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What happens to your body when you sweat, and other facts about sweat



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Everyone knows that sweating is the body’s way of cooling you – when sweat reaches the surface of your skin, it evaporates, which has a cooling effect. But not many people understand exactly what happens in the body that causes those droplets to appear on your skin ̵

1; and not many know that sweat itself doesn’t smell either. Learn all about your body’s cooling system with these sweaty fun facts.

What happens when you break a sweat?

You have millions of sweat glands throughout your body. There are three types of sweat glands: eccrine, apocrine, and apoecrine. Eccrine sweat glands are located on almost every part of your body and they secrete sweat through channels that open directly to the skin’s surface. Apocrine glands are more concentrated in areas with many hair follicles, including your armpits, groin, and scalp. Apocrine glands secrete sweat through hair follicles to the skin. Apoecrine glands share properties of both eccrine and apocrine glands, as the name implies.

When your body temperature rises, your sympathetic nervous system triggers eccrine glands to secrete sweat. Apocrine glands, despite being in the sweatiest areas related to exercise, are actually activated in different scenarios (more on this below). Apoecrine glands can secrete some sweat when you get hot, but not as much as eccrine glands.

Why do some people sweat when they are nervous

Sometimes sweat shows up in the most unfortunate of scenarios, such as when you’re giving a presentation on stage in front of 100 people. Or if you’re taking someone on a first date or asking for a raise at work.

It’s normal to sweat in response to emotions such as nervousness, shyness, or fear – but why?

Emotional sweating is a product of your body’s fight-or-flight system that is activated when you find yourself in a nerve-wracking scenario. It is the same reason why your heart starts to beat fast, your breathing rate increases and you get a strange feeling in your lower abdomen.

In short, nervous sweating is your body’s way of trying to survive the situation. He doesn’t know the difference between leaning forward for a first kiss and hiding from a bear.

Why some people sweat while eating

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Spicy food can make you sweat.

Victor Cardoner / Getty Images

Spicy foods make some people sweat because the spiciness makes your brain think your body is overheating. This is common to have a name – it’s called taste sweats.

Eating a heavy meal can also cause sweating, probably because metabolizing food can raise your body temperature. This is where the weird and somewhat coarse term “meat sweat” comes from.

You may also sweat while drinking coffee, tea, hot chocolate, or other hot drinks. In this case, your body will notice a rise in temperature and begin the cooling process to counteract the hot drink.

Sweat efficiency

Here’s a cool fact: People who sweat more often can actually get more efficient at sweating. Yes, you can really get better at sweating.

Studies show that people accustomed to sweating, such as those who exercise frequently and those who live in warm climates, are more likely to start sweating and generally sweat more than non-acclimatized people.

In other words, people who sweat regularly may develop faster sweating reactions than people who don’t sweat often. The body responds better to the rise in body temperature and can therefore cool down more efficiently.

What is sweat made of?

Sweat mainly contains water, but it also contains electrolytes and waste products. Your body loses potassium, sodium, and chloride through sweating, and it’s important to replenish those electrolytes with food and drink after sweating. Sweat is a route of removal for urea, a byproduct of protein breakdown, and ammonia.

Why does sweat smell?

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Sweat starts to smell when bacteria on your skin ferment it.

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Sweat doesn’t actually smell. Your damp workout clothes in the laundry basket may vary, but it’s true. Sweat itself is virtually odorless. However, when sweat reaches the surface of the skin, it mixes with bacteria that break down sweat into acids that smell. So it’s really a chemical reaction that produces your BO, not just your sweat.

Does sweat detoxify your body?

Although sweat contains waste products including urea and ammonia, the amounts are so trace that it can hardly be considered a detox. Your body has plenty of other detoxification systems, so don’t worry. Your digestive, lymphatic, and urinary systems all remove waste from your body in different ways.

The next time someone asks you to “sweat out your toxins” in hot yoga class, just say no (to the toxin part – yoga is fine).

The information in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health care practitioner if you have any questions about a medical condition or health goals.


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