Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Sweat, wonderful, stinky sweat

Sweat is essential to human life.  When our body temperature elevates, our body's defense is to wet the skin and allow evaporation to take away the heat.  It is a very good system.  A few years back I attended a Physiology lecture on the sweat gland.  It was fascinating because the sweat gland is so complex.

I study, not sweat glands, but sweating, because I study work in hot conditions.  We measure sweat production, hypohydration, body temperature changes.  It is interesting how complexly the different parts of the body work together.

Our body temperature is maintained within very narrow limits.  Our normal temperature is 37C, and at 40C we are concerned that the body's processes will be disturbed enough to kill us.  Not a very wide margin for error.

Of course sweat also is our major source of body odor.  You actually have two distinctive types of sweat glands, and one of those is the stink-tive one.  Eccrine sweat is mostly water with some sodium and potassium.  We did a study one time and measured some of the constituents of sweat in different circumstances.  The second type of sweat is apocrine sweat which in addition to water also contains proteins and fatty acids.  These latter two substances are as tasty to bacteria on our skin as they are to us.

The bacteria are really the stinky culprits.  As the bacteria feast on the "food" parts of apocrine sweat, and this bacterial action is what we smell as body odor.

We go to great lengths to eliminate or cover-up body odor.  It is normal, it is healthy, but we don't like the smell so we spend billions bathing and rolling and spraying.

And I am glad we do.  Not everything about humans is appealing.  In fact, at times, given our fallen nature, very little is appealing.

Despite our literal and spiritual stink, G^d loved us so much that He gave his son for our good. 

Go figure.

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