What Your Sweat Says About You and Your Health

By now, you probably know the benefits of getting sweaty.  However, did you know that your sweat is also a great way to assess your health?  Your sweat glands are like small built in sensors that can give you clues and a heads up when something is amiss in your body.  Before you run to the shower, keep these cool health factors in mind that your sweat can indicate!

All that hard work leads to highly tuned glands.

Although it may seem counter-intuitive, sweating more usually means you are in better shape. Quick and easy activation of your glands means you can work harder and longer without overheating.  Getting fit also improves sweat capacity meaning you are able to better regulate your body temperature as you push yourself to new limits. So the next time you notice you are literally sweating buckets, pat yourself on the back for making improvements in your fitness level.

How much or how little sweat is cause for concern?

There is such a thing as too much sweat.  This may be a concern if you’re sweating at inappropriate times (no stress, heat or exercise involved).  Your excessive sweating might be caused by overactive glands, a condition called hyperhidrosis. On the other side of the spectrum, too little sweat can be a cause for concern, since this can lead to poor body temperature management and heat stroke. This limits tolerance for hot weather, heat therapy, and exercising effectively. Talk to a trusted medical professional if you think you are experiencing either of these issues.

Salty sweat.

If your body is low on electrolytes, such as and sodium, you will actually sweat more of it out (this is due to water to electrolyte ratios).  If you notice white residue on your skin, stained shirts or your eyes are consistently burning when you sweat, this is an indicator that you’re depleting your salt reserve and should reach for a Gatorade or salty snack.  If this is a chronic issue, it may be a sign you need to adjust your diet and try consuming more sodium rich foods such as eggs, cheese, soup broth and pickles.  If you know you’re going to be sweating a lot, try to aim for 400 to 600 mg of sodium per serving of fluid to prevent cramps and fatigue from excessive salt loss.

The smell.

The body has two different types of sweat glands.  Apocrine glands are found primarily in the armpits and secrete a mixture of fat, protein and bacteria when activated.  These glands are mainly regulated by our stress levels and notorious for being smelly.  Eccrine glands are sweat glands found in our skin throughout the body and are responsible for managing body temperature by excreting water and salt.  If you notice a chronic stink when you sweat, this means your apocrine glands are primarily being stimulated.  While this is an indicator of chronic stress, your diet may be to blame as well.  Food and drink that contain caffeine also activate the eccrine glands.  Additionally, a diet low in carbs means quicker breakdown of those stinky fats and protein. Lastly, it has been found that a pesky cold or flu can also cause sweat to stink. This is a natural human defense mechanism that keeps others away to minimize the spread of illness.

Your sweat provides great feedback for your health.

Sweat can give you some great insight into how your body is functioning.  If you are ill, feeling stressed, or have a poor diet, your sweat will let you know.  If you are having any chronic issues related to sweat, it may be time to consider making a change to some of your lifestyle habits.  This might mean taking the time to adequately rest, manage your stress and optimize your exercise and eating habits.  Small adjustments may help you minimize stink and excessive salt loss to help you feel your best.   If you’re not having any of these issues, then embrace all the benefits that come with it!

Science is working on some pretty amazing devices that will be able to assess current health status just by analyzing sweat metabolites and electrolytes on your skin.  Until then, take the time to pay attention to what your sweat is telling you!