Thursday, October 6, 2011

Don't Sweat It! ... or Should You?

Sweating: it's natural, it's our body's way of cooling off, as it produces perspiration which evaporates in an awesome form of thermoregulation. Toxins and trace amounts of elements are released in sweat, but it mostly contains water. That's why it's so important to drink lots of water when it gets hot or when exercising.

At some point we as a society decided that sweating was unacceptable. Why can't we sweat? It's not attractive, apparently. It's not normal. Embarrassing, even. So this product called antiperspirant came onto the market, grouped in with deodorants. And it was magical, because they made armpits all over the world sweat-free.

One of the first antiperspirants, Everdry
Okay, well it wasn't really magical, no one waved their wands over armpits and declared them sweat-free. There was a pretty serious science behind it, one that involved some of those elements (from the table of elements, remember?  From science class?). Anyway, basically antiperspirants block sweat glands from producing sweat - think of it like putting a very small cork into your pores. It does this with aluminum (yes, like foil), in many forms (alumimum chloride, aluminum chlorohydrate, aluminum-zirconium, aluminum zirconium tetrachlorohydrex,  Aluminum hydroxybromide and aluminium zirconium trichlorohydrex gly to be exact). When the aluminum is drawn into the sweat glands, water passes in too. As more water goes in, the cells begin to swell, pushing the ducts shut so that sweat can't escape. Voila.

So no biggie then, what an awesome discovery! Well, hold on... there are a few disputed facts about aluminum in your body that you may want to know about.

Firstly, you could develop a rash. No big deal, just stop using the antiperspirant and it will pass. Oh, but, aluminum is a neurotoxin and can damage your DNA... well, that's kind of a big deal. Not to mention, an increased amount of aluminum is present in the brains of Alzheimer's patients, and using aluminum-filled antiperspirants certainly builds up the amount of aluminum in the body. It's also linked with renal failure and breast cancer.

So what's it really worth to you to not sweat?

If you want to go aluminum-free, make sure to check the ingredients on your deodorant  and make sure aluminum in its many forms and compounds is not included. Alum, on the other hand, is okay!

 Bonus fact: antiperspirants cause those icky yellowish "sweat" stains on your shirts - it's not from sweat at all!

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