Let’s be honest, nobody likes sweating. Summer comes around and it’s a constant battle against the elements to stay dry. You jump on the treadmill for some calorie-busting cardio and the next thing you know you’re dripping from head to toe. Or maybe it’s your wedding day, and your nerves decide to manifest in a glaze of perspiration across your forehead. Not ideal. Oh, and let’s not even get started on the smell. Fortunately for us, sweat actually has a number of surprising healing powers and health benefits, not all of which are simply to cool us down.
The primary function of sweating is a cooling mechanism for the body. Contrary to what you might think, it isn’t triggered by our heart rate or increased movement, but by sensors in our brains that detect hot and humid environments. Pretty clever huh. The brain prompts our sweat glands to excrete liquid to help cool our overall body temperature.
Sweat also acts as a cleansing mechanism for the body. Everyday life threatens the body with unnatural materials that find their way into our system, and along with urine and blood, sweat is a primary agent for ridding ourselves of these unwanted guests. Materials such as acetone (found in nail polish remover and paint stripper) and gasoline (used for the gas we put in our car) are examples of toxic elements that sweat regularly removes from our body.
Scientists have been focusing on harvesting the wealth of information that sweat carries as it lies on our skin, to help with the diagnosis of diseases that usually require far more invasive testing. Over the past few years, medical researchers have developed the ability to measure alcohol levels, glucose levels, and salt concentration, all from sweat. These breakthroughs have helped with an array of issues, and sweat is contributing to lives being saved.
Not common knowledge, but an awesome example of the surprising powers of sweat is that it contains antibiotics. Sweat contains a very small amount of the antibiotic dermcidin, which the body uses to fight off bacteria from the surface of your skin. Dermcidin is so effective because it attacks the actual cell walls of bacteria, adapts quickly to whatever the target is, and the bacteria itself struggles to fight back against it.
Our sweat glands don’t just produce antibiotics, they also have healing properties that help repair the body. This is pretty amazing, and the glands do this by producing stem cells. These stem cells have been tested in treatment for wounds and found to heal the wound faster and firmer than treatment without. Researchers at USC are currently working on producing sweat gland stem cells to assist with treatments like skin grafts and skin repair. Incredible.
So, there we have it, the many surprising healing powers of sweat. The next time you’re walking out of the gym all hot and sweaty, perhaps take a moment to appreciate this amazing bodily function we so often complain about!
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