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How Is Sweating Good for Your Immune System?

Is Getting Sweaty Good for You? Exploring the Relationship Between Sweat and Your Immune System

It can be sticky, sometimes a little smelly, and always salty.

It’s our sweat which is our body’s natural response to heat.

The act of sweating may make some individuals self-conscious, but perspiration is a natural part of our physiology and evolution.

So even if you find the act of perspiration a little embarrassing — don’t sweat it, or actually do?

Do you wonder what other functions or reasons our bodies have to perspire? If so, keep reading to explore the relationship between you, your sweat, and your immune system.

Table of Contents

A woman wiping sweat off her forehead at the beach.

Is Sweating Good for Your Immune System?

Why do humans sweat? What does our sweat consist of?

Sweating is our body’s natural response to heat. Nearly 4 million coiled, tubular glands called eccrine glands cover our skin. In response to overheating, they excrete a mixture of water, salt, electrolytes, and other smaller amounts of minerals to cool off our bodies.

The various reasons our bodies cause us to perspire can include:

  • Exercise

  • Illness

  • Pain

  • Nervousness

  • Concentration

So the answer to the question, “Is sweating good for your immune system?” Is not so simple, and it may even be considered controversial.

You may or may not be surprised to hear a little corner in the world of scientific debate is reserved to argue about our eccrine functions.

Some physiologists hold a firm belief that sweat is purely for thermoregulation. Others are more open to the idea that sweat may help our immune system filter toxins, waste, and heavy metals — and some research has supported this claim.

So whether perspiration plays first chair in the orchestra that is our body’s immune system, or just second fiddle, sweating is good for the body and mind.

Remember, health is holistic. There are many working components that contribute to the science and practice of health. Perspiration is not a cure for medically weakened immune systems. Be sure to consult a medical professional before practicing any methods that induce significant sweat production.

What Does Sweat Do in the Immune System?

Our body’s response to noxious bacteria and infectious microbes is pyrexia (the medical term for a fever). The immune system's response to unwanted microbial guests is turning the heat up so high that the unwanted guests don't just want to leave, they die. But if our body does not get our temperature under control, we could also die.

This is where sweat becomes the immune system’s helpful aid. Sweat helps your body’s effort to normalize your temperature during a fever. Without the internal air conditioning unit that is our sweat glands, we may have never evolved to survive fevers.

Sweat may also function as an anti-pathogenic sheath for our skin.

Recent research has found another component in our sweat. A natural germ-killing peptide consisting of a string of amino acids called dermcidin excretes from our eccrine glands when we sweat.

Bacteria thrive in warm and damp conditions like your armpits. In response, our evolutionary immune system has armed our sweat glands with dermcidin which perforates microbes allowing water and charged zinc ions to flood the cell membranes and kill the bacteria.

A man sweating at the gym.

5 Additional Ways Sweating May Be Good for Your Immune System

#1: Temperature Regulation

Did you know perspiration may be the cornerstone of why humans are the dominant species?

Besides primates and horses, humans are the only other mammals that sweat. We are also one of the few species with the high endurance abilities. We may not be able to outpace wolves or cheetahs in speed, but when it comes to outrunning them in distance — we would win in the long run (literally).

Sweat allows our bodies to regulate our temperature and avoid overheating while running and exercising.

We previously mentioned that sweat can help cool the body while it is fighting an infection with a fever. But how else can our eccrine temperature regulation help our immune system?

The Relationship Between Temperature Regulation and the Immune System

While our progenitors used this evolutionary trait to get a leg up on the food chain, our body and immune system now use this function to maintain homeostasis.

Homeostasis is our body’s physiological process that balances our optimal functions like biofluid and temperature. Our immune system can be impacted if our homeostasis is unbalanced.

Perspiration plays an important role in balancing our homeostasis. Acute heat stress from warm weather may impact our ability to fight off diseases like influenza. Sweating can help cool our bodies so that our immune systems can function without hindrance.

#2: Detoxification

Sweating may aid the body's natural detoxification process. While sweat’s role in the detoxification process is a debated topic in the scientific community, some studies show a relationship between perspiration and natural detox.

A recent study that was conducted found evidence that heavy metals may be detoxed during perspiration. Sweat samples from 12 healthy university students were collected during two sweat-producing activities (running on a treadmill and sitting in a sauna). After participants sweat for a continuous 20 minutes, 7mL of sweat was collected and processed.

The results found trace levels of:

  • Nickel

  • Lead

  • Copper

  • Arsenic; and

  • Mercury

The Relationship Between Detoxification and the Immune System

Detoxification is the body’s process of disposing of biowaste. Multiple organs work together to detoxify and flush germs, bacteria, waste, and toxins out of the body through urine and stool.

Organs that aid the body’s detoxification process include the:

  • Liver

  • Kidneys

  • Skin

  • Lymphatic system

  • Digestive tract

  • Lungs

Waste detoxification helps the immune system focus on protecting the body from illness caused by bacteria and viruses.

#3: Circulation Support

Sweating, especially while exercising, can promote circulation and increase blood flow.

Enhanced circulation can help your immune system distribute white blood cells and antibodies throughout your body. Efficient circulation of these guardians of the immune system can help your body identify and respond to threats effectively.

Perspiration induced through exercise can also support lymphatic circulation. The lymph nodes produce antibodies and cells that operate our immune systems. The lymphatic system may often rely on muscle contraction and movement to express lymph fluids.

The Relationship Between Circulation and the Immune System

Blood vessels transport immune cells and antibodies throughout the body to help fight off infection and disease.

The bloodstream allows immune cells to travel where they are needed, as well as recycle them when they die. This is vital for the reproduction of new immune cells like white blood cells and antibodies. Poor circulation may lead to a weakened immune system.

Activities that boost circulation might include:

  • Biking

  • Running

  • Stretching

  • Yoga

  • Tai Chi

  • Consuming foods high in antioxidants

A group of young people sitting and doing meditation.

#4: Stress Reduction

Physical activity that results in perspiration often reduces stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline while boosting endorphins.

Activities like sauna sessions may cause perspiration and reduce stress. The heat from a sauna can help relax muscles, improve circulation, and stimulate endorphins.

Chronic stress may have a negative effect on the immune system. High levels of stress may lead to anxiety or depression which could lead to more inflammation lowering the immune system’s ability to transport immune cells.

The Relationship Between Stress Reduction and the Immune System

Stress can create a steroid hormone called cortisol.

The body often uses cortisol to regulate the body’s ability to:

  • Respond to stress or danger

  • Increase metabolic glucose

  • Control blood pressure

  • Reduce inflammation

Cortisol is necessary for bodily functions in short spurts, but too much cortisol over time can cause inflammation. This can create inflammatory cytokines that can compromise the immune system.

Too much stress can also decrease lymphocytes. Lymphocytes are white blood cells that help the immune system fight off disease and infection.

Stress reduction may be extremely necessary for our immune system to help us live longer, healthier lives. However, it may be difficult for some to find the time or motivation to prioritize mental health and practice decompressing from stress.

Utilize exercise or mindful practices like yoga, meditation, or Tai Chi to help fight stress levels and strengthen your immune system.

Mediation, yoga, Tai Chi, etc. are mindful practices that may help us slow down and extract ourselves from our overindulgence of stress. But the buzz of our daily lives and proclivities sometimes leave us too unbalanced and distracted to find mindfulness and peace.

Good Bitters has created a calm-inducing herbal aid to help those who may require a little extra effort when practicing mindfulness. Kalm Drops utilizes the bitter taste and relaxing properties of silk tassel to help extricate you from your imbalances and look within to help alleviate stress.

#5: Endorphin Release

When you exercise enough to sweat, your body releases a chemical hormone called endorphins. Endorphins are neurotransmitters that reduce our perception of pain or stress and make us “feel good”.

And they may also have a neuro-strengthening effect on our immune system.

The regular release of endorphins may reduce cortisol caused by stress and improve negative emotions like anxiety or depression which can weaken the immune system.

The Relationship Between Endorphin Release and the Immune System

Endorphins may help regulate immune system response. Research has shown that endorphins may help facilitate the immune system on a cellular level.

Endorphins may influence several immune functions such as:

  • Antibody synthesis

  • Natural killer cytotoxicity (the destruction of abnormal cells)

  • Lymphocyte proliferation (the activation of white blood cells)

Endorphins may also help decrease inflammation which could impact the transportation of white blood cells and T-cells.

Relax and Re-Center With Kalm Drops by Good Bitters — Before or After You “Sweat-It-Out”

You don’t have to endure a high-intensity workout to receive the immunity benefits of perspiration.

Simple mindful practices like yoga or Tai Chi can work up a sweat due to concentration and muscle control needed to maintain balance.

But what if you need a little extra help concentrating or gaining balance?

We often become so wrapped up in the hardships of being human. We may crave soft, sweet comforts to ease and lull our senses into bliss and sometimes ignorance. We might lose touch with nature when we turn away from the bitter balance of life.

Sometimes we need a little jolt to help us return to our senses and look within.

If you feel that you may need a little more help disentangling yourself from the stresses and comforts of your daily life, Good Bitters may have something to help.

Kalm Drops can help you re-center, focus, and relax. The bitter but calming jolt of silk tassel may help revive and balance your sense of self. Use Kalm Drops to help you calmly focus during practices or mindfulness or just in your daily life.

The content in this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

Disclaimer: The information on this website is taken from traditional wisdom and modern research/databases and is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to act as medical advice or to replace medical treatment. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The statements and information on this website have not been evaluated by the FDA. Please consult a knowledgeable healthcare provider for your individual needs.

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