Why Do We Perspire?

Written by Dr. Michael Feulner on August 19, 2011 in Chiropractic

You know the saying, “Never let them see you sweat.” Well, maybe they don’t have to see you sweat, but if you’re not perspiring, your body may be trying to tell you something and you’d better be listening!

Your body comes equipped with its own internal thermostat that keeps body temperature at a normal 98.6° F or 37° C. Every day, your body “fuels” itself with the food you eat and then burns this fuel using about 2500 calories in a process known as oxidation. The heat produced in this process could bring 25 gallons/23 liters of water to the boiling point. Now that’s a lot of heat!

So… what happens to all that heat? Well… the thermostat turns on its cooling system, which slows down the oxidation process. Then your body releases the heat to maintain normal body temperature. How is all this heat released? Through sweat, of course!

Here’s the cool stuff. There is a network of more than 2 million sweat glands throughout your entire body. Sweat, or perspiration, exits your body through the pores in your skin in tiny droplets that you can’t see. These droplets evaporate quickly to cool your body.

There are two types of sweat glands – eccrine and apocrine. Eccrine glands are found all over the body, while apocrine glands are found at the end of hair follicles (i.e., under your arms, in the groin area, and in your scalp). The sweat that is released through the eccrine glands is mostly salt and water, while the sweat released from apocrine glands consists of more fat.

When you are under emotional stress, bacteria on the surface of your skin start to break down the apocrine sweat and this is what causes body odor! Exercise, hot weather and emotional stress or anxiety ALL have an effect on the amount of sweat produced. How much you sweat depends on many different factors – your mood, diet, hormones, medications, illnesses… even heredity plays a part!

Something about body odor… try taking a look at the foods you’re eating – salty/spicy foods, garlic, onions and caffeinated beverages are known to affect body odor. Wear clothing made of natural fibers, such as cotton, and learn how to practice relaxation techniques to reduce stressors that trigger underarm perspiration.

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