Do you wear your coat in the office while everyone else is warm? Your low body temperature may be giving you important information about a medical problem.
Are you always wearing your coat in the office while everyone else is toasty? Your body may be giving you important information. Often you can warm up by changing your habits in ways that will improve your overall health. But you may also have a medical problem that needs attention.
Lifestyle low body temperature causes
Underweight. Yes, you can be too thin, even if you’re a fashion model, and if you’re also shivering all the time, you need more body fat to insulate you from the temperature outside. To stay that thin, you also no doubt aren’t eating much. Your body needs food to burn — and so generate your body heat. Gain a few pounds eating healthy food, not junk.
Weak muscles. You can be thin and not especially fit, if you don’t have strong muscles. (You can also be overweight and heavy but lack muscle tone). Muscles actually produce heat and also fire up your metabolism. Try working out with free weights at home, following muscle-building exercise routines on a tape or online, or using machines at the gym after a session or two with a trainer. Muscle-building is especially important for older women, since women start out with less muscle and we all naturally lose muscle as we age.
Low iron. Your red blood cells bring oxygen to all your cells, and with oxygen comes heat. But if you don’t have enough iron in your diet, they can’t do their job as well. Low iron, called anemia, can also make your thyroid underperform.
Think about why you might be anemic. Taking antacids often can leach your body of iron. Meat is a source of iron, and vegetarians who are often cold will be urged to eat meat. That may not be necessary, but it’s up to you to be sure you’re getting enough iron, which is plentiful in leafy greens like spinach, or nuts, seeds, and beans.
Low vitamin B-12. You need this nutrient to make those red blood cells. You may lack B-12 because of your diet; you can store up on B-12 by adding in shellfish, liver, and some fish (mackerel, tuna, herring, sardines, and trout) or fortified soy products and grains. But you may also have an absorption problem. Ask your doctor for a B-12 test and see if you benefit from supplements.
Not enough sleep. When you miss sleep, your body temperature drops, probably because your metabolism slows. Make sleep a priority and drop bad habits like playing with your smartphone at midnight.
Not drinking enough. Water in your body regulates your metabolism. It also traps heat and releases it slowly, helping you maintain your temperature. One sign that you’re drinking too little: bright yellow urine.
Serious low body temperature causes
Feeling cold, particularly in your hands and feet, can be a sign of common but serious medical issues.
Underactive thyroid. Women who have recently been pregnant or are over the age of 60 are more likely to have an underactive thyroid. If your thyroid is sluggish, your metabolism slows and you won’t have enough body heat. Other signs include thinning hair, dry skin, and fatigue. Ask your doctor for a blood test; and you may end up with a prescription.
Poor circulation. If your hands and feet are icy when the rest of your body is warm, your heart may not be pumping blood the way it should. Ask your doctor to evaluate you for heart disease.
Smoking restricts your blood vessels and interferes with circulation — consider those cold feet and hands your body asking you to quit!
If you have Raynaud's disease, the blood vessels in your hands and feet are narrowing when your skin picks up a low temperature. You may need medication.
Diabetes. The classic signs of diabetes are fatigue, thirst, and frequent urination. You might also have cold feet and hands. Get your blood sugar levels checked. If you already have a diagnosis of diabetes, don’t ignore cold hands and feet: they may become numb and painful. More serious symptoms sometimes creep up on diabetics. Talk to your doctor as soon as you notice this sign, as you’ll probably need to more closely manage your blood sugar.
April 01, 2020
Janet O’Dell, RN