Sweat is a near-universal experience. But how many of us really understand how perspiration works, and why?
Sweating can be embarrassing if you’re at school, work, or spending a night out on the town. Sweat marks and the stench could leave you in a pit of embarrassment but could also be beneficial to your health.
Perspiration keeps the body from overheating and short-circuiting. When your core temperature rises much higher than 98.6 degrees F, the hypothalamus — your brain’s thermostat — signals the exocrine system’s sweat glands to activate. Perspiration rises to the skin’s surface through pores and evaporates when it hits the air, keeping you cool.
The almost 1 liter of sweat our bodies produce per day can strengthen our immune system and give us healthy-looking skin.
We are born with between 2 million and 4 million sweat glands located all over our bodies — except a few places like our lips and ear canals.
Sweat serves a purpose — as a barometer of effort, as an indicator of stress, as a measure of health, and also as a literal lifesaver: If it weren’t for sweat cooling our bodies down and flushing our toxins out, we’d all perish much sooner.
Every time you sop up sweat with a towel after a hard workout, you wipe away potentially revealing information.
“There are so many chemicals in sweat it’s unbelievable,” says Ali Javey, professor of electrical engineering and computer sciences at University of California, Berkeley and the paper’s senior author. “And every chemical is associated to different information about your health.”
Your sweat signals more than the intensity of your workout. Everything from your mood to your diet—and even the way women and me react to each other’s presence—is literally leaking from your body, according to a slew of recent research.
About 3 percent of the world’s population has hyperhidrosis, which causes someone to sweat a lot — four to five times as much as the average person.
Hyperhidrosis appears to have a genetic component, secondary hyperhidrosis can result from an underlying condition, such as lymphoma, hyperthyroidism, or diabetes, or as a side effect of medication.
“Primary hyperhidrosis, while not life threatening, is certainly life altering,” says Lisa Pieretti, executive director and co-founder of the International Hyperhidrosis Society.
Low Blood Sugar
When an individual’s blood sugar level drops below 70 to 100 milligrams per deciliter, sudden and excessive sweating may occur as a warning sign. Sweat typically gathers around the back of the neck and hairline during this instance.
An overactive thyroid causes hormonal changes that cause excessive sweating. Sweating typically reduces when the overactive thyroid is treated with medication or surgery.
Constant sweating can be a sign of lymphoma, or cancer of the lymph cells, but medical experts still don’t really know why this happens. Some believe the perspiration is actually a result of the body responding to a symptom of lymphoma, like a high fever. This can also be a side effect of a number of other serious health conditions, including gout, hyperthyroidism, and Parkinson’s disease.
Some heart attacks are sudden and intensely painful, but most start slowly, with mild pain or discomfort that lasts just a few minutes. As a result, people often wait hours to seek help, a delay that can be lethal.
But researchers reported that there is one symptom that apparently causes people to seek help more quickly: sweating.
“Heart attack patients often deny symptoms, [thereby] delaying treatment, but those who sweat are more likely to seek treatment earlier,” says Catherine Ryan, PhD, RN, project coordinator of medical-surgical nursing in the department of nursing at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
As a result of pregnancy, the endocrine system (a collection of hormone producing glands) of a woman goes haywire. This often causes sweating out of nowhere. Such hormonal changes send false signals to the brain’s thermostat telling the brain that the body needs to cool down immediately. This can happen even at a time when you are sitting in an air conditioned room.
Most women experience intense hot flashes in the years that lead to menopause. This happens due to the hormones becoming uncontrollable and the endocrine system works harder to cool down the body owing to excessive sweating.
Aside from its temperature-regulating effect, sweating has been shown in recent studies to excrete toxins, including arsenic, mercury, lead, and cadmium, as well as rev up circulation and clear the pores.
Remedies to reduce sweating
One teaspoon of apple cider vinegar and two teaspoons of natural vinegar three times a day reduces excessive sweating. This concoction should be taken a half an hour after or before a meal or on an empty stomach. Placing potato slices or a mixture of cornstarch and baking soda on the underarms can spot-check any excessive sweat that comes from the armpits.