How Your Body Keeps Its Cool and the Importance of Hydration
Have you ever noticed the more you sweat when you are working out, the faster you seem to cool off, especially when those big fans are blowing overhead at the gym? Have you ever wondered if sweating is actually good for you? The simple answer is yes! Sweating is actually very good for your body, so let me help you understand why.
Your body is a finely tuned machine and likes to keep all of its systems tightly regulated, especially temperature. The best way your body cools itself off is by perspiring, so whether your temperature rises because it’s hot outside, or your body heats up internally due to illness or exercise, the end result is the same. Your body will do everything in its power to cool off, starting with elevating your heart rate, dilating your blood vessels and producing sweat.
Sweating actually occurs when your body dilates its blood vessels and brings blood close to the surface of your skin. From there, your sweat glands begin to actively release salt onto your skin, causing the water to passively flow out from your blood stream due to a process called osmosis. The end result is that your skin gets covered with salt and water while the air serves to try to cool your system and bring your temperature down.
Once you understand the fact that our bodies use water from inside of our bloodstream to cool us off, it makes sense to help us understand why water is such an important part of keeping our body’s delicate temperature balance maintained. Since your body is over 70% water, it is understandable that without proper hydration, your body’s temperature can become dangerously high.
So, your body sweats to cool you off. The side effects of excessive sweating, other than of course creating body odor, can result in severe dehydration if you don’t replenish the fluids your body loses through sweating.
Dehydration can result in headaches, fatigue, lethargy, and confusion, resulting in an inability for your body to cool down. In fact, your body’s temperature can reach a point where it’s dangerously high, resulting in heat stroke and heat exhaustion. Even a small percentage of loss of fluids can cause your brain, heart and blood vessels to work that much harder. The early signs of dehydration can be as subtle as muscle cramps, fatigue, poor endurance and slow responsiveness.
The takeaway here is that water is extremely important for you to feel and perform at your best. In addition to helping your body stay cool, maintaining a proper amount of fluid intake is important for your metabolism and for processing any toxins that you may consume as well as making sure all the systems in your body work to their maximal function.
Water is indeed an essential source of life for all living beings. Without proper hydration, you may find yourself feeling terrible, and your body will not perform at its best. A good rule of thumb is to consume eight glasses of water daily or about a gallon of water a day. You may need even more than that in times of high fluid loss such as during illness, extreme heat or more than 30 minutes of high intensity exercise. So, give your body what it’s thirsty for from the inside out, and drink lots of water!
Elizabeth Salada MD, MPH, FACP
Internal Medicine and Wellness