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Sweating is Good for you!
Perspiration, diaphoresis, sweating... it all means the same thing and anyway you look at it, even if you don't like it, it is a healthy process!
It is predicted we will hit record highs this summer, causing most of us to retreat indoors to our air conditioning and ice cold treats. For those of us forced to bare the heat, be prepared for a little sweat... scratch that, it will most likely be pouring off you! Why not learn a little more about this process, why we do it, and YES, I'm going to say it, the numerous health benefits that come with it.
Why do we sweat?
Sweating is a natural and very healthy process. We sweat to help reduce the temperature of the body and help cool the skin, part of an important process called thermoregulation. This is without a doubt the most important function of sweating. Every process in our body occurs at an optimal temperature and sweating is just one of the ways that our body ensures this optimal temperature is maintained, no matter what! Sweating is not just a result of heat, however, as many of you may have noticed, sweating can occur as a result of nervousness, among other emotions, and nausea. Emotionally induced sweating usually effects only the palms, soles and forehead, while sweating via thermoregulation affects the skin covering the entire body.
The skin is the largest organ in the body. The pores of the skin play a major role in the process of detoxification, along with other organs like the kidneys, liver, colon, lung and lymph nodes. Sweat literally carries toxins out of the body, flushing them through the pores. In doing so, it actually transforms lipid soluble molecules into water soluble molecules to ease in elimination. Some estimates claim that 30% of the body's waste is eliminated through sweat. Sweating is vital to our body's natural detoxification processes.
Some of the other therapeutic health benefits of sweating include improved blood circulation and cardiovascular health. Sweating causes blood vessels to dilate and blood pressure to drop (this is why those with blood pressure issues – low or high - need to start slow and monitor themselves when using a sauna). The heart is then forced to work more efficiently to pump blood. Studies have also shown there to be a moderate immune benefit to sweating. Heat stimulates the production of white blood cells (think about fever), therefore supporting a healthy immune response and helping to more effectively fight off infection. In terms of healthy skin, sweat contains small amounts of antibacterial substances, able to combat some of the natural bacteria on the skin. It can also serve to unclog pores and improve the skin's tone. Sweating can also be good for mood. Much like exercise, sweating activates the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis. It causes an increase in noradrenaline and beta endorphins, which make us feel good. Unlike exercise, however, heat induced sweat, like that of a sauna, does not require muscle tension, nor the movement of large muscle groups. In fact, sweating acts to do the opposite, decreasing muscle tension and inducing relaxing. Similar to a meditative process, the mind and body must still be active due to the heat, but the muscles are completely relaxed. Perhaps this is why so many find the sauna so relaxing and rejuvenating, it can be seen as a form of meditation. There is a form of group therapy known as sweat therapy, in which the psycho physiological response to heat exposure is thought to be therapeutic both mentally and spiritually, as well as physically.