7

The internet is full of websites and people saying "sweating is a good way to expel toxins." An example is this website.

What is the truth behind this claim?

For the scope of this question, toxins include substances like chemicals and heavy metals. And from Wikipedia "In the context of alternative medicine the term is often used to refer to any substance claimed to cause ill health, ranging anywhere from trace amounts of pesticides to common food items like refined sugar or additives such as monosodium glutamate (MSG)."

Given the large amount of toxins, I just want to know if sweating can expel any toxin at all.

  • It depends what is define as a toxin... – enap_mwf Jun 24 '15 at 4:03
  • 1
    Hi, Freedom. Everything, even oxygen and water, can be toxic to your body. Can you please be more specific? That might help you get a better answer. Thanks. – anongoodnurse Jun 24 '15 at 5:06
  • @anongoodnurse looks better now ? – Freedo Jun 24 '15 at 5:21
4

The generally accepted medical wisdom seems to be that sweat is an insignificant mechanism for toxin elimination. However, there have been studies that suggest that wisdom may not be entirely correct.

For example, Genuis et al. found that some toxic elements were preferentially excreted in sweat, including elements that were not found in blood serum. That suggests those elements are bound in tissues and therefore not readily removed by the liver and kidneys.

They conclude that:

Sweat analysis should be considered as an additional method for monitoring bioaccumulation of toxic elements in humans.

Note that they do not conclude that sweating plays a significant role in toxin elimination.

Note also that the sample size in this study was very small, and the author has numerous publications based on this single study.

A literature review of the subject found support for the idea that certain toxins are excreted in sweat, sometimes in higher concentrations than urine. They also noted as Genuis did that concentrations of some elements can be found in sweat that aren't detected in plasma.

In individuals with higher exposure or body burden, sweat generally exceeded plasma or urine concentrations, and dermal could match or surpass urinary daily excretion. Arsenic dermal excretion was severalfold higher in arsenic-exposed individuals than in unexposed controls. Cadmium was more concentrated in sweat than in blood plasma.

What I cannot find is research showing that sweating produces any clinically significant benefit. Just because a compound can be found in sweat does not necessarily mean that sweating more will have a beneficial effect, and in fact no benefit to excessive sweating is known while there are known negative consequences, including potentially lethal ones.

I conclude from my research that the question can't be answered at this time, but there is sufficient evidence to justify additional research. I suspect that the most likely outcome will be new and/or improved testing methods rather than treatment methods.

  • It's a shame that the scientific community don't want to look further on this! I still get surprised that after more than 7.000 years we still don't know everything about our own body – Freedo Jun 27 '15 at 2:10
  • 1
    @Freedom I don't think it's not wanting to look further into this. It's more like so many questions and too few scientists and research dollars. – Carey Gregory Jun 27 '15 at 4:10
  • Well you know, there was a time where you could do research without a million dollars lab. Hopefully this will become true once again. – Freedo Jul 30 '15 at 7:16
  • You don't have to have a million dollar lab, but most of the scientific questions that can be answered without one have been. That's simply progress. We're not left with many easy questions now. – Carey Gregory Jul 30 '15 at 13:23

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.