You don’t have to go far for a little sweat this time of year, but sometimes a “good sweat” is what you really need. Many think that the best part of sweating is ridding your body of toxins, but that is not always the case.
Sweat does contain trace amounts of toxins, says Dr. Dee Anna Glaser, a professor of dermatology at St. Louis University and founding member of the International Hyperhidrosis Society, a medical group dedicated to the study and treatment of heavy sweating. Glaser adds that the real purpose of sweating is to cool down your body when your temperature rises, and that the liver and kidneys — not the sweat glands — are the organs we count on to filter heavy toxins from our blood.
Yet those who enjoy a good sweat disagree. They feel so much better afterwards. So what are the real benefits?
Cleansing Your Body
The physical act of sweating is therapeutic for your body. Although it may not be proven to filter heavy toxins from your blood, sweating is your body’s natural response to ridding itself of toxins.
Experts stress that a fever isn’t an illness; it’s your body’s response to help fight infection. Setting the body’s thermostat a few degrees higher slows the reproduction of bacteria and viruses and boosts white blood cells.1
Ever sweat after a night of drinking? This is another good example of your body’s natural response to rid toxins. When you consume alcohol, it dilates your blood vessels which increase your overall body heat and temperature. As a result, the body tries to restore itself back to normal temperature by sweating.
Skin care begins with good diet and proper exercise. However, sweating also helps. Your skin is your largest organ and sweating helps it to stay active. Sweat contains small amounts of antibiotics that combat some of the bacteria found naturally on the skin. Sweating also unclogs pores which will help improve the skin‘s tone, clarity and texture. Clogged pours can cause break outs and pimples, rashes and other skin infections. By sweating out these toxins, your skin stays cleaner and, over time, will appear to look healthier.2
University of Mississippi Medical Center professor Dr. Ben H. Douglas, author of the book, “Ageless: Living Younger Longer,” indicates sweating is a way of energizing the skin. He explains that sweating bathes skin cells with a liquid rich in nutrients. The nutrients and minerals in sweat are essential to maintaining the collagen structure of the skin; sweating on a regular basis staves off the collagen breakdown that results in wrinkles and sags. Just ask those who practice Bikram (or hot) Yoga and often cite ‘a natural facial’ as one of its many benefits.
Lower Stress and Reduce Pain
As the body heats up and goes through the process of sweating, circulation is increased and endorphins are released. Endorphins are proven to have a positive effect on mood and stress levels. They are also the body’s naturally-produced pain relieving chemicals and can limit the pain of both muscle soreness and arthritis. The high temperatures and increased circulation may also help loosen tight muscles and eliminate lactic acid after exercise.3
Moisture. Breathing dry air can create tiny fissures in nasal passages and membranes allowing bacteria into your bloodstream causing illness, according to Kim Tang of Bikram Yoga University Village in Palm Desert. She adds that the benefits of breathing humidified air include keeping the throat and nasal passages clear and aiding in the transfer of oxygen to the blood system. Humidity adds moisture to your lungs and skin which is essential in the dry desert. Your gym or club steam room may be the answer for a less strenuous session.
Oxygen. Deep breathing is encouraged when you exercise to deliver oxygen to every cell in your body. Therapies such as ozone saunas offer a low exertion option and are often recommended by wellness practitioners. They utilize a specially designed steam cabinet to accommodate an inflow of oxygen, which mixes with the steam to help heal the body.4
Electolytes. The balance of the electrolytes in our bodies is essential for the normal function of our cells and our organs.5 Common electrolytes include sodium, potassium, chloride, and bicarbonate. When you sweat, you lose these nutrients and it is important to replenish them. Fortunately there are many sugarless electrolyte-enhanced beverages on the market such as Smartwater or Elete electrolyte additive.
So is sweating beneficial? Yes. However it is important to note that persons suffering from high blood pressure, heart disease, or circulatory disease should consult a physician before excessive exercise or using a steam room or sauna.
References: 1) WSJ. Sweating Out a Fever: Focus on Symptoms, Not Just the Number on the Thermometer, Doctors Advise. MELINDA BECK. March 1, 2011; 2) Nov. 5, 2001 online publication of Nature Immunology, research from Eberhard Karls University in Germany; 3) Livestrong.com; 4) The Oxygen Prescription by Nathaniel Altman. 2007. 5) Medicinenet.com