When your thyroid hormone is working properly inside cells you will make 65% energy and 35% heat as you burn calories for fuel. Thyroid hormone is governing your basal metabolic rate, orchestrating the idling speed at which all cells make energy and thus heat. A classic symptom of poor thyroid function is being too cold. And conversely, a classic symptom of hyperthyroidism is being too hot (making too much heat). However, many people with slow thyroid are too hot, a seeming paradox that I will explain shortly.
Generally, you know all too well if you fit into the too cold category. You always want the thermostat set higher than everyone else or you have on an extra layer of clothes. You go to bed with socks on your feet or you want extra layers of blankets. When this type of coldness matches up with the symptoms of thyroid-related fatigue, you fall into the classic pattern of sluggish or hypothyroid.
In many cases of poor thyroid function a cold feeling is not quite so obvious. Dr. Broda Barnes pioneered the use of the basal temperature test to help identify sluggish thyroid function. This is done by placing a thermometer (not digital) under your arm for ten minutes before getting out of bed. This should be done ten days in a row, averaging the daily reading. Menstruating women should start their ten day test when their menstrual cycle begins, as basal temperature naturally rises 2 degrees at ovulation. If your waking temperature averages from 97.8 to 98.2 degrees it is normal. Less than 97.8 reflects sluggish thyroid function.
It should be noted that there are other factors besides thyroid that can make a person run too cold. Common ones include:
A) Protein malnutrition that is resulting in a loss of muscle. Individuals with borderline thyroid should eat at least ½ their ideal weight in grams of protein per day (avoiding excessive intake of soy protein).
B) Nutrients lacking for cellular energy production (co-enzyme B vitamins, Q10, magnesium).
C) Nutrients lacking to implement cellular DNA thyroid instructions (iron or zinc).
D) Excessive stress, which pools blood around central organs and makes hands and feet cold. Anti-inflammatory nutrients are required to fix this, along with stress management. Fish oil and squalene are very helpful.
E) A viral infection, even a subclinical viral infection. Viruses hijack cellular energy production, shutting down energy and heat production, and making excess lactic acid. This leaves one feeling cold and achy from the lactic acid. This is why you get the chills from the flu. Many viruses, like Epstein-Barr or cytomegalovirus, can operate on a low grade basis – enough to make a person cold, tired, and achy. Such individuals often wake up with a sore throat in the morning. Monolaurin is a top choice for nutrient support.
These coldness issues can masquerade as thyroid problems, and in some cases may in fact be the primary cause of the hypothyroid symptoms. The proof of the source of the problem is in the solution. Whatever helps get energy on and temperature up is what is needed. Sometimes this means thyroid support nutrition. Sometimes it is addressing any issue in A-E above. And many times it is some combination of approaches, including thyroid support.
Many individuals with hypothyroid symptoms are not cold and may even be hot. Remember, normal cell energy production is 65% energy and 35% heat. In classic low thyroid both numbers drop. However, if thyroid hormone is still signaling cells to go, but cells lack nutrients to properly make energy, then a person may make 50% energy and 50% heat. If the problem worsens a person could make 35% energy and 65% heat (and lots of anxiety). Such a problem will present itself as low thyroid, but it is really a deficiency in energy-producing nutrients like co-enzyme B vitamins, Q10, magnesium, and antioxidants.
The most common reason for true low thyroid with excess heat occurs in the overweight individual. In this case the body is trying to dispose of surplus fat calories by converting them to 100% heat. Even though cells are not making adequate energy or heat, the heat is coming from the desperate attempt of the body to get rid of fat so it doesn’t clog organs, cells, and arteries. Eating according to the Leptin Diet solves this problem. Since excess heat produces too many free radicals, extra antioxidants are a good idea.
As thyroid problems deteriorate a person becomes both heat and cold intolerant. Hot humid days are stressful; frigid winter days are stressful. The body’s heat regulating system simply struggles to keep up with environmental demands, especially when they are more extreme. Aging is generally associated with deteriorating thyroid function and troubles regulating body temperature.
Understanding your body’s heating and cooling system is central to effectively managing thyroid health.