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Toxins: Can You Sweat Them Out?

Can you sweat out toxins?

The guy next to me on the bike yesterday morning was working like Lance Armstrong in training: He had laid towels on the floor to absorb the impressive perspiration he was generating.

He shouted over to me: “I’m hitting it hard to cleanse out the toxins from last night. Too much Captain Morgan and buffalo wings, ya know?”

“Really,” I said.

“Actually, I’m a dermatologist, and sweat does not contain any toxins,” I said to myself so that he could not hear. (Gym decorum dictates men do not correct men in the middle of a workout — especially if prefaced by “Actually, I’m a dermatologist.”) I left him to his aerobics and wrote this post in my head while I finished mine.

You might not want to believe me, but it’s fact: You cannot sweat out toxins. Sweat is composed of 99 percent water and a tiny percent of salt, urea, proteins and carbohydrates. Salt, proteins and carbohydrates are natural. Urea is a by-product of protein metabolism and is non-toxic. It’s regulated to keep your blood at a healthy pH. Most excess urea is eliminated in urine (hence the name) and a small amount is in sweat.

Toxins like mercury, chemicals, alcohol, drugs, and spicy BBQ sauce are eliminated by your liver and intestines. Sweat glands, all 2.6 million of them, regulate your temperature — they’re not designed to expel toxins.

The primary ingredient in sweat is pure water. The water evaporates from your skin, cooling you. Excess sweating doesn’t eliminate excess salt or help hangovers. By forcing your body to copiously perspire, you’re only forcing your kidneys to save water (and ironically actual toxins) elsewhere. The water that ends up in the towel on the floor is the precious water you needed to stay hydrated, not a puddle of poison.

In some ways sweat is the opposite of toxic, it’s a vital fluid. When you are working out hard, replace it. I recommend water, not Captain Morgan rum.

*This blog post was originally published at The Dermatology Blog*


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4 Responses to “Toxins: Can You Sweat Them Out?”

  1. lawrence says:

    I just read an article about a form of drug testing that collected samples by patches that collected body sweat. Would the drugs detected by these patches be considered toxins?

  2. Stuxman, MD says:

    What this doctor failed to do as so many of the other moronic physicians, is check the literature. The reason why people think sweat didn’t contain toxins is because they didn’t know what to look for. A few studies have shown this stuff, but very few.

  3. David says:

    What about clearing the skins pores? It’s not the same sort of toxins, but after a heavy sweaty workout my skin is always much clearer, cleaner and healthier looking the next day. The increased circulation is probably a big part too, but don’t open pores allow the skins to push out excessive oils, etc.? After an extremely heavy workout in the heat, when I haven’t been eating healthily, my sweat feels dirtier immediately after (stronger smell and feels oilier, sometimes almost slimy). Even if not the heavy metals, chemicals, etc. that our liver and kidneys are getting rid of, aren’t these things our body is also trying to get rid of?

  4. David says:

    Would be interesting to see these studies replicated:
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21057782
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23213291
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22253637

    Phthalates & BPA were excreted through sweat preferentially and significantly.

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