Did you know that more than an estimated 120 different toxic compounds can be eliminated through perspiration? This includes everything from heavy metals to steroids to the body’s own inflammatory molecules.
“Don’t sweat it” may be a good idea when you’re over-stressed, but not when you’re detoxing. Sweating is a simple yet key way to cleanse your body of pollutants, chemicals, and other dangerous substances.
The skin is the largest organ in the body, so it makes sense that it’s one of the most important organs involved in detoxification and elimination. Not only does your skin serve as an actual barrier against some environmental toxins, it also has a concentrated source of antioxidants that protects it from toxic oxidative compounds. In addition, your skin is home to a whopping 3 million to 4 million sweat glands, many of which are concentrated in your armpits, groin, palms of your hands, and soles of your feet. While the primary role of sweat glands is to regulate temperature, sweat glands are key routes of toxin elimination.
When foreign chemical compounds known as xenobiotics enter our bodies through environmental pollutants, drugs, food, personal care products, and more, they are detoxified by phase I and phase II enzymes. These enzymes are found throughout the body, but are heavily concentrated in the liver and skin. Once the enzymes finish their detoxification tasks, the leftover compounds need to be flushed from our bodies. Some are eliminated in urine or feces, others are exhaled though our lungs, and some are sweated out through our skin. However, some of the chemical compounds that our bodies sweat out don’t always need to be detoxified by phase I and II enzymes first. This is not true for compounds that are eliminated through the urine or feces, which suggests that sweating is an extremely efficient way to rapidly clear toxins out of our bodies.
Sweating also helps ensure that our urinary, respiratory, and fecal routes of elimination don’t become overburdened, allowing toxins to build up internally and cause oxidative damage. This can in turn harm cells, cause DNA mutations, and contribute to the development of chronic diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and dementia. In fact, one theory as to why a sedentary lifestyle is linked to increased risk of developing serious chronic diseases is because sedentary people don’t sweat very much.
The best ways to increase sweat are through vigorous exercise and exposure to hot environments such as saunas. Daily sweating can be a very effective way to maintain gentle and continuous detoxification. Even sweating for as little as 15 minutes a day can significantly reduce our bodies’ toxic burden. Of course, as sweat contains toxic compounds, it’s important to wash our skin after perspiring so we don’t inadvertently reabsorb the toxins we have just eliminated.
Sweat is critical to our long-term health and vitality, so next time you are glistening or even dripping with perspiration, smile and think about all of the toxins that are leaving your body.