Brrrrrr! Is it cold in here, or is it just you? If you have hypothyroidism, then it might be you… or, more accurately, your underactive thyroid. If you’re the person who shivers at room temperature, who wears a sweater even on “warm days,” and who constantly has to apologize for your icy hands and feet, then you aren’t alone. Cold intolerance is one of the most common symptoms of hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s.
What exactly is the link between your sluggish thyroid and your arctic body temperature? More importantly, is there anything you can do to permanently defrost your extremities?
How Your Thyroid and Body Temperature Are Linked
When all its parts are working correctly, the human body is a fine-tuned machine that can effortlessly adapt to changes in its environment, including environmental temperature. It possesses numerous ways to maintain a consistent basal body temperature (BBT).
Your BBT is the normal temperature of your body at rest. For most people, this temperature is around 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. Your body has ways of maintaining your BBT, like causing you to sweat when you get hot or to shiver when you feel cold.
Your thyroid plays a big role in regulating your BBT. Those with an underactive thyroid may have a lower basal body temperature. Even lowering your internal body temperature by a few degrees can make you feel cold, which is why it isn’t uncommon for those with hypothyroidism to feel chilly even at what others consider to be “normal” room temperature.
How Hypothyroidism Affects Your Metabolism
When you become cold, your metabolism should rev up and begin creating heat, a process known as thermogenesis. As part of thermogenesis, your body will restrict blood vessels to lower heat loss and make you shiver. These micro muscle contractions generate heat. Your body will also activate brown body fat (adipose tissue is the scientific term) in order to burn the fat for heat.
However, an underactive thyroid does not produce enough hormones (T4 and T3 hormones, to be exact) to support this process. In essence, your metabolism doesn’t get all the ingredients it needs to perform thermogenesis effectively. The result is that your body can’t get warm or stay warm as well as it should. (Side note – the thyroid’s role in regulating your metabolism is also why weight gain and difficulties losing weight are also two common symptoms of hypothyroidism.)
So, if you feel cold all the time, it’s not just in your head. You aren’t making it up or “being a wimp.” Your body really is different from other people. Don’t let anyone tease you about wearing a jacket indoors again!
Can Synthetic Thyroid Hormones Help?
You would think that the solution to your cold intolerance would simply be to boost your underperforming thyroid with a regiment of synthetic thyroid hormones. However, that won’t necessarily help. The science can get kind of complicated here, but, in a nutshell, the idea is that even if your overall thyroid hormone levels normalize as a result of thyroid hormone replacement therapy, that doesn’t mean the synthetic hormones will reach all your tissues consistently. In other words, the synthetic hormones don’t always reach the cells and tissues in your body that help regulate and stabilize your metabolism.
If you have tried thyroid replacement therapy and still experience a high sensitivity to the cold, this is why.
If Thyroid Hormone Replacement Therapy Doesn’t Fix Cold Intolerance, What Does?
Oh, my lovely ThyroSister, I thought you’d never ask! The answer to getting rid of your chills is the same answer to addressing all of your hypothyroid and Hashimoto’s symptoms. I believe the best path is to actively manage your autoimmune condition through natural and holistic lifestyle changes. By getting your hypothyroidism under control, you can give your thyroid the chance to heal. When your thyroid heals, it can begin to produce the hormones the rest of your body needs to function at an optimal level. You should then start to notice all of your symptoms begin to disappear.
When your thyroid produces enough T3 and T4 hormones, your metabolism can rev back up. Not only will you feel more comfortable indoors, but you should also notice those extra stubborn pounds finally melt away. You’ll sleep better at night. Your brain fog will lift and you’ll feel fresh and focused each day. Your hair will grow thick and luscious in the right places, and you may finally want to use your bed for something other than sleeping. (Your partner will be thrilled, trust me.)
Sound too good to be true? It’s not. The hallmark of an autoimmune disorder is that it warps your hormones, which sends your body into a tailspin. That’s why you have so many different symptoms, which seem to come and go, including a sensitivity to the cold. When you address the primary problem – in the case of hypothyroidism, the problem is a malfunctioning thyroid – you will notice positive changes throughout your body.
How exactly does my holistic Hashimoto’s management system work? That is a topic for a much longer article, but as a quick summary, it starts with testing. Before you can fix your thyroid, we need to confirm that your thyroid is the problem and to see exactly where your hormone levels are at.
(As a quick example, if you have no other symptoms of hypothyroidism other than cold intolerance, you may actually have Raynaud’s syndrome. This syndrome causes the blood vessels in your hands and feet to restrict when you are in cold environments or feeling stressed. If testing shows that your thyroid is functioning normally, then Raynaud’s syndrome would be worth investigating.)
Next, I would look at what you eat. I work with my clients to reimagine their diets to take out the foods, like gluten, that are known to trigger an immune response. Even just this simple step of eating food that nourishes your body instead of triggering inflammation can radically change the way you feel and improve the functioning of your thyroid. I also often recommend certain vitamins and minerals to my clients to help soothe the damage of autoimmunity and help the body recover from the inside out. Finally, I encourage my clients to change their mindset. Stress really does impact your health in a negative way, which is why a positive and life-affirming perspective can be such a powerful ally during your healing process.
Want to learn more about my hypothyroidism healing process? Why not schedule a Clarity Call with me today? I’d love to meet you and learn more about your personal story so I can give you a customized recommendation.
You don’t have to stand, shivering in the cold any longer. I can help you manage your hypothyroidism and cold intolerance.