Preparing to Sweat sounds a little “icky” but it’s very healthy.

Here in East Texas, despite our not having hit 90-degrees yet (it’s a couple of weeks late this year), that doesn’t mean we are going “sweat-free” around the ranch.

Take last Friday:  Got the UrbanSurvival column done and after a quick bite of food (high protein), saddled up the lawn tractor and did a two-hour intensive on the property.  Our “yard” takes a while to mow, since there are plenty of obstacles (trees, buildings, fences), and also it’s just plain big.  We figure the mowed part to be around 130,000 square feet.

To put this in context, the dimensions of a standard football field are 160 ft wide, 360-feet long and that works out to 57,600 square feet.  Every 10-days,  or so, I mow and trim about 2.17 football fields.  The good news is that there’s “only” 252-feet of edging.  Done right, I can whip through that with three battery pack changes on the Black & Decker line cutter.

Point is, by 10:30 AM, I had worked up a really good sweat.  Then Elaine came outside.

You know, we get a lot of water run-off down the hill, so why don’t we cut a new channel from up above the water well down over that way (gestured west) and down into the woods so it doesn’t come down to the out-building areas?”

She’d been out hiking up and down, seeing where the rain course was.

New power tool saddled-up was the Kubota and 45-minutes later, I was thoroughly re-soaked in sweat.  My shirt looked like it had just been pulled from the  washer.  Worse, my pants were soaked, too.  When you’re tractoring from mid-spring to early fall and it’s 85 (or more) and humid, it’s a given even your butt (lower back drips where?) will be sweating.

Needless to say, a shower followed after first drinking a quart of filtered water.  Such is sweating in East Texas. Profuse.

People who live in the “big city” don’t actually do much sweating.  Oh, sure, they talk about working out.  But for many, the idea of stepping outside and really putting a “grind on” a particular outdoor activity is as rare as Bigfoot.  Just not going to happen.  Five minutes of sweat?  No, we’re used to an hour or longer.

There has been a lot of recent medical research into heat and sweating  and much of it bears directly on how personally prepared you might be for a real disaster or emergency.  Should such an event show up during the hottest time of the year.  That window is the next 120 days, or so.

Since I’ve had eczema my whole life, sweating used to be my enemy.  The reason was simple:  With eczema, you will occasionally have open sores on your hands (and feet) and sweat plain stings like hell.  But, the odd (counter-intuitive) thing is that when I moved to a hot climate with lots of humidity (the Cayman Islands in the early 1980’s) sweating a lot resulted in my eczema getting much better.  Almost disappeared.

The research in the relationship between sweating and atopic dematitis (of which eczema is a sub-set) continues.  One of the more recent papers is “Sweat mechanisms and dysfunctions in atopic dermatitis..”

The next angle to consider when sweating is water and electrolyte replacement.  When you sweat, there are things like sodium, calcium, and potassium being leeched out with the water.  Take a look at “Sweating Rate and Sweat Sodium Concentration in Athletes: A Review of Methodology and Intra/Interindividual Variability.” for current research.  If you are planning to be an ultra-marathoner, having your doc do a “sweat test” and measuring what’s coming out, may lead to some electrolyte re-tuning.  Normally, though, Pedialyte or Gatorade should do the trick.  A dill pickle and a glass of cool water is cheaper.

Tattoos Inhibit Sweat???

If you have a lot of tats, you might want to consider the findings reported in Skin Tattoos Alter Sweat Rate and Na+ Concentration..

“Tattooed skin generated less sweat and a higher Na concentration than nontattooed skin when stimulated by pilocarpine iontophoresis.”

Tats might make you look fit (and fierce) but the reality is that putting ink 3-5 MM into the skin is about as deep as sweat glands.

Which makes us wonder how long before a smaller number of tattoos will be a sign of improved physical fitness; at least when comes to sweating to cope with extreme conditions.  We’ll know the data is sinking in when pro sports announces some tattoo sensitivity.

By the way, I noticed I had lost a couple of pounds in my high sweat workout Friday.  I’m not the only one asking “How much water is in that sweat-soaked shirt?”  The core of this is addressed in “Trapped sweat in basketball uniforms and the effect on sweat loss estimates.” Eeewe…

And it has become clear since 2016 that sweating does tend to wash-off some potential microbial pathogens.  See Sweating the small stuff: Glycoproteins in human sweat and their unexplored potential for microbial adhesion.

Other Points to Sweat:

  • The general goal of sweat is to cool the body, but not too rapidly.
  • Sweating is good – as in the Finnish Sauna or the Indian Sweat Lodge.  But, within reason.
  • If you do a “sweat” on purpose, don’t take a cold shower after because there is some thermal risk from cold showers.  Can you spell “shock?”
  • For me, the best course is to cool down naturally – until the soaking shirt begins to feel cool – then take a normal (not too hot) shower.
  • You can adapt to summer heat by slowly turning your homes thermostat up 1-2 degrees per month.  In the winter, Elaine and I run our home at 73 and by June, we will be up to 78.  Lower heating bill in the winter (but still comfy and warm) and less of an A/C bite in the summer compared with running 73-year round.
  • If you are doing a lot of mental activity, you may find that your optimal thinking temperature is around 68, or so.  On the other hand, if you’re a criminal there’s a hint in Murder or not? Cold temperature makes criminals appear to be cold-blooded and warm temperature to be hot-headed. that the reality is those terms are inverse to what heat and cold really do.  More on this line of inquiry in “Skin temperature, sleep, and vigilance.”  Warm skin while sleeping, cool when you get out of bed in the morning.
  • As I was researching vitamins and heat stroke, I came across ” Protective effects of alpha-tocopherol and mannitol in both circulatory shock and cerebral ischaemia injury in rat heatstroke ” in which there’s a fascinating remark:
    • “Pretreatment with alpha-tocopherol (20 mg/kg, i.v.) or mannitol (10%, i.v.) 30 min before the onset of heat exposure significantly attenuated heat stroke-induced arterial hypotension, cerebral ischaemia and neuronal damage, the increased free radical formation and lipid peroxidation in the brain and the increased plasma levels of cytokines. Pretreatment with alpha-tocopherol or mannitol resulted in a prolongation of survival time in heat stroke..”
  • That alpha-tocopherol is vitamin E. Damn big dose, too.  No idea was the MED (minimum  effective dose would be.  Along the same lines, see “Protective role of dietary-supplemented selenium and vitamin E in heat-induced apoptosis and oxidative stress in mice testes.”  Whether this heat-helping property of vfitamin E carries over into humans will be interesting to watch over time.
  • A more mainstream approach would be to increase your vitamin C intake.  Good article in Vitality worth a read over here. Maybe the big glass of lemonade actually made sense?

As mentioned, I used to hate sweating.  Now, it’s part of every-day life.  I go with very short hair in the summer, too.  A kind of auxiliary cooling system. Real loose weave hats are good; light colors only and only when in direct sunlight.

Easiest part of better “heat coping” is to consciously decide if you want your body to be “heat ready” or whether you want to live another summer with the marvels of modern climate control; in home, in office, and in-between.

Just pray like hell there are no bumps in the supply-chain until next year…

Write when you chill,