Cold hands and feet are not the only sign that your thyroid or metabolism may be functioning below optimum levels.
Can you relate to any of the following?
- Unwanted weight
- Thyroid disorders
- Thinning hair, dry hair
- Dry skin
- Thinning eyebrows (missing outer 1/3 or eyebrows)
- Slow growing or fragile fingernails that split, crack or peel
- Chronic fatigue, lack of energy, sluggishness, weakness
- Inadequate or disordered sleep or insomnia
- High cholesterol
- Frequent dieting (low-fat, low-carb, low-calorie)
- Overexercise, especially excessive cardio training
- Frequent illness or infection, including yeast infections
- Low libido
- Abnormal menstrual cycles
- Mood swings, irritability
- Edema (especially around your eyes)
Are you surprised that any one or several of these signs may point to a root issue of a low body temperature as well? And if body temperature is low, then metabolism is correspondingly low-- to put it another way, your body is in conservation or survival mode. Low body temperature is anything below 98.2 degrees first thing in the morning. People with a sub-optimal morning body temperature tend to run on the cold side throughout the day as well, often shivering even when wearing a sweater! Matt Stone, author of Eat for Heat and partner with Dr. Garrett Smith at 180 Degree Health, recommends taking a rectal temperature for best accuracy, but others who work with assessing and raising body temperature and metabolic rate may recommend oral or basal (underarm) temperatures. Whatever method you choose, be sure to take into consideration these factors:
- Basal (underarm) temperature may run up to one degree lower than oral or rectal temperatures.
- The type of thermometer may affect readings. Digital thermometers may be one degree different in either direction from mercury thermometers. Contact me to order a mercury thermometer if you prefer the old-fashioned option. Another option is Geratherm which is recommended by some practitioners and utilizes an infra-red sensor that requires no contact to measure temperature.
- For oral temperatures, be sure to keep the thermometer in your mouth for 5-10 minutes before reading.
Both practitioners also recommend that temperatures be taken an additional three times daily, right before meals and right before bedtime. The reason is that when energy slumps after fasting, body temperature and metabolism also drop to conserve energy. If the average temperature between these four readings (before meals and right before bedtime) over the course of three days is lower than 97.8 degrees, then this may point to a thyroid disorder involving defective conversion of T4 to T3 by the liver if accompanied by other signs such as #1-9 in the above list. Although T3 is found in very low concentrations in the body, it is a more active thyroid hormone than T4, so it is critical to proper thyroid function, metabolism, and body temperature regulation. As a side note, many doctors will only test for TSH order to assess thyroid function, but TSH is produced by the pituitary and may be normal while other thyroid hormones such as T4 and T3 may be out of balance.
Use this chart to track your temperatures, and if you struggle with infertility, there is additional information that you can track (vaginal mucous consistency, day in your menstrual cycle, rise in temperature during ovulation, etc.) in order to assess your ability to conceive. This website contains a wealth of information on natural fertility.
Along the same lines as thyroid disorders, high cholesterol, particularly high LDL may indicate thyroid dysfunction.(1) Cholesterol is needed for the production of sex hormones, and this conversion cannot take place without adequate thyroid function, which is partially dependent on adequate body temperature. Another possible mechanism could be that thyroid hormones enhance the conversion of cholesterol into bile acids.”(2)
Thyroid disorders can also affect sleep, and vice versa: inadequate or disordered sleep can affect the thyroid. In fact, people with only one of these issues often end up suffering from BOTH thyroid and sleep disorders. If you have trouble waking up and getting moving in the morning, then you may have a thyroid dysfunction. And inadequate sleep is proven to make you fat! (3) So, be sure to get bed early (before 10 pm), and sleep at least 8-10 hours per night. Learn how to Optimize Your Sleep, then follow the guidelines in this blog to help you to assess your thyroid function. Ordering a Complete Thryoid Panel and Iodine Loading Test will help to confirm any thyroid issues.
Consuming thermogenic foods and herbs may help to increase metabolism and body heat as well. Some of my favorites are coconut oil, protein, green tea (including green tea extract, often used in herbal weight loss formulas), and common kitchen herbs and spices-- think spicy-- cayenne, black pepper, cinnamon, and oolong tea. One of my favorite recipes for a thermogenic tea is from Trim Healthy Mama-- it is called "The Shrinker." An excellent herbal weight loss product is called ASAP (As Slim As Possible), which contains tribulus, epimedium, an abundance of B Vitamins plus amino acids, and works by stimulating an increase in your body's own production of hCG-- not to be confused with the hCG diet, which uses human chorionic gonadotrophin (hCG) from pregnant horses and human women (yuck!).
Signs #10-11 in the above list have to do with adrenal and metabolic exhaustion, which both result in thyroid and body temperature regulation issues. The simple explanation is that dieting which involves excessive calorie, fat or carbohydrate restriction puts the body into a state of stress where it goes through food supply faster than it is being delivered, leading to a down-regulation in metabolism in order to slow down the rate at which it burns through fuel (namely calories and nutrients). Basically, dieting leads to a state of conservation in the body, which means lowered metabolism and body temperature. As abundant as food supplies are in this country, it is quite ironic that many Americans are in a state of self-imposed starvation due to our nutrient deficient foods and unhealthy focus on low calories and excessive exercise. We have inadvertently induced a state of hyper-stress on our bodies! Women are even more at a disadvantage because we are born with a lower metabolism than men due to our childbearing and nurturing functions which require reserves to operate.
The solution to caloric and nutritional deficits?
Nutritious, calorie-dense, unrefined foods-- eat as much as you can every day
Unrefined, non-GMO carbohydrates-- eat a variety of root vegetables, fruit, and grains (gluten-free, ancient grains are best, especially if you have issues with gluten)
Meat, fat, eggs and dairy products-- eat a satisfying amount (milk is incredible for boosting body temperature)
Eat beyond appetite-- eating more than you want to eat pushes the body out of its low metabolism rut, while eating less causes the body to conserve
- Plenty of salty foods-- when you feel cold, eat more and drink less (salt heats, and water cools). I recommend Sea Salt. Read more about Why You Need Sodium.
Intermittent fasting-- go at least 12 hours straight per day without food. So, start eating within one hour of rising (to get metabolism fired up), eat often (no less than every 4 hours, especially if you have blood sugar issues), then quit eating 12 hours later and give your body a rest. The next morning, it will be ready to take in more food and burn through it after fasting all night.
Sign #12: Overhydration is not something often talked about or recognized, especially in alternative healing. But the concept of the proper time and temperature of liquids has existed for years within Ayuervedic and Traditional Chinese Medicine. The standard accepted wisdom for proper hydration is to drink one-half your body weight in ounces of water per day. But according to Matt Stone & Dr. Garrett Smith, because every person is an individual with unique health needs, that amount of fluids can stress the bodies of some people, leading to a lower metabolism, thyroid function, and hence body temperature. The rationale is that water is a cooling element and will dilute mineral/ electrolyte concentrations in the body. This is especially critical when people are nutrient-deficient, which is the case for most of us these days due to soil depletion and low-nutrient foods. So, Matt’s recommendation is:
“Any time you pee clear, have a particularly strong urge to urinate that strikes you suddenly, urinate several times in rapid succession, or pee an abnormally large amount –- eat a salty carbohydrate-rich snack or meal as soon as possible.” --Matt Stone, Eat for Heat
180 Degree Health emphasizes intuitive eating and drinking-- drink when you are thirsty, but not too much. This works for some people, but there still needs to be some level of awareness because many people can no longer recognize their thirst mechanism. Thirst often masquerades as hunger, and some people even say that by the time you feel thirsty, you are already dehydrated. Monitoring urine color and other bodily signs (such as temperatre) are ways to be sure that you are sensitive to both your personal needs and uniqueness-- we are all individuals, so one-size-fits-all may not work for you with regard to fluid intake based on weight.
Matt’s advice about eating carbohydrates is very contrary to current popular holistic recommendations, especially in light of The Paleo Diet and “carbs are evil” mentalities out there. But the point is to eat quality carbohydrates-- not processed foods with a high glycemic index-- otherwise, you have other battles to fight such as blood sugar spikes, which trigger an adrenaline/ cortisol response which increases stress on the body. And, carbohydrates can be tempered with protein and/ or fat to prevent drastic swings in blood sugar. An example of such a snack would be bone broth (rich in salt and other electrolytes, full of protein, and contains saturated fats from the meat) with a few crackers (no more than 10g net carbs). Another option would be salted almond butter on a piece of whole grain bread (10g net carbs or less). If you don’t do grains or gluten, then use 1/2 of an apple instead. Carbohydrates are necessary for a healthy body and metabolism. Weight loss often stalls and muscle catabolism results without adequate carbohydrate intake. And the body can adapt and become very efficient at converting protein into glucose, which can undermine your efforts to lose weight, especially around the belly! So, everything in moderation, and mix it up so the body doesn't get bored-- keep your body guessing (another Trim Healthy Mama trick). Read more about Matt’s philosophy and how he has helped countless others to fire up their metabolisms and body temperatures in Eat for Heat. By following Matt’s suggestions, I know many a person who now has hot fingertips and toes and sleeps soundly through the night!
Sign #13 is constipation. A sluggish metabolism means that transit time is also slow. Remember Signs #1-9 above and their relation to liver function and T3 production? Diminished liver function means lower output of bile, which means reduced peristalsis in the intestines.
Sign #14 ties to compromised immune function. A depressed metabolism means immune function is likely not functioning at optimum capacity either. Once again, the body is in survival mode, so digestion is shut down, and without adequate nutrients and body temperature, the body is defenseless against pathogens. A hot body kills viruses-- this is why we bundle up, drink hot drinks, and sweat it out when we get sick at our house. By inducing a rise in body temperature, the body is able to rest vs. working to raise body temperature through a fever, and the illness passes quickly.
Signs #15-20 are all related to fertility and hormone balance, especially for women. There are not many women I know who do not suffer from some type of hormone imbalance whether it be PMS, endometriosis, morning sickness, infertility, or hot flashes. Sex drive is closely tied to mineral balance in the body. Adequate zinc is required for the production of progesterone and testosterone, and copper is related to estrogen production. The ratio of these two minerals is critical and can be assessed through Hair Tissue Mineral Analsysis (HTMA). Boron is also a key mineral for sex drive as it contributes to the production of testosterone!
Most women have a zinc deficiency or an imbalance with copper. Sufficient progesterone is necessary for conception and maintenance of pregnancy, and a rise in progesterone is impossible without an adequate rise in body temperature, hence the tracking of body temperature, vaginal mucous, etc. for fertility. Abnormal menstrual cycles as a result of depressed body temperatures makes conception difficult as well. Estrogen causes swelling and bloating associated with PMS, but did you know that a low body temperature can have the same effect?
Finally, blood sugar imbalances contribute to hormone fluctuations that lead to female complaints related to fertility, menstruation, mood imbalances and menopausal concerns. Balancing blood sugar can mean a world of difference to women in these states. And once again, a sub-par body temperature can be the driving force behind even hypoglycemia!
Wow! Can you believe the connections? I was astounded myself because it is so simple, but there are so few doctors and practitioners who even monitor temperature, except to rule out a fever and accompanying infection.
So, after monitoring your temperature for 3 days, if you find that it is lower than 98.2 degrees on average, then go ahead and take the challenge to see if SENSIBLY applying the principles of Eat for Heat works for you to raise your body temperature and eliminate some of the annoying signs listed at the beginning of this blog. Then, please let me know how it works for you or if you have any questions along the way.
Still not hot? Then let’s see about testing your mineral balance and supplying the proper nutrients to your body-- with the condition of our food supply, even the best diets do not provide sufficient amounts of the essential nutrients for most people, and stress along with our focus on hydration further depletes our interstitial mineral concentrations. I am living proof of this phenomenon-- after 6 months without supplementation of any kind and eating only organic, nutrient-rich, unprocessed foods including no added sugar, I was deficient in EVERY mineral screened through a HTMA. Without the proper fuel, your body will not be able to fire up its furnace to the levels you need for optimum temperatures and health. Lastly, remember that Sea Salt is the key mineral for heat-- sprinkle it onto your food generously, add it to drinks, use it when you feel cold to boost your body temperatures.
Warm wishes for a Happy New Year!
L’chaim-- To Life! To Heat!