise. Other research suggests that sweat is an effective way to rid the body of arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury, four of the most ubiquitous metals in the environment.
Sweating rids your body of plastic chemicals
In addition to the naturally found metal toxins our bodies take in, we often come into contact with man-made industrial chemicals from plastics. BPA, one plastic compound associated with adverse effects on the body, is found in many common household items. But evidence suggests that both BPA and PCBs, another industrial chemical, can be eliminated very effectively through sweat.
So, while you're soaking up the sun and frolicking outdoors this summer (maybe even as a participant in the GO Green Challenge), we encourage you to embrace the sweat, knowing that your body is doing its job to keep itself cool and collected. Get out there and don't sweat the sweat!