The cost of living is a big topic this year, as are ways to keep your heating bills down. There are obvious external things we can be doing (like closing doors and windows, turning the thermostat down a couple of degrees, choosing energy efficient appliances etc), but did you know there are also internal factors that can increase your sensitivity to the cold? Here's five reasons why your body may not be heating you up right....
1 - LOW IRON
People with iron deficiency often feel the cold more than people with sufficient iron levels (particularly in their hands and feet) as iron is needed to create haemoglobin and haemoglobin helps move oxygen around the body and deliver it all over the body. Without sufficient oxygen getting where it's needed, our bodies are unable to regulate temperature properly.
Other signs of iron deficiency include shortness of breath, dizziness, pale skin and low energy.
To up your iron through your diet you can include foods such as animal based proteins (red meat, poultry, seafood), dark leafy greens, beans and legumes, nuts and seeds.
** Always consult with a qualified healthcare practitioner before taking iron supplements as excess iron can be harmful to the bodies organs.
2 - UNDERACTIVE THYROID
Our thyroid has many important roles in the body, and one of those is regulating our metabolism. When our thyroid is underactive, our metabolism can slow down which can lead to a drop in core body temperature. A drop in core body temperature will leave us feeling particularly vulnerable to the cold.
Other signs of an underactive thyroid can include unexplained weight gain, fatigue, low mood, constipation, hair loss, dry skin and aching joints/muscles.
3 - HORMONES!
The battle of the sexes has never had a more fraught battleground than that of the heater's thermostat controls. There a few reasons why women are particularly sensitive to feeling the cold, and one of those is our hormones.
Oestrogen and progesterone are two of the main players for women when it comes to reproductive hormones, yet they play various other roles in our bodies that are not related to reproduction and the menstrual cycle. Oestrogen plays a role in vasodilation (widening of blood vessels) which reduces our body temperature by increasing blood flow to the skin where the heat can be lost to the air. Progesterone has the opposite effect, it constricts blood vessels and the body moves blood flow away from the extremities and towards it's vital organs instead leading to cold hands and feet.
A study from the University of Utah* found that while women have a very slightly higher core body temperature, their extremities can be up to three degrees colder than mens.
Because our hormones fluctuate during the course of our cycle, the way we perceive the cold will also change over the month, and imbalances in these hormones can have an impact on thermoregulation.
4 - DEHYDRATION
We all know that drinking enough water is important, but we tend to think about it more during summer, yet the impact of dehydration during winter can also be enormous. A study from the University of New Hampshire* found that the risk of dehydration is greater in winter as people tend to forget to drink as they don't feel as thirsty, or they drink hot beverages that aren't as beneficial at improving hydration levels (herbal tea is the best hot beverage for hydration).
Water is very good at absorbing and storing heat, so the body uses it to help regulate our body temperature.
When our water levels are low, our body restricts how much blood is directed towards the skin so that it can prioritise more important organs. Without the flow of nice warm blood to the skin, the impact of the cold is more keenly felt.
To help up your fluid levels during winter - try keeping a water bottle handy at work/school, in the car etc so it's always nearby. If you're not a fan of plain water, try adding a squeeze of lemon juice, or drink herbal teas if you're after a warming drink.
5 - BODY COMPOSITION
People with low body weight will generally feel the cold more than others due to a lower body fat percentage - however this isn't true for everyone - some people with a low body weight have a fast metabolism which can help generate the extra heat.
While body fat helps insulate us against the cold, muscle mass works as a great heat producer. People with very low muscle mass such as people on bed rest, or muscle wasting diseases will definitely feel the cold more, but the muscle mass doesn't have to be so pronounced for us to notice a difference. Even small changes in muscle mass can make a difference to our body temperature.
So if you've been feeling the cold more so this winter than everyone else around you, perhaps there's a reason for your cold intolerance, and addressing it could not only improve your health, but also your heating bill!
The Natural Health and Wellness Clinic
(03) 5977 7342
* References available on request