Sweat it out, it’s good for you

Published 11:35 pm Thursday, July 2, 2015

By David Crocker

With all the hot weather we’ve had, it isn’t too difficult to break a sweat, but did you know sweating is almost always good for you. That’s right, but just what is sweat anyway?

Sweat consists of mostly water, but also contains urea, minerals like sodium, lactic acid, sugar and ammonia.

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Here are a few “cool” facts about sweat. Our bodies have approximately two million sweat glands. Also, we have two types of these glands. Eccrine sweat glands are found on the forehead, palms of the hands, and soles of the feet, and Aprocrine sweat glands found on the armpits, and at the end of hair follicles. The highest concentration of sweat glands is located on the soles of the feet; the fewest, on the back.

Hippopotamus sweat is actually red. This red pigment acts as a sunscreen for hippos, while also killing bacteria on their skin. Both primates and horses have armpits that sweat, much like humans. Women have more sweat glands that men, but men sweat on average 40 percent more than women.

One reason we sweat is to regulate body temperature. Body temperatures drop when sweat evaporates from the surface of our skin. Physical exertion, and high temperatures aren’t the only causes for sweating. Perspiring or sweating can be facilitated by emotional conditions, physical ailments, hormonal changes, medication, or even excess weight.

Sweating is usually good for us because, while sweating, the skin’s pores open, allowing the removal of dirt and impurities from our skin’s layers. Sweating also removes toxins from within our bodies. In fact skin is often referred to as “the third kidney.”

Some folks think they can sweat away their body fat, but that just isn’t true. Weight lost from sweating is mainly water weight, and is quickly replaced through rehydration. However, activities that make you sweat do help you burn calories, and just warming your body up enough to sweat helps you burn fat, because your body must burn or use calories to return your body’s temperature back down to normal levels.

One of the most valuable benefits derived from sweating is production of Dermcidin, a natural antibiotic found in sweat. Its antimicrobial effects fight E.coli (which can cause serious gastrointestinal illness), E.faecalis (which can cause endocarditis, bacteremia, urinary tract infection, and meningitis), S.aureus (which can cause staph infections), and C.albicans (which can cause fungal infection). It’s not quite understood just how dermcidin actually works, or its effectiveness against the common cold.

Sweating can sometimes be bad for us if our bodies lose too much water. Remember, while sweating, if your skin is damp, your body’s lost pints of water, if your skin is wet, you could be losing quarts. Your body actually loses water, even while you breathe. When drinking water to re-hydrate yourself, make sure you also replenish electrolytes (minerals), like sodium, potassium, chloride, magnesium, and calcium. These minerals carry muscle’s electrical charges to help them contract properly, and without enough of these minerals your muscles can cramp. Also, losing too much of the mineral sodium through sweating, could cause the very dangerous condition, heat exhaustion, even in cold weather.

I’ll be announcing the date for my next free nutrition/fitness seminar soon. In the meantime, please feel free to send me questions, or topics of interest that we can discuss in addition to the material I’ll present. Diet or exercise question? Email me at dwcrocker77@gmail.com or visit fitness4yourlife.org.

David Crocker of Landrum has been a nutritionist and master personal trainer for 28 years. He served as strength director of the Spartanburg Y.M.C.A., head strength coach for the USC Spartanburg baseball team, S.C. state champion girls gymnastic team, and the Converse college equestrian team. He served as a water safety consultant to the United States Marine Corps, lead trainer to L.H. Fields modeling agency and taught four semesters at USC Union. David was also a regular guest of the Pam Stone radio show.