5 Things Your Sweat Can Reveal About Your Health, According To Science
You know that book for preschoolers called Everybody Poops? I honestly think they should make an Everybody Sweats version for puberty-stricken teens, because according to my awkward memories, nothing felt more embarrassing than the constant pit stains of high school. And hey, it turns out that perspiration does more than just humiliate you tirelessly — what your sweat can reveal about your health is definitely worth listening to. Thanks for having my back, sweat... even if you made me regret you at the time.
In a recent study published in the journal Nature , scientists from the University of California, Berkeley and Stanford University revealed their progress in creating a wearable technology that can monitor everything from dehydration to depression. Ali Javey, the senior researcher for the project, noted that sweat contains an almost unbelievable number of chemicals, each with its own information about a person's health. And not only that, but scientists also require only a tiny amount to glean information — about one-fifth of a drop. Because the wearable technology is still in its beginning phases, the team began by tracking skin temperature and four major health-determining components: Sodium, potassium, glucose and lactate.
44 participants were fitted with sticky skin sensors and sweatbands that had been tricked out with small, flexible circuit boards. As they participated in various exercise activities — running, swimming, cycling — the sweatbands sent their information to an iPhone at the lab.
I know, right? Extremely cool. Ultimately, Javey's group hopes to use sweat the way we currently use blood samples — except that no needles would be involved and a whole lot of samples could be collected. While that technology is not quite here yet, here are a few things we can learn from our sweat, both according to this current study and to the existing research:
1. You're Dehydrated
Participants in the wearable technology study were split into two groups. Both exercised, but only one was allowed to drink water. Because the team was able to track the results in real time, they saw a noticeable effect on electrolytes in the non-water-drinking group.
2. You (Might) Be Pregnant
Hormones screw with a whole lot of stuff, including your body's ability to determine the surrounding temperature. Your body thinks it's overheating, and to combat this (nonexistent) threat, it will engage its built-in AC system. By which I mean, sweat. You'll be really sweaty.
3. You Need a Snack
When your body is in need of a li'l pick me up, it will send you signals. Excessive sweating, slight nausea, and cold, clammy skin at the nape of your neck.
4. You're Depressed
A Swedish study found that 97 percent of patients who later died by suicide showed signs of hyporeactivity, a reduced ability to react to stimuli, in their sweat. Javey and her team hope to use this information to determine whether patients are suffering from depression severe enough to warrant medication.
5. You're Scared
Or stressed, or happy. Our sweat smells differently depending on our emotions, and multiple studies have shown that humans can subconsciously sense the difference. So your arch-nemesis probably can smell fear. Sorry, dudes.
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