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In Defense of Sweat

Wednesday, September 17, 2014


It’s been a relatively long, hot summer here in Portland this year. That means a lot of people have been hiding from the sun in various cool, dark environments to try to keep the heat at bay.

Well, I’m here to tell you that while that may keep you comfortable and perspiration-free, if you spend the entire summer trying to stay as dry as possible, you are missing out on one of our body’s best built-in features for maintaining good health.

Let's Get Comfy With Sweat

I grew up in what could best be called a “sweat antagonistic” household. The phrase “I hate to sweat” was not an uncommon one to hear and the idea of some sweaty human perspiring all over the furniture was enough to give my mother a tic.

So trust me when I say that getting comfortable with sweating, especially in public, is a challenge I very much understand.

However, the benefits are more than worth the risks; if you can get comfortable with it, you will feel better and function better as a result.

In fact, being unable to sweat is a sign of poor health, so while you are getting used to being shiny with perspiration during exertion, take pride in the fact that your body is telling you that everything is working as it should.

Girl Sweating

Photo Credit: Crdjan

A Natural Bodily Function

American culture has some strange ideas about the body and its functions and how we should relate to those functions as a society. Sweating is an excellent example of this. There are multiple reasons why we might sweat, but the primary function of the system is to cool the body.

However, sweating also detoxes the body as well as helps it maintain a proper pH balance. So when we sweat, it’s almost always because of heat, exertion, or stress (including emotional). It’s a natural function of a healthy body to sweat, as little or as copiously as needed.

But here in the States, due to vanity among other things, being sweaty or having clothes that show that you sweated previously is a sign of being nervous, having a lack of confidence, suffering from a lack of self-confidence, or just plain old being unhygienic.

Whether this is due to remnants of our Puritan/Victorian heritage or a side effect of our consumption of mass media, there is a definite fear of sweating among the mainstream.

That’s a real shame.

Beneficial Sweat

As mentioned above, there are multiple benefits to sweating.

One of the biggest and longest suspected, but only recently proven, is its effectiveness as a vehicle for the body to detoxify itself.

Our body often ends up absorbing heavy metals such as lead, mercury, and cadmium. Heavy metals find their way into our air, water, food, and soil through vehicle exhaust, industrial processes that create air and water contamination, pesticides, preservatives, fertilizers, and other manmade products and processes.

In small amounts, these metals aren’t dangerous, but the insidious thing about them is that they tend to build up in the tissues of the body and can contribute to mental and cognitive difficulties, organ failure, fatigue, pain and, extreme cases, death.

Sweating, meanwhile, is the most effective tool the body has for removing those toxic substances from the body. Recent research has linked heavy metals to cognitive-decline conditions that occur with advanced aging. Regular physical activity has been found to slow the advance of these conditions. 

Sweating has other benefits, but that's for a whole other piece.

For now, while the heat lasts, remember that while it may not always be pleasant, sweating serves an important purpose for you and your continued health.


Andrew Hill

Andrew Hill

Andrew Hill has been practicing acupuncture and massage therapy as a private practitioner since 2009. Before that, he was involved in technology, theater, and a whole slew of other professions, learning first hand a wide variety of on-the-job injuries. Visit him online at cavemanmedicine.net.



Homepage Photo Credit: Kullez via Compfight cc


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