It’s normal to want to throw on an extra layer and bundle up when the temperature drops. But do you find yourself on the cold side all the time? Are you constantly fighting with your significant other over the thermostat? Wearing a jacket when your pals are comfortably rocking t-shirts? And continuously plastered with goosebumps?
There are specific factors that can help to explain why you are always so cold. Here are some expert-backed explanations, plus what you can do about them:
1. Your thyroid is out of wack
Hypothyroidism, a condition in which the thyroid gland is under-active, may be to blame, according to Chirag Shah, a board-certified emergency medicine physician and co-founder of Accesa Labs, a thyroid lab-testing service. While the gland is responsible for a number of metabolic processes, it’s also involved with temperature regulation in the body.
“People with hypothyroidism often feel cold because they do not make enough thyroid hormone. The result is that the metabolism slows down, resulting in the sensation of feeling cold,” Shah said.
2. You’re older
“The elderly can be more prone to being cold because their metabolism is slower and they produce less heat,” said Marcelo Campos, an internal medicine doctor at Atrius Health, a large nonprofit independent medical group based in Newton, Massachusetts.
Your normal body functions may also decline the more you age.
“Studies show that from around the age of 60, the ability of our bodies to conserve heat declines, resulting in more cold sensation,” said Dawne Kort, an attending physician and partner at CityMD, New York-based urgent care provider. And as you get older, you can experience decreased muscle mass, which can also play into this.
3. It could be something you’re eating
Josh Axe, a clinical nutritionist and founder of Ancient Nutrition and DrAxe.com, said that certain foods may be to blame.
“People who eat lots of water-dense, cold foods are going to feel cooler,” he said. Examples of these are smoothies, iced drinks and salads. To combat this, try switching to items like soups instead of smoothies and stir-fry meals in lieu of salads.
4. You’re anemic
Shah said that iron deficiency anemia can definitely cause a person to feel more frigid than usual, noting that iron is a mineral that is a key component of red blood cells.
“Red blood cells are important for carrying oxygen around the body. Without enough iron, the red blood cells cannot function properly and can lead to the sensation of feeling cold in addition to other symptoms,” Shah said.
Additional signs of anemia include: feeling tired, lightheaded, experiencing a rapid heart rate or shortness of breath.
Jacqueline Jacques, the senior vice president of medical affairs at Thorne Research, a nutritional supplement and at-home health testing brand, said anemia can also be caused by having low levels of B12. This can be an issue for vegetarians or vegans, as foods rich in the vitamin include eggs, poultry, meat, and dairy.
5. You’re pregnant
Generally, body temperature goes up in pregnancy. Jacques said that normal core temperature rises from 98.6 to around 100 when a woman is carrying a child.
“That said, pregnant women are both more likely to have anemia and poor circulation, especially in their legs,” she said. So pregnant women may occasionally complain about feeling like they have a chill, especially in their hands and feet.
6. You’re dehydrated
Carol Aguirre with Nutrition Connections, a nutrition counseling center in South Florida, said that water drives the metabolism by helping break down food, which creates energy and heat.
“Not enough water slows your metabolism and prevents your body from making enough energy to keep you warm,” she said.
7. It could be your hormones
Different hormones produced by males and females can affect body temperature, according to experts.
For example, “estrogen generally promotes dilated blood vessels, heat dissipation, and lower body temperature,” Kort said. “Progesterone, or progestins, generally has the opposite effect.”
Because of this, depending on a woman’s menstrual cycle and hormone levels, changes in body temperature and cold sensitivity can occur. “In men, higher testosterone levels may reduce sensitivity to the cold by desensitizing one of the main cold receptors in the skin,” Kort added.
8. Women tend to be colder than men
A study by the University of Utah found that women’s hands tend to run consistently colder than those of males. And according to Jacques, women are more prone to both anemia and hypothyroidism, which are both linked to coldness.
9. You have poor circulation
If your hands and feet feel like ice but the rest of your body is comfortable, a circulation problem that keeps blood from flowing to your extremities might be to blame. Kort said cardiovascular disease can be one cause.
“It’s a sign that your heart is not pumping blood effectively or that an artery blockage could be preventing blood from getting to your extremities,” she said. “Smoking can also bring on circulation issues, as smoking constricts blood vessels.”
10. Your anxiety may be to blame
“People with anxiety usually feel cold more than others,” said Maryam Jahed, founder and COO of the anxiety-tracking wearable device Airo Health.
She added that this occurs because when you’re experiencing anxiety, the feeling activates your amygdala ― the part of the brain responsible for protecting the body and responding to danger. “This makes your body put all of its reserves and energy into keeping you ‘safe,’” she said.
Jahed also said this can make you feel cold because your body is focusing on calming you down and therefore does not have enough blood flow to keep you warm. “That’s why you usually feel colder in your extremities. It’s harder for blood to reach there and keep you warm,” she said.
11. Your BMI is too low
Your body mass index or weight affect whether you feel cold, but the amount of fat and muscle you have are also factors.
“Muscles are metabolically more active and this generates more heat. Fat is an insulator and this can reduce the amount of heat you lose,” Campos said.
Conversely, rapid weight loss or a restricted diet may be to blame for feeling cold. Jacques said that since your body burns calories to make heat, “when you restrict calories, you are literally reducing the fuel that keeps your body warm.”
“In addition, our bodies are programmed to try to prevent starvation. If you severely restrict calories or reduce your weight too quickly, especially with crash diets or eating disorders like anorexia or bulimia, then your body will try to save you from starving by slowing down your metabolism ― which means you are not burning as much energy so you feel cold,” she said.
When To Be Concerned
If you are tired and run down from having a virus or being really overworked, you may experience feeling cold as just a temporary symptom from your body being over stressed. But if you notice that you are substantially colder than people around you on a regular basis, or you never used to feel cold and now you are cold all the time, you should see a doctor.
If you have a new symptom of coldness together with other symptoms like weight gain or loss, fatigue, rapid heart rate, hair loss, constipation or shortness of breath, then you should see a qualified health professional as well, Jacques said.
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