This summer has been HOT! With heat waves sweeping through many regions, chances are you’ve been feeling the heat these past few months — and the sweat.
Sweat can seem pretty gross and embarrassing, and like something you wish would just go away, but sweat actually plays a really important role in your body’s functioning, and when you use products that stop sweat (i.e., antiperspirants) you interfere with that role.
Here’s the deal: just by existing in the world, toxins accumulate in your body. And in this day in age, the number of toxins is the highest it’s ever been. Fortunately, our body naturally works to detoxify our systems and expel these toxins through pee, poop, and — you guessed it — sweat.
Your lymph nodes, some of which are located in your underarms, are one of the body’s major detoxification centers. What’s more, certain things in your body need to be removed by your lymph nodes. They won’t exit any other way. That means that when you’re trapping your sweat with an antiperspirant, those toxins stay inside your body.
Beyond removing toxins, sweat also regulates body temperature. Stress, exercise, heightened emotion, infections, or being in a hot environment can all raise your core body temperature, which can cause your body to stop functioning normally (hello, fevers!). Sweat helps us cool off, so we can keep going about our busy lives.
Okay, so sweat is important. But why does it have to stink?? Well, just like your gut microbiome, your skin microbiome contains a delicate balance of good and bad bacteria, and this is especially true in your armpits and pubic area. So the…er….fragrance you smell is just your sweat interacting with the bacteria on your skin’s surface. (And because all of us have unique microbiomes — affected by things like genetics, diet, environmental exposures, and antibiotic use — some people’s sweat smells stronger than others.)
While sweat may be essential, none of us want to worry about our B.O. during busy days. Most people turn to antiperspirants and deodorants to solve the smell problem….but let’s look at what that solution means for your body.
Antiperspirants, as we said, block toxins from leaving your body, which is a major problem. But wait, there’s more! Antiperspirants are usually aluminum-based, and aluminum, a known body toxin, can be absorbed through the skin. So when you use an aluminum-based antiperspirant, the body’s main response to it is chronic inflammation, which is the body’s way of fighting off toxins.
Chronic inflammation from constant exposure to toxins like aluminum can harm the body in the short term and long term by eventually causing plaque buildup in blood vessels, heart attack, stroke, or tissue damage due to lack of blood flow. Luckily, stopping exposure to aluminum should be enough to reverse most of the damage within a month.
Deodorants, on the other hand, let your sweat out while masking the odor. So they should be fine, right? Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. Some deodorants have other toxic ingredients that can cause chronic inflammation, like:
Aluminum (yes, it’s in some deodorants as well)
Oy, that’s a lot to keep track of. Luckily, there are plenty of natural, non-toxic options for battling B.O. without preventing your body from removing toxins through sweat or adding other inflammation-contributing ingredients, like fragrance, into your lymph nodes. We’re not going to get into epigenetics here, so we’ll focus on the other two contributing factors: hygiene and diet.
First up, hygiene:
Wipe down your armpits (in the shower or just at the sink!)
Apply a few drops of vinegar, tea tree oil, or witch hazel to clean underarms. They’re natural antibacterial agents and sterilizers that can reduce stink-causing bacteria.
Next, diet. Turns out, your body odor can worse after consuming certain foods. The biggest culprits are:
High sulfur or allium foods like broccoli, cabbage, onion, and garlic.
Processed foods (they raise your cholesterol and lack the important molecule chlorophyll, which helps aromatize bad smells in the body.)
Alcohol (when it’s metabolized, it turns into acetic acid, which is then secreted through your pores. And it smells.)
Try noting how these and other foods affect your body odor, and adjust your diet accordingly.
We understand that it’s hard to make the healthiest choices all the time. But your long-term health really matters. So #getwellbe by kicking antiperspirant to the curb and using natural deodorants instead!