What Does Ayurveda Say About Sweat?
As we continue our journey discussing the function of waste products, it's important to remember that all of our bodily excretions provide clues about our health. Just as things like joint pain, headaches, and dry skin can tell us something is wrong, our waste products also indicate how our bodies are doing.
We've talked about feces and urine, and now we're going to wrap up this series with sweat. According to Ayurveda, there are three types of waste products:
Purīṣa (feces) is responsible for providing strength and maintaining vāyu and Agni
Mūtra (urine) fills the bladder and removes excess fluid from the body
Sveda (sweat) keeps the skin moist and delicate
Let's learn a little bit more about what this final waste product is and why it matters!
Is Sweating Good?
Imagine it's a hot day and you're running to get to a meeting on time. By the time you arrive, you're probably cursing your sweat glands and not feeling so grateful for this function of your body. But today, we're going to discuss why perspiration is so important.
The main function of sweat is thermoregulation, as the evaporation of perspiration droplets on the skin cools the body down. Just as dogs pant in the heat, we sweat, and it keeps us from overheating. Sweat is also responsible for maintaining the moistness and softness of the skin. According to Suśruta, sweat is carried by the numerous horizontal srotas (channels) that open into the skin's pores. So, you can thank sweat for your smooth, glowing summer skin! The process of perspiring allows our body to purge excess fluid and helps protect us from harmful microorganisms and noxious substances.
In fact, sweat can be so good for you that Ayurveda even has a sweating therapy called Svedana, which is the process of achieving sweat to flush toxins from the body. This can be accomplished with steam or sauna. It's great for detoxification and for regulating imbalanced Vāta and Kapha doshas.
Why Sweat Smells
Unless you're hitting the showers right after a great workout, no one likes to smell like body odor. Sweat is mainly composed of water, but it also contains dissolved solids such as sodium chloride, potassium, and urea.
Not all perspiration smells bad — think about the difference in smell between perspiration in your armpits and on your lower back. We all have two types of sweat glands — eccrine and apocrine. Apocrine glands, which aren't present in children, secrete liquid around areas where hair follicles are present, such as the underarms and pubic area. These moist zones are a perfect breeding ground for bacteria, causing unpleasant smells.
If you're worried that your sweat is excessively pungent, try wearing loose cotton clothing in the summer, staying hydrated, cutting back on alcohol, and making sure to properly dry your armpits and pubic area after showering or swimming. All of these things will help reduce foul body odor. Inordinately smelly sweat can also be a sign that you have excess Pitta in your system.
In addition to eccrine and apocrine glands, we also have sebaceous glands, which are found primarily in the face and scalp. These glands secrete sebum — an oily, waxy system that protects the skin with its antimicrobial properties.
If you're still reading this and you're thinking, "Lauren, my sweet seriously smells. It's less of an inconvenience and more of an actual problem." Reach out to me and let's see what's going on. While odor can be moderately foul, it shouldn't be so bad that it's creating embarrassment. Excessively odorous sweat may indicate a deeper pitta imbalance. Don't settle for smelly sweat.
Why Do I Sweat So Much?
How much you're perspiring can vary depending on environmental and physiological factors, however, the average person secretes about 500 ml of sweat per day. The process of perspiration is controlled by the autonomic nervous system in response to the environment and your physiological state.
According to Ayurveda, excessive sweating points to high levels of Pitta in your system. If you're on the opposite end of the spectrum and are hardly perspiring at all, you may need to hydrate more. In the summertime, you've probably noticed that you sweat more and urinate less. The inverse is often true in the winter. This is normal, however, you want to make sure you're experiencing both bodily secretions regularly. If you're not sweating AND your urine is scanty, it's a sign that you need more fluids. Consider drinking half your body weight in oz. of water every day (i.e. 75 oz. water for someone weighing 150 lbs.).
Sweating is a part of being human! It's a healthy, natural process and it's something you should be experiencing regularly. If you're concerned that you might be experiencing a Pitta imbalance, I'm here to provide more Ayurvedic knowledge and help you become the healthiest, happiest version of yourself.
Consider scheduling a free breakthrough call with me today. We can explore how dosha imbalances and stress may be affecting your sweat and other aspects of your health.