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Healthy Habits for Bonsall & Fallbrook Folks – Sweat: Our body's air conditioning system

Dr. Megan Johnson McCullough

Special to the Village News

We have 2.6 million sweat glands in our body, covering nearly every inch. Sweating, also known as perspiration, helps regulate our body's temperature. The arm pits, palms of our hands, face, and soles of our feet, are the most common areas that release this fluid.

It is completely normal when our internal temperature rises, when the outside temperature heats up, and during times of high emotion, to get wet with sweat. Sweat is the perfume of the fitness industry, the marking of a hard day's work, and proof that it is hot outside.

Sweating is controlled by the autonomic nervous system, which means we do not consciously control it. We have two types of sweat glands. Eccrine sweat glands cover our body, and produce odorless, lightweight sweat. Apocrine sweat glands are located in areas that have hair follicles including the arm pits, scalp, and groin. These are those lovely sites that form body odor due to this liquid mingling with the bacteria of the skin.

It's the bacteria on the skin that smells, not the sweat itself. Deodorant works by killing the bacteria on the skin and helps to reduce the amount of sweat formed. Some of these flowery scented sticks contain triclosan, which is a chemical that makes the armpit too salty for the bacteria to live. Antiperspirants plug up the sweat glands with aluminum salt, which puts a halt to smelliness.

Sweat is composed of sodium, potassium, chloride, and yes even a little fat. As the sweat evaporates, the body cools down.

Exercise causes the body temperature to rise, causing sweat to work its magic to cool yourself down. Emotional sweat can result from fear, anger, anxiety, or embarrassment. Food can even make you heat up. This is called gustatory sweating triggered by spicy foods, caffeine, and alcoholic beverages. Certain medications like pain killers, synthetic thyroid hormones, and fever reducing drugs can cause the body to produce this liquid. Menopausal women experience sweating with the onset of hormonal fluctuations.

Some people are just sweaters. In a certain context that is fine, like at the gym or in the sauna, but sweating isn't exactly socially acceptable when heading into a job interview or meeting a person of love interest for the first time. The sweaty palms handshake might mean nervousness. The sweaty back after being the in car for so long just isn't a good look. Having body odor isn't proper etiquette.

Some people just have to be more mindful then others when they know they will be possible sweaty situations. Having an antiperspirant or deodorant on hand is never a bad idea. Sometimes your self- air conditioning system just won't let you control the temperature.


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