We all sweat. Some more than others. But when you're playing sports, it can become overly annoying. Sweating is a natural bodily function in which the body releases moisture, sometimes odorless, to help retain your body’s temperature. There are millions of sweat glands around your body, but here are the most common places that we sweat from:
- Palm of your hands
- Bottom of your feet
Why We Sweat
Athletes use many different techniques to minimize the effect of sweat in their performance. Some methods we are already familiar with for example; sweatbands, deodorant, antiperspirant, hand chalk etc. However, for some athletes it’s not just about gold medals and trophies, for some it’s a matter of life and death. Take for instance a rock climber, if a climber’s hands are too sweaty it decreases their grip and can end fatally for the climber. Or for example a power lifter who due to sweaty hands injures themselves by dropping the weights unsafely. Hence we have established that everyone sweats and that it can be dangerous for specific athletes. Now let’s take a look at some of the reasons why we sweat:
- High temperature- naturally your body wants to regulate its temperature
- Emotional- it can be anxiety, anger, stress etc.
- Foods- Certain foods like spice, alcohol, caffeine etc. or even just having a poor diet.
- Illness- Sometimes sweating is a symptom associated with many different types of illnesses
- Smoking- some doctors believe nicotine to stimulate the sweat glands
- Hormonal Imbalances- some people sweat excessively due to a hormonal imbalance.
How We Sweat
So now we know where we sweat from and why we sweat, but what about how? You see we have two types of sweat glands:
- Eccrine Sweat Glands- these glands are located all over your body, but most of them are found in your palms and the sole of your feet.
- Apocrine Sweat Glands- these glands are usually found where you have the most hair follicles- underarm, groin, head etc. There is more oil in the sweat that is produced from this gland which makes it perfect for bacteria to feed and prosper.
Now even though your sweat glands are of two types they are made up of 2 crucial parts. One being the coiled section where the actual sweat is produced, and secondly the duct, which is the path the sweat takes to reach your skin.
Therefore, when we are talking about sweating from the hands or from the bottom of the feet -which are the main issues for the majority of athletes- we are talking about the Eccrine Sweat Glands. We will discuss these glands more in-depth in a future blog. But for now, let’s try to understand the sweating process.
As the heat stimulates the temperature sensors in your body, they send a signal to your brain more specifically the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus is the part of your brain which controls your body’s temperature. In return, it sends signals through the nervous system into your sweat glands. There are millions of sweat glands all over your body but areas with a high concentration of sweat glands get the most action! When a sweat gland first receives this signal, the fluid around the coiled section contains chloride and sodium which is absorbed through the coil. Then because its saltier inside the coil then it is outside, water moves into the coil due to a process called osmosis. When it builds up at the bottom of the coil water pressure pushes the liquid up into the long duct then out onto the surface of your skin. This water will continue to gather as much salt as possible in order to continue the process. The water in sweat absorbs your bodies heat energy and then evaporates as it reaches out, thus lowering your temperature. Pretty cool! Looks like we all have a built-in AC inside of us.