The human body and other living organisms have numerous natural adaptive mechanisms that keep them at the state of functioning properly. Sweating is one of these very crucial processes. Sweating can be defined as a natural thermoregulation process that helps in maintaining a balanced body temperature (Franklin, 2005).
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This research paper seeks to investigate the reasons why we as human beings sweat. It will thus explain how sweating occurs biologically, the circumstances under which we sweat and factors enhancing it, the sweat components, and finally discuss the genetic and sex influence on sweating.
Sweating, as mentioned above, is one of the most crucial natural ways through which the body cools down especially during hot conditions. Sweating which is also referred to as perspiration may seem to make the body hotter, especially when the temperatures are slightly higher.
However, without sweating, our bodies would not be able to withstand the heat that it produces. According to research, the sweating process occurs in order to maintain the normal body temperature which has been clinically determined to be about 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit or 37 degrees Celsius (Roizen & Oz, 2008). In the event of sweating failure, human beings would suffer from heatstroke especially during hot weather or when they are exercising.
Sweating can be explained from a physiological perspective. We all eat food most of the time in order to sustain life and keep ourselves healthy. The food that we take in daily has to be burned off during the metabolic process of respiration (Franklin, 2005).
This process, therefore, produces large amounts of heat energy which in turn triggers the hypothalamus in our brain to automatically jump start the natural cooling off process. Beneath the human skin, that is in the epidermis, are long and spiraling tubes of body structures which are called sweat glands and are responsible for ensuring the cooling process.
During warm or hot days, the vessels carrying blood in our skin open up and the glands contract resulting in the sweat glands releasing the fluid through the sweat pores found on the surface of the skin. The released sweat moisturizes the skin and then it evaporates taking away some amount of heat from the body (Freudenrich, 2006, April 23). Normally, it is this evaporation process that causes general cooling of the body.
The number of sweat glands in our body is estimated at 2 million. Sweating is not, however, restricted to hot conditions only, but we also perspire during cold days even when we are not engaged in any strenuous work (Franklin, 2005).
It has been established that our body constitutes of two-thirds of water and we lose such a great amount of it on a daily basis through the perspiration process. This is the reason why physiological professionals recommend the consumption of about two liters of water daily if the lost fluid is to be fully replenished.
Further studies into the body system have revealed that there are two major types of sweat glands, namely, the apocrine and eccrine glands. The more dominant of the two is the eccrine glands which are found in most body parts like the forehead, soles of the feet, and palms of hands and are shallower. The apocrine glands can be found mainly in the groin, armpits, around the nipples, and at the end of the hair follicles.
The apocrine fluid is more viscous and the glands become activated at puberty stage of human development. It is much easier to recognize sweat in the armpits and the groin region because it is not easy to evaporate unlike sweat on the exposed skin surfaces like the forehead and the palms (Freudenrich, 2006, April 23). Regions like the external genital organs, the nipples, and the lips have no sweat glands.
Scientists have also investigated the composition of sweat. There are different elements that make up sweat. The most dominant elements that can be found in sweat are water and sodium, which is commonly know as salt. Traces of potassium, urea, and lactate, can also be detected in the sweat that we release.
In most instances when it is cold or we are less active, our bodies produce less sweat. Apart from large amounts of sweat being produced during warm weather, a lot of exercising does lead to perspiration. Furthermore, stressful situations and nausea also cause sweating. When our bodies sweat profusely, the sweat contains approximately 20 percent more salt compared to cold weather when there is low production of sweat.
Research has further revealed a significant difference in the chemical components when we perspire through the two major sweat glands. Sweat produced through the apocrine glands, or rather in the armpit, will be much thicker and may contain a yellowish coloration (Clare, 2006).
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This is due to the fact that the perspiration consists of proteins and fatty acids, including bacteria excreted from the body system. Most people prefer using antiperspirants under their armpits. These contents explain why the sweat from this region can turn clothing yellowish in color. The apocrine sweat mostly produces a bad smell and this is why deodorants are usually applied only to the armpits.
Sweat is normally odorless but it starts to produce an unpleasant smell when it decomposes and bacteria act on it. It is advisable to use antiperspirants on the underarms since the amount of sweat released is very low and hence cannot affect the body’s overall cooling process (Fabian Society of Great Britain, 1990).
People in different parts, according to research findings, do have different rates of perspiration depending on there environmental conditions. For instance, the people in India produce larger amounts of sweat due to the hotter weather. As a result, they consume a lot of salt that would be considered abnormal by people in much colder regions.
This can be explained by the fact that Indians lose a lot of sodium during perspiration and hence the need to replace them accordingly for the proper functioning of the body. Sometimes, sweating may be considered embarrassing yet it is one of the most important natural responses for the proper functioning of the body and hence our survival (Roizen & Oz, 2008). The amount of sweat that can be produced by an individual who is not used to hot weather is estimated by researchers at about one liter each hour.
From the discussion above, sweating occurs due to increased environmental temperatures and when we engage ourselves in strenuous exercises. Further research to find out why we sweat has revealed that we perspire when our nervous system is over-stimulated. This normally occurs when an individual is in a tense state or anticipating a tense situation.
For instance, before a job interview, an upcoming first ever date or ones wedding ceremony, a presentation before a large audience, or sitting for an exam, an individual will realize sweat on the palms or the armpits. Furthermore, sweating may also occur due to embarrassment, sexual arousal, and anxiety in general. Under such situations, the triggered apocrine glands release a much oilier fluid which gets to the skin surface and evaporates causing cooling (Clare, 2006).
All these occur due to the involuntary stimulation of the nervous system. This finding indicates that sweating is significantly affected, not only by our physical activity but also by our emotional states. This response is also one of the major reasons why human beings sweat a lot.
According to research, genetics also play a central role as far as sweating is concerned. Every individual is born with unique number of sweat glands ranging from two million to five million for mature persons. This will therefore determine the amount of sweat released per time. It has also been established that sweating depends on sex where women have more sweat glands than men, but men sweat more profusely than women due to their sweat glands being more active (Roizen & Oz, 2008).
The paper has extensively explored the reasons why we sweat including the numerous factors behind this natural and crucial process. A biological explanation of sweating has been offered together with the factors which enhance it like environmental conditions, number and location of sweat glands.
The chemical components of sweat fluid have been discussed and that sodium and chlorine (salt) are the most dominant minerals with some traces of potassium. Furthermore, it has been found that water constitutes 99 % of a given sweat volume. We can therefore conclude that perspiration is a necessary physiological process that ensures our survival and hence should not be considered as causing embarrassment.
Clare, B. (2006). Why do we sweat? Howstuffworks. Retrieved from <https://serendipstudio.org/exchange/node/30>
Fabian Society of Great Britain (1990). Sweating: a focus on the causes and its remedy. Kraus Reprint.
Franklin, K. W. (2005). The sweating system: understanding thermoregulation. American Physiological Journal, 4 (12), 1-22.
Freudenrich, C. (2006, April 23). How Sweat Works. The New York Times, p. 12-13.
Roizen, M. F. & Oz, M. C. (2008). Being Beautiful: why do we sweat? Simon & Schuster.