Monday, September 7, 2009

"I Don't Sweat"

- by Peter Bongiorno ND, LAc and Pina LoGiudice ND, LAc (

A number of patients we have spoken with claim: 'well, I just don't sweat'. This may be true if you are canine, for dogs do not have sweat glands, and must pant and keep their mouth open for regulation of temperature. There are certain human conditions that can cause lack of sweating: medications such as anti-psychotics or calcium channel blockers, significant nerve damage, or a rare disease called hypohidrotic ectodermal dysplasia. The rest of us should be sweating it out. If you exercise, and believe you still do not sweat, you may not be exercising hard enough yet - or possibly you are dehydrated, so your body is conserving its water.

The truth is, many of us do not sweat enough. Only 3 in 10 adults get the recommended amount of physical activity. We live and work in temperature controlled environments all day, then ride in trains, cars and buses with more air conditioning. Typically, we 'don't sweat' because we are not given the chance. There are very few methods humans can use to get rid of chemicals from the body: pooping, peeing, exhaling, and sweating it out. In us humans, sweat glands are known mostly to help regulate temperature by bringing warm moisture to the surface of the skin, which causes cooling as the water evaporates. But the secondary role as detoxifier is not a minor role. Known as the 'third kidney' your skin has over 2.6 million tiny pores that can help clear as much as 30% of bodily wastes through perspiring. Sweat is composed mostly water, but also has urea (a breakdown product of proteins the kidneys also discard), and trace metals and minerals.

Although experts believe sweating is mostly for temperature regulation, it has been shown that trace toxins do appear in sweat glands. Some evidence does suggest that the ability to sweat and excrete toxins like mercury will increase with repeated use of exercise or sauna. It see that hot wet steam saunas are more effective than dry saunas. Steam saunas create beads of moisture which adhere and coat the skin almost instantaneously. These prevent the body from losing heat through the process of evaporation. This may accelerate the detoxification and healing processes which take place within the body when body temperature rises. More studies on this are needed.

To help get the sweating going, consider starting an exercise routine if you do not currently have one. If you are not sweating during this routine, consider increasing the intensity of your workout: this could mean increasing your pace or possibly increasing the angle of incline of your cardio machine. Sometimes, working with a trainer will also help you safely find inspiration for perspiration. For those who have an exercise routine, consider adding a steam sauna for increased detoxification effect. Yoga enthusiasts may try bikram yoga, a yoga practiced in a 105 degree temperature for 90 minutes.

In Chinese medicine, sweat does contain qi (pronounced "chee") energy – so if someone is already expecially weak, extra sweating through exercise and saunas can deplete a person and make them even weaker. Accordingly, one needs to adjust any effort to sweat with their current health status.

Department of Health and Human Services. The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (Healthy People 2010)
Ely J. Well Mind Association Special Report - March 1994. Heavy Metal Detox: Sweating Dry Saunas - A Comparison. Dry Sauna vs Steam Sauna. Accessed Sept. 6, 2009
International Hyperhydrosis Society. No Sweat? It’s Not Always a Dream Come True. November 2006. accessed on September 6, 2009
Mosher HH. Simultaineous Study of the Constituents of Perspiration and Urine. November 16, 1932
Woolston C. You sweat, but toxins likely stay. The halthy skeptic. Los Angeles Times, Jan 2008


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