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February 13, 2023 11 min read

Brrrrrr! It's not only the cost of living and exorbitant gas and electricity prices that are making you feel chilly right now. Could there be any medical reasons why you feel cold all the time?

Who else feels the chill here? If your thyroid gland is underactive due to hypothyroidism, then it may be you. A lot of people are like you; they get cold easily, even though it's nice outside, and they have to continuously apologize for their cold hands and feet. Extreme sensitivity to cold is a typical symptom of both hypothyroidism and Hashimoto's disease.

How can your underactive thyroid cause you to feel like you're frozen to the core? Is there anything you can do to stop the frostbite in its tracks, anyway? Let's find out!

What is hypothyroidism?

Hypothyroidism, commonly known as underactive thyroid disease, is a common thyroid disorder that occurs when your thyroid gland produces too little hormone. It's one of the most common thyroid disorders, affecting millions of individuals all around the world.

The thyroid hormone is crucial to your body's metabolism and general health. Therefore, not having enough thyroid hormone can cause a wide range of symptoms, both physical and mental. Here are some of the most commonly reported signs of decreased thyroid function:

  • Fatigue

  • Sensitivity to cold

  • Dry skin

  • Brittle hair

  • Unexplained weight gain

  • Low blood pressure

  • Slow heart rate.

The most common causes of hypothyroidism are an autoimmune disease called Hashimoto's thyroiditis, thyroid removal surgery, and radiation therapy.

To diagnose hypothyroidism and its cause, your doctor may order a thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) test, Free T4 test, and Thyroid Antibodies test.

Thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) is a hormone produced and secreted by the pituitary gland. The TSH controls hormone production by the thyroid. The pituitary gland will release more TSH to stimulate the thyroid into producing more hormones when there are insufficient quantities in the body. The presence of hypothyroidism is thus indicated by elevated TSH levels.

cold season affect your thyroid function

How Your Thyroid and Body Temperature Are Linked

The human body is a finely tuned mechanism that can easily adjust to changes in its surroundings, including temperature, as long as all its systems are functioning normally. Therefore, there's a complex mechanism to maintain a constant basal body temperature (BBT).

Resting body temperature, or BBT, is the average temperature of your whole body. The average human body temperature is around 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit (37 degrees Celcius). The body possesses mechanisms for regulating core body temperatures, such as the induction of sweating in response to increased core body temperature and the induction of shivering in response to decreased core body temperature.

The thyroid is very important in controlling your basal body temperature. This is because the thyroid hormone regulates your metabolism, or how your body turns food into energy. Since maintaining your body temperature is one of the most expansive energy processes the body performs, we need the right amount of energy to maintain an optimal body temperature.

Only when our thyroid hormone levels are balanced will we be able to produce the ideal amount of energy. In other words, the hormones released by the thyroid gland help keep our bodies warm when we're cold and cool us off when we're too hot—all while using up significant energy resources.

How does hypothyroidism cause cold intolerance?

As explained above, having an optimal level of thyroid hormone is essential for maintaining normal metabolism. It helps regulate your energy levels, which is important for keeping your body warm when it gets cold outside. When you have hypothyroidism, your thyroid hormone levels are too low, causing your metabolism to slow down. This means that you lack the available energy to regulate temperature compared to people with normal thyroid hormone levels.

Can cold season affect your thyroid function?

Did you know that external temperature can also affect your thyroid? A 2013 study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism suggests that cold temperatures can raise your thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) levels. For people with normal thyroid function, a drop in temperature results in an increase in TSH, leading to a slight increase in the production of thyroid hormone to help counteract the cold.

However, for those with hypothyroidism who rely on thyroid hormone replacement medication like levothyroxine or natural desiccated thyroid (NDT), a rise in TSH due to cold exposure can still occur. Even if you have a partially functioning thyroid gland, it may not be able to ramp up hormone production on its own to regulate your body temperature.

The increased TSH can lead to common hypothyroidism, including cold intolerance, particularly in your hands and feet. This means that if you're already taking thyroid medication and still feel cold during winter or the cold season, it might be a good idea to talk to your doctor about dosage readjustment to get your TSH back to the optimal level.

Medical interventions might be helpful in easing cold intolerance

If you're someone who feels like you can never get warm, no matter what season it is, there's an array of options to help you tackle the cold. One of them is medical intervention.

1. Consultation with a doctor

If you don't have hypothyroidism but you constantly feel cold, it might be time you talk to your doctor and ask for a thyroid function test. In some cases, your TSH levels might be slightly increased due to the cold temperatures, but it doesn't warrant medical intervention, and your levels might go back to normal as the season change.

However, if your test results show that you have hypothyroidism, your doctor may recommend thyroid hormone replacement therapy. In the case that you're already taking thyroid medication, but you still feel constantly cold, your doctor may adjust your dose.

2. Thyroid hormone replacement therapy

Thyroid hormone replacement therapy works by replacing the hormones that are missing in your body, including symptoms of cold intolerance. Thyroid medication used in the therapy attempts to imitate normal thyroid function as closely as possible. Thus, it restores your normal thyroid function and helps you combat hypothyroidism symptoms, including

According to the Clinical Practice Guidelines for hypothyroidism in adults, the standard thyroid medication is levothyroxine. This is the synthetic form of thyroxine (T4) thyroid medication. Some of the most common brand names for levothyroxine in the US include Synthroid, Levoxyl, Unithroid, and Tirosint.

However, while levothyroxine can be effective for some people, many hypothyroid patients prefer natural desiccated thyroid (NDT). This is because NDT, also known as desiccated thyroid extract (DTE), consists of the complete thyroid hormones: thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3).

Why NDT might work better for you

T4 is the inactive hormone, while T3 is the active one. Your body needs to convert T4 to T3 in order to use it. Unfortunately, this conversion process doesn't always go well for some people. This means that adding T4 to their body using levothyroxine won't do them any good.

Since NDT already contains T3, it guarantees that the body gets the active form of the thyroid hormones it requires in people who have difficulties converting T4 into T3. In other words, it doesn't rely solely on the conversion process. Your body can use the medication without having to convert it first.

Aside from T4 and T3, NDT also consists of other hormones that are naturally present in your body, such as T2, T1, and Calcitonin. T2, while not fully understood yet, is thought to have particular importance for patients with hypothyroidism because of its potential to improve insulin resistance and fat metabolism.

Some of the most popular NDT brands are Armour Thyroid and NP Thyroid. However, you can also buy desiccated thyroid online, such as VitaliThy. It's an NDT supplement that consists of Thyroid USP, just like Armour Thyroid. Moreover, it contains neither lactose nor gluten nor any form of shellfish, fish, or eggs. Made in Vietnam, it adheres to the high-quality standards set by the Good Manufacturing Practices of the Vietnamese Ministry of Agriculture, an institution renowned for its stringent guidelines.

3. Vitamin and mineral supplementation

Vitamins and minerals are crucial components that the body requires for proper functioning and to keep us healthy. Though these nutrients are required in modest amounts, they are critical in maintaining our health and avoiding illness. While getting these nutrients is necessary all year, it is especially crucial in the winter because the body endures greater stress during this season, making it more prone to colds, flu, and other health problems.

We can receive vitamins and minerals through our diets, but we can also get them from supplements, especially during the cold season. The vitamins and minerals that may ease your cold intolerance are as follows:

  • Vitamin C

  • Vitamin D

  • Iron

  • Magnesium.

Taking selenium supplements may also help increase your thyroid function. Thus, helping you with symptoms of hypothyroidism, like sensitivity to cold temperatures.

Before taking any vitamin and mineral supplements, be sure to talk to your doctors first since some supplements can interact with your thyroid medication.

Lifestyle changes to help keep your body warm

Aside from medications, some lifestyle changes may also help you deal with cold intolerance.

1. Dress in layers

If you have cold intolerance due to hypothyroidism, one way to address your problem is to avoid unnecessary exposure to cold temperatures. This means you should dress warmly whenever the temperature drops. Rather than relying on one thick layer, it's better to wear multiple thin layers. This way, you have more control over your body temperature and can adjust as needed.

Start with a lightweight and moisture-wicking base layer, such as thermal underwear. This will keep you warm and dry by drawing sweat away from your skin. For insulation in the middle, opt for a wool or down coat. This will trap heat and keep you warm, even in the coldest temperatures.

Finally, top it off with a windbreaker for protection against the elements. This outer layer will keep wind and rain out, ensuring that your insulation stays in place.

So, how many layers should you wear? The optimal number appears to be three, but this is flexible. Depending on your activity level and the weather, you can add or remove layers as needed. Whether you're shoveling snow or taking a walk, the power of layering will help you stay warm and comfortable all winter long.

2. Warm up your house

Another way to avoid unnecessary exposure to cold is by keeping your house and bed warm. Therefore, make sure to turn your thermostat up. If you're working in an office, you might want to bring a space heater.

3. Exercise regularly

Get out and walk, run, or jog for some low-impact exercise that will keep you warm and burn calories. A good workout can even help you feel warmer for the rest of the day.

And if it's too cold to exercise outside, there's always the option of indoor workouts. You can do jumping jacks, pushups, or any other exercise that gets your heart rate up and helps you generate heat. If you don't know what to do, there are always YouTube channels to help you out! With exercise, not only will you stay warm, but you'll also keep your muscles active and burning calories.

4. Get better sleep

Hypothyroidism and messed up sleeping schedule don't go together. If you have hypothyroidism, it means that your thyroid gland is not functioning at its best and has to work harder to keep your body in balance. This extra effort takes a lot of energy and can make you feel tired and sluggish. During colder months, your body may need more rest to recover from the increased energy demands of regulating your body temperature. To help your body recover, make sure to get enough sleep and rest.

If you have trouble sleeping due to the cold, try investing in a heated mattress pad. Unlike electric blankets, heated mattress pads can be tucked under your bed like a sheet. This means they have reduced mobility and are less likely to become frayed or torn. Plus, with a heated mattress pad, you'll enjoy the added benefit of full-body warmth.

You can also try to sleep with socks on. Even if it looks ridiculous, it beats having blue toes any day! Warm feet seem to send a message to the brain that it's time to sleep, and they also assist in keeping the rest of you warm.

5. Eat a balanced diet

One way to deal with cold intolerance due to hypothyroidism is to ensure your diet is balanced and includes thermogenic food.

Thermogenic foods are particular foods that can help increase the body's core temperature - like chili peppers and ginger, for example - making them perfect for those dealing with cold intolerance issues.

Additionally, having a well-rounded diet can help improve thyroid function and reduce sensitivity to colder temperatures. Eating plenty of healthy proteins and fats like salmon, tuna, or olive oil, as well as veggies and fruits, can help ensure your body gets all the essential nutrients it needs.

Fill Up on Calories

Keeping your internal body temperature up requires energy, which is especially important when the weather is chilly. Try to have at least one hot meal every day and fill up on a wide variety of fresh, whole foods.

Avoid sweets

Cold weather, especially in winter months, may make you crave sweets like cookies and hot chocolate. However, while drinking sweet hot chocolate may make you feel better at first, many thyroid patients are more susceptible to the negative effects of processed sugar, such as insulin resistance. Moreover, processed sugar may also cause you to be more prone to winter weight gain and depression, so it's a good idea to decrease your sugar intake.

6. A little spicing up won't hurt

Do you enjoy a little bit of heat with your meals? Then you can consider adding a little bit of spice to your food. Your body will feel more comfortable after eating something hot as it warms up from the inside. However, it is important to listen to your body and not push yourself too hard to avoid feeling ill later. Unless you have ulcers or any other stomach ailment, spicing up your meals with some heat is a perfectly fine way to warm up your body during cold weather.

In addition to spicy foods, drinking hot drinks, hot soups, and hot foods can also have the same effect. They not only provide warmth to your body but also have been shown to have health benefits.

7. Heat up your clothes in the dryer

Putting on warm garments directly from a tumble may be one of the quickest ways to feel warmer in cold weather. Give them a little spin before you get ready in the morning. In the morning, your body temperature is likely to be highest. Therefore it's beneficial to maintain that warmth throughout the day. Even if it won't linger forever, it's a nice way to ease into the day.

8. Mindfulness and relaxation techniques

Mindfulness and relaxation techniques have been known for years as remedies for various physical and mental conditions. They are not only affordable but also easy to practice, although it may take some time to get used to these methods.

In the case of hypothyroidism and cold intolerance, incorporating mindfulness and relaxation techniques into your routine can help reduce stress levels, which in turn can help regulate the body's temperature. By practicing relaxation techniques, individuals with hypothyroidism may be able to manage the high energy demands on their thyroid gland and improve their ability to tolerate the cold.

The Takeaway

Cold weather can be especially challenging for those living with hypothyroidism, an underactive thyroid that causes the body to become sensitive to cold temperatures. But don't let the chilly weather keep you from enjoying yourself. There are various ways you can combat cold intolerance due to hypothyroidism and get through chilly temperatures.

One way to do it is by having a lifestyle adjustment, such as getting enough sleep, getting a proper diet, and exercising regularly. Additionally, be sure to dress for success – literally! Layer your clothing so that you're comfortable at all times – no matter what kind of weather Mother Nature throws at you.

But the most important thing to do is to take thyroid hormones replacement medication, such as levothyroxine or natural desiccated thyroid (NDT). If you currently use thyroid medication and still suffer from cold sensitivity, your dosage should probably be increased, or you need to change the type of medication you are taking.

For example, if you're currently taking levothyroxine, it's probably time you try other alternatives like NDT. While NDT is not the standard treatment, it's preferred by many hypothyroid patients and is seen to be much more effective than synthetic T4 medication. VitaliThy, a natural desiccated thyroid you can buy online, is a great option if you want to try NDT.

If your thyroid function is back to normal range, you should no longer have any cold intolerance symptoms.

Wojciech Majda
Wojciech Majda

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