I am writing this during a record-breaking heat wave that is affecting at least two-thirds of the country. Probably not the best time to be promoting the beneficial effects of sweating! However, it IS a good time to mention that if you are out in severe heat and you are NOT sweating, you are in trouble! Sweating is one of the most effective ways we have of cooling down our body, so as to not overheat and cook ourselves.
Not only does sweating serve the purpose of cooling us, it is also an effective means of eliminating toxins. Daily, or at the very least, weekly sweating, is very important in these times of overexposure to toxic chemicals. Your liver is always working hard to filter out toxins – both the ones you produce during normal metabolic processes, and the extra environmental toxins we are all increasingly exposed to. You can help your liver out by sweating a little each day.
If you don’t sweat, or find it very difficult to sweat, there may be an underlying problem with your sweat glands, you may be dangerously dehydrated or you may just not be expending enough energy to cause sweating. The most common causes of decreased sweating (also called anhidrosis or hypohidrosis) are damage to the sweat glands from skin injury (burns, psoriasis, etc.) or damage to the nerves that control sweating, typically due to diseases that cause neuropathy. The most common cause of neuropathy is diabetes or high blood sugar.
I should also mention that there are also a number of drugs that cause decreased sweating and sometimes this side effect can become lasting or even permanent. According to the Mayo Clinic web site, morphine, botulinum toxin and some drugs used to treat psychosis are known to cause anhidrosis.
Provided you aren’t dealing with any of the conditions that prevent adequate sweating, you may be dealing with an equally dangerous condition called chronic inactivity. I just made that up, but you get what I mean. Even though just sitting outside and sweating while inactive can help with detox, in order to sweat regularly and effectively enough to properly eliminate toxins, you need to move. I have noticed an increased avoidance of sweating in a certain segment of the population. It seems that the older people get, the more they avoid sweating.
One possible reason heat exposure and sweating can become difficult to tolerate, is not being acclimated to the outside environment. We are experiencing less and less exposure to the elements and normal weather variations. When daily routine involves going from our air-conditioned houses to our air conditioned cars to the air-conditioned stores and office buildings, our bodies don’t learn to acclimate to the rigors of the season.
We do have some extremes happening now due to climate change, but with some common sense we can still enjoy the great outdoors during the hot summer months. However, we have to make the effort. I know for myself, life can get so busy that some days the day is over and I realize that I haven’t spent any significant time outside. Daily time outside needs to be scheduled just like any other activity that is important to your health and well-being.
If you feel you have inadvertently de-adapted yourself to heat, you need to slowly re-acclimate with short periods of exposure during the off-peak times of the day – morning and evening. Once you are de-acclimated to heat, it actually becomes dangerous to venture out into the more extreme weather we have in the summer. Your body is not accustomed to it and you can easily overheat. So use caution, but don’t avoid the many benefits of soaking in the natural world.
Once you get yourself acclimated to dealing properly with heat and are sweating adequately, you also need to be sure you increase your hydration. If you are drinking enough, you should be urinating regularly throughout the day and your urine should be nearly clear in color at least once during the day. Equally as important, you need to make sure you are replenishing your electrolytes. The easiest way to do this is to add a small pinch of sea salt to a couple of your glasses of water during the day.
I rarely find that people are drinking enough water. The general rule is to drink half of your weight in ounces each day. That can be a bit much if you weigh more than 200 lbs. In that case, I advise aiming for a minimum of eight 8 ounce glasses every day, but include more if you are sweating a lot. This is another habit where, for your comfort, you should work up to the recommended amount gradually.
Hopefully the above treatise on the glories of perspiration will inspire you to get outside more and let your skin glisten, at least a little. In case you are not convinced, here’s three more benefits of sweating that may motivate you:
- Reduction of chronic inflammation and the serious diseases it causes, namely heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Scientists now recognize chronic inflammation as the root cause of nearly all disease. Removing toxins decreases inflammation in the body.
- Reduction of the stress response that the negative side effects of stress hormones, such as increased blood sugar and belly fat.
- Increased removal of heavy metals and other damaging chemicals such as plastic residues. (Studies have indicated that sweating is more effective than the kidneys at removal of certain toxins.)