Whys and Wherefores of Sweat
We sweat because our bodies are actually living, breathing heat motors. Heat is constantly created due to the exothermic reactions necessary for metabolism -- in other words, turning what you eat into what keeps your body going, and then getting rid of the waste products that are left over. When the body's temperature rises, the brain signals certain cells to release liquid onto the surface of the skin or into the hair follicles, so that it will evaporate and cool the body.
- Approximately 70,000 sweat glands are concentrated on the underside of each foot!
- The average adult loses about 0.7 liters of sweat per day.
- Extreme activity can boost those losses to as much as 2.5 liters (think of your 2-liter soda bottle for comparison) per hour.
It is vitally important that we do, indeed, sweat -- and that we replace the liquid that is lost through sweating and other bodily reactions. Our bodies are sensitively balanced, and an imbalance of just 1-2% can cause serious illness and even death. Though no "minimum daily requirement" has been established for water, the suggested intake is 8 glasses of water (8 ounces each) per day.
All sweat is not created equal.
There are two kinds of sweat, because there are two kinds of sweat glands. (Don't worry, there won't be a test after this!)
- Eccrine Glands produce secretions without destroying the cells of the glands. These are on your palms, the soles of your feet, your forehead. There is little or no odor produced by these secretions. (Odor is caused by bacteria or fungus -- especially in athletic shoes -- not the actual sweat.)
- Apocrine Glands release part of the cell that contains the secretions, along with the liquid. Because of this, protein and carbohydrates are released with this sweat, and bacteria can act on it to make an odor. These glands open into the hair follicles, and are found under the arms, in the groin area, etc.
Heat isn't the only thing to cause sweating, of course. Stress can do it, or activity, and also eating spicy foods.
We spend an incredible amount of money trying to smell good. The top five or six brands of Deodorants and Antiperspirants soaked up well over half a Billion dollars of our income last year -- and there are dozens of brands.
- Deodorants are agents that cover up an odor, or work to absorb the odor, but don't limit perspiration.
- Antiperspirants do just what they say they do -- they keep an area of the body from emitting perspiration. They do that by either reducing the pore size or clogging the pores to slow down excretions. Aluminum Chlorhydrate is the most popular ingredient in these products, though some also use baking soda or talc to absorb moisture and odor.
Sweat and your Clothes
Obviously, clothes absorb a lot of the sweat that you produce during the day. This is called "wicking" -- drawing the sweat away from the body, and helping it to cool off. That's a great feature of lots of outdoor gear, but not really very pleasant for your nice wools, silks and cottons. Natural fibers tend to retain the moisture longer, and then when it evaporates it leaves behind salts and other fiber-weakening chemicals.
The best advice is frequent cleaning. If an item is washable, wash it promptly each time you wear it. If it must be dry cleaned, build that trip into your schedule -- or you'll be building in a shopping trip, instead, to replace items that are no longer serviceable.
Buy good exercise clothes in the first place, that will wick moisture away from you and keep you comfortable. Layer clothes so that you have a wicking layer next to your skin, then an insulating layer to trap air (for keeping you warm) and finally a water-proof outer shell if needed for inclement weather. (Not all layers are needed all the time.)
- Rub light stains with a liquid detergent and then launder.
- Pretreat heavy stains with prewash stain remover and allow to stand 5-10 minutes.
- If fabric has discolored under the arms or other sweat-heavy areas, you might try treating fresh stains with ammonia, and old stains with WHITE vinegar.
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