Your blood and urine can tell a lot about your health. That’s why doctors often order tests of these bodily fluids to check how well you’re doing.
But what about sweat? Could this also give us insights into our health? What if, instead of needing to get your blood drawn or provide a urine sample, you could simply use a wearable device on your skin that analyzes your sweat?
What Is Sweat Made Of?
Sweat is 99% water, but the last 1% can provide helpful information about what’s happening inside your body.
Sweat contains small amounts of hormones, electrolytes (sodium, potassium, chloride, and calcium), urea, amino acids, vitamins, minerals, glucose, and lactate, as well as a variety of other trace elements like copper, zinc, and iron.
The levels of these substances in your sweat may potentially be useful indicators of your health.
Despite the common belief that you can “cleanse and sweat out your toxins,” that’s not really what sweating does (your liver and kidneys provide that toxin-removing service for you).
Current Sweat-Monitoring Devices
At this point in time, there are only a few limited ways that sweat tests are known to be useful for monitoring health.
The best example of using sweat analysis in a clinical setting is for the diagnosis of cystic fibrosis, a genetic disorder affecting the lungs and digestive system. In people with cystic fibrosis, their sweat will contain unusually high amounts of chloride due to a problem with how their cells use and move chloride.
Sweat-testing devices are also sometimes used when continuous alcohol monitoring is necessary. This can be useful in cases where a person is on probation for a DUI or is part of an alcohol treatment program.
Innovations We May See Soon
As more research and development is done in the field of sweat analysis and wearable devices, we may see some new and innovative ways to use this technology in the future.
For example, diabetic patients may one day be able to monitor their blood sugar (glucose) levels through a skin patch rather than a finger-prick test.
Athletes may also use these devices to monitor their electrolyte and fluid levels during competition, helping them avoid dehydration or heat stroke. It might also be able to read their lactate levels, which could objectively measure fatigue and recovery needs.
Wearable sweat-test devices might also be developed for monitoring cortisol levels, which could be useful in managing stress, anxiety, and depression.
But as of today, much more research still needs to be done. It is not yet definitively confirmed that sweat tests can give us accurate and reliable information regarding these various biomarkers. More studies are needed to determine the feasibility of using sweat-analysis devices for routine health monitoring.