In terms of beauty, our society doesn’t look too kindly on sweat.
We may be beset by advertisements encouraging us to live the sweat life, but those ads are usually accompanied by images of pristine-looking men and women without so much as a touch of glow on their brows.
The beauty industry has even gone so far as to employ chemistry to physically block our sweat glands - in the form of antiperspirant - rather than allow a little moisture to escape our underarms.
We at Nala have a different approach to sweat.
We think sweating is nothing short of a small miracle.
The release of moisture from the pores of your skin is a highly effective, fine-tuned system with significant health benefits - and it’s time we started celebrating it.
How sweat works
Sweat is secreted through the pores of the skin via our sweat glands. We all have between 2 and 4 million sweat glands in our body, although the number doesn’t necessarily dictate how sweaty an individual will be: factors like gender, genetics, environmental conditions, age and fitness level/weight tend to determine sweat more than quantity of glands.
Eccrine sweat glands are spread throughout the body, and their chief role is to regulate the body’s temperature.
When our autonomic nervous system (aka our involuntary body responses) experiences a rise in body temperature, it signals the eccrine glands to emit a mix of water, sodium, and other trace materials in the form of sweat. This sweat then cools to the temperature of the air outside the body, and helps to drop our internal temperature.
This automatic reaction is easiest to notice on a cool day if you’ve been exercising - as soon as you stop moving your sweat cools quickly, as does your overall body temp (sometimes to your detriment). Still, how cool is it that our body intrinsically releases sweat in order to keep our temperature out of the danger zone?
The other kind of sweat gland is the apocrine gland, found only in the underarm and the groin.
While these glands respond to rising body temperature, they’re also triggered to release sweat when we experience anxiety, stress, and/or fluctuating hormones. Unlike eccrine glands, apocrine sweat glands release a bacteria that helps to break down sweat, but is also responsible for body odour.
Regardless of number or kind, our sweat is essential for maintaining a healthy body temperature range.
But that’s not all.
The detoxification, or “detoxing” of our bodies is still an incredibly important process (albeit one that’s often misrepresented).
Our sweat is an essential form of natural bodily detox, which is why practices like steaming, saunas and sweat lodges have existed for centuries.
We’d like to clear a few things up for you, though.
First, our body has another finely tuned system that mostly manages the toxins that enter our bodies: between our liver and kidneys, most of the harmful substances we ingest or absorb are processed, contained and expelled.
Problems start to arise, however, when our bodies are overwhelmed by toxins and the liver and kidneys can no longer process the load. When this happens, excess toxins are stored in our fat, and, from there, secreted through our sweat glands.
The most important thing you can do for detoxification is to support your vital organs by eating well, minimizing drug and alcohol intake, and avoiding chemically-laden cleaning and cosmetic products.
However, given the sheer volume of environmental toxins we come into contact with daily, regular sweating due to exercise or saunas is a great way to detoxify, provided you’re staying hydrated.
Rather than mortification at your sweat, try reminding yourself that sweat is a sign your body is monitoring itself, ensuring all systems are go, and flushing harmful substances.
Everything in moderation
Allow us to restate our position: sweating is awesome, in moderation.
About 3% of the population of North America suffers from a condition called Hyperhydrosis, or excessive sweating.
We’re not talking about the occasional embarrassing sweat stain, either: people with severe hyperhydrosis can have trouble doing everyday things like gripping a steering wheel or writing with a pen, if the condition is localized to their palms (for instance).
If you think your sweating has gone well beyond what’s healthy, talk to a healthcare professional.
If you contend with the occasional sweat stain, rejoice! Your body is functioning beautifully.