Why Do We Sweat?
Sweating is an essential function of the human body whose primary role is to regulate body temperature (thermoregulation).
Why do we sweat?
Sweat cools the body through a process called evaporative cooling. The segment of the brain responsible for temperature control is the hypothalamus, which acts as the body’s thermostat. It responds to stimuli (e.g. entering a warmer temperature or consuming spicy foods) by signaling the sympathetic nervous system, which then stimulates the eccrine sweat glands to secrete sweat to the skin’s surface. The sweat, made up primarily of water and electrolytes, evaporates and subsequently cools the body.
We sweat every day, even when we don’t realize it. The average adult can release up to 10 litres of sweat every day! The amount we sweat depends on a number of factors such as age, sex, body composition, and fitness level. Some common triggers that elicit a sweating response are stress, exercise, weather, and certain foods.
There are approximately 2-4 million sweat glands on the adult human body, of which there are two types: the eccrine and apocrine sweat glands.
The eccrine glands are all over the body and secrete a colorless and odorless sweat that is essentially salt water. This is the type of full-body sweating you will experience when exercising or spending time outside when it’s hot. These are the sweat glands involved in thermoregulation and make up 90% of the total number of sweat glands on the human body.
The apocrine glands develop in relation to hair follicles, meaning they are present in areas with the most body hair, such as the underarms. They secrete a thicker sweat that contains fats and proteins that is responsible for body odor when it comes into contact with bacteria on the surface of the skin.
What is sweat?
Sweat is mostly made up of water, and trace amounts of ammonia, urea, salts, and sugars. The belief that we sweat out a significant amount of toxins is greatly exaggerated as sweat is mostly water, and detoxification occurs in the liver and kidneys.
Sweat is an odorless and clear liquid. Once it reaches the skin’s surface, it encounters bacteria, which break down the sweat and lead to body odour.
How much sweat is too much sweat?
Everyone sweats, but some sweat more than others. If your sweating is excessive and it interferes with your daily life, restricts your ability to complete tasks, and limits you in professional and social activities, and/or negatively impacts your mental and emotional wellbeing, then you may suffer from hyperhidrosis.
Hyperhidrosis is a medical condition characterized by excessive sweating. Those who suffer from hyperhidrosis will sweat 4-5x more than is needed for body temperature regulation This can impact every facet of an affected individual's life, from career advancement to social activities. To learn more about excessive sweating, visit out hyperhidrosis page.