Are you always cold? Why some people feel it more than others by Ryan Tattle — Posted on 30 Nov 21:33 , 0 comments
Feeling cold sucks!
Your body's screaming at you, barking orders...
- Make adjustments
- Do whatever it takes...
- JUST GET ME WARM!
And nothing else matters at that moment.
But why do we feel cold?
And why do some people feel cold all the time?
And can anything be done to help? (Sneaky spoiler: yes. Understanding the why helps with the how...)
The science bit... Why do we get cold?
To understand why some of us feel the cold more than others we need to understand why any of us feel cold at all…
Feeling the cold is a good thing… Wait! What? WHY?
As warm-blooded human beings, we make (and control) our own body heat. And if we didn’t pick up signals about being cold, we could die, plain and simple… We’d be in a cold environment, not realize it, and perish… So first off, let's be clear, it is a good thing. Generally speaking.
When we come into a cold environment, we feel the cold because nerve endings in our skin send messages to our brain’s hypothalamus––the area of our brain that acts like a thermostat, controlling chemicals and hormones related to temperature, sweat glands, and blood vessels.
What our body does about being cold
It gets the signal, ‘This is a COLD place!’, and the hypothalamus triggers our body to maintain a stable internal temperature––by conserving heat and raising heat production––without which we would die.
Conserving heat: Messages are sent to the blood vessels near our skin so that they constrict and divert most of our warm blood to our organs and internal environment because let’s face it – warm extremities would be of little comfort if our insides were turning to ice!
Of course, other bits of our amazing brain get involved too… letting us know how flippin’ miserable we’re feeling because of the drop in temperature.
And it all motivates us to ACTION… to do something in response to the message, ‘I AM COLD!!!’
Internal Heat Production
Our body creates internal heat aimed at maintaining a stable environment at around 98.6˚F or 37ºC.
Our cells (and organs) continually create heat as they convert food to energy. And our muscles produce around a quarter of our internal temperature even when they’re resting because they are always slightly contracted
- Muscles produce heat.
- More muscle produces more heat.
- And we all know, exercise produces more muscle.
Take home point: The more we exercise, the more we can build up our tolerance to the cold.
Our bodily organs are also continually working––our liver, kidneys, brain, and heart––and constantly producing heat. The liver alone produces up to 20% of our bodily heat.
Looking after our body is key.
Adaptation - Increasing tolerance to cold
If we spend winter tucked up in our centrally heated houses rarely experiencing the cold, it seems our bodies can actually lose their ability to deal with it.
But if we experience the cold on a more regular basis––like those living in Alaska, brrrrrrr!––cleverly our bodies can adapt to it…
Why else would people live there? I mean, why, if we couldn't adapt to it? It’s so crazy cold.
Here’s how adaptation can happen…
When we get cold one of the gazillion things that our phenomenal bodies do is to produce more norepinephrine––a neurotransmitter AND a hormone––in our brain.
This norepinephrine signals to our body to make more mitochondria––special organelles in our cells, AKA the powerhouses of the cell, which produce the most body heat of all––in our fat tissue. This allows our body to create more internal heat. Clever, huh?
So… when we get cold regularly, and our body is doing all it should, it makes more heat producing stuff, so next time we’re faced with the cold, we’re better prepared!
Not only does norepinephrine do all this, but it also helps to improve our focus, attention, reduce pain, and lower inflammation––altogether pretty cool, no pun intended!
So it seems our bodies have a built-in mechanism to help us get warm and happy, even in cold climes!
But that takes time.
Just why do some people feel cold more than others?
Women tend to feel the cold more than men generally for several reasons:
- Women tend to be smaller compared to men.
- Women’s metabolic rate tends to be slightly slower, so less heat is produced.
- Women’s temperatures vary naturally throughout their menstrual cycle, up to 1ºC.
- Higher testosterone levels found in men helps reduce sensitivity to the cold.
Older people tend to have less efficient responses to the cold due to reduced sensitivity to the signals their bodies send out. For example, they don’t start shivering until they hit a lower body temperature, and it also takes them longer to warm up.
Certain medical conditions, including hypothyroidism and Raynaud's syndrome (image below), affect people's ability to deal with the cold. Hypothyroidism affects thyroid hormone levels and can cause a lower internal body temperature. And Raynaud's syndrome affects the peripheral blood circulation to extremities, even at temperatures deemed relatively mild by others.
How can we stay warm?
When we understand why we get cold, and why we feel it so intensely, we can begin to do something about it effectively.
We have the obvious ways to deal with it like getting inside, heating on (although we have seen that sensible exposure to colder environments actually helps to increase cold tolerance), wear warm clothes, hats, and so on, but let’s go beyond that… After all who wants to be inside all the time?
A healthy body:
- creates its own heat
- conserves heat
- learns over time to adapt to some degree to the cold.
Supporting those natural processes––increasing exercise (and increasing the amount of muscle), eating well (thus providing good fuel for the body to burn), and reducing overall health-depleting chronic stress––is a great place to start.
If you think you may have a medical reason for feeling cold all the time, definitely have a chat with your doctor.
DON'T MISS OUT
Living life without being limited by the cold is one of our absolute passions, and we have loads more exciting information and material to come.
To keep posted, just drop your email address into the box below and we’ll send you our regular newsletter so you never miss a post.
Also go ahead and leave your comments below, we’d love to hear about your experiences and what works for you.