Did you know that humans are one of only two mammals that can run long distances? (Horses are the other, in case you're interested.)
Humans have essentially evolved to be endurance runners, despite the fact that most other mammals can sprint faster than us (a benefit of having four legs). We became more effective hunter-gatherers, according to the theory.
So, how does this relate to sweating? Our ancestors wouldn't have been able to run great distances while hunting if it weren't for how efficiently we create and dissipate sweat — and we wouldn't be able to accomplish things like run marathons if it weren't for how efficiently we produce and dissipate sweat.
But, as you may be aware, it's not simply a long run that may get you sweaty. It's also the small things, such as being outside on a hot day or taking the stairs rather than the elevator. However, you may also find yourself sweating at night, even when you're completely awake, as well as when you're terrified, nervous, or in pain.
Here's everything you didn't even realize you needed to learn about sweat, including why we sweat when we're hot and why we sweat even when we're not.
Sweat acts as a cooling agent
Sweating has a terrible reputation, and it is undeniably unpleasant. Sweating, on the other hand, is essential for body temperature regulation and overall health.
The inside body temperature of a person is usually approximately 98 degrees Fahrenheit. There is some flexibility here, but if your body becomes too hot, whether due to the ambient temperature, physical activity, or a fever, awful things can happen, such as heat stroke. Fortunately, your body's temperature monitoring and regulation processes are extremely sophisticated. When your body's internal temperature rises, your hypothalamus (a small section of your brain) signals eccrine sweat glands located throughout your body that it's time to start sweating to cool you down.
Cooling down, on the other hand, isn't as simple as letting the sweat run down your back. For this procedure to work, some of your perspiration must escape from your skin. This is because sweating relies on a physics mechanism known as "heat of vaporization" to cool your body. Sweat evaporates from your skin with the help of heat, which is a form of energy. You begin to cool down as your extra body heat is utilized to turn sweat beads into vapor.
The other trade-off here is that sweating causes you to lose water, and water is essential for just about every organ in your body. This means that you should drink enough water while sweating so that you can replenish the water you lose with water that you can use.
To summarize, releasing heat through sweat droplets that readily evaporate from the skin is a very effective approach to cool down your body. Your dog, on the other hand, gets rid of heat by panting, which isn't nearly as effective as sweating.
None of this, however, explains why we sweat even when it isn't hot.
Why do we sweat when we're nervous?
I'm sure we've all experienced the sweaty palms and underarms that come with being frightened, scared, or nervous, whether it's on our first day of work, a first date, or a stressfully close sporting event.
What you might not realize is that "emotional sweating" is not the same as "cooling sweat." It occurs for a different reason, and it is mostly related to a distinct type of sweat gland.
Your body engages the "fight-or-flight" response in response to something stressful, scary, nerve-wracking, or anxiety-inducing, independent of your body temperature. This response, among other things, activates apocrine sweat glands, a second type of sweat gland located on your body. To be honest, your eccrine sweat glands are also engaged to some extent, resulting in sweaty palms, but you're probably more concerned about your sweaty armpits, which are caused by your apocrine glands.
Why do we sweat when we consume spicy food?
We've all been there, I'm sure. Despite the fact that the menu says "VERY SPICY" in a bold font with five hot pepper icons, you order it nevertheless. You're in the mood for something hot! You can't feel your mouth after a few bites.
While you may be aware that your mouth isn't truly on fire, you may not be aware that your brain is being duped into believing you're overheated. That's why you'll most likely be sweating bullets in no time. Capsaicin, the key element that makes many spicy meals fiery, turns out to be the cause of this so-called "gustatory sweating."
Capsaicin interacts with the temperature-sensitive neurons in your mouth that feel warmth. This interaction deceives your body into believing that your mouth is actually heated when it isn't. Whatever the case may be, your body will try to cool you down the greatest way it knows how: by sweating! However, because this sweat may not appear to be helping to calm the fire drill in your mouth, you may be tempted to reach for a beverage or other food item instead.
It's also important to note that the act of metabolizing food might raise your body temperature in general. So, even if you're not eating anything spicy or hot, having a particularly substantial meal may cause you to break out in a light sweat - hence the term "meat sweats."