Why are we cold?

It's the middle of winter and while you're waiting patiently for the bus, you're shivering, chattering your teeth, the tip of your nose is frozen and your hands are freezing? But why do we feel cold? What are the physiological and vital mechanisms involved? Discover in this article, why you are cold and how to limit the discomfort.

Why do we get cold extremities?

When the nervous system detects a difference in temperature between the surface of the skin and the outside, the hypothalamus reacts as a thermostat to regulate body temperature. In winter, as soon as the outside temperature is colder than the surface of the skin, the hypothalamus triggers amechanism to fight against the cold in order to maintain heat in the vital organs: this is vasoconstriction of the peripheral areas. As a result, by limiting the blood supply to the feet, hands, nose and ears, the body goes into survival mode.

Why are we shivering?

The shudders are micro-contractions that allow blood to flow through the muscle. Thus nourished, it produces energy and therefore heat. 

In short, you shiver to keep warm!

The thyroid, your body's boiler.

The hypothalamus is the thermostat, the thyroid the boiler. It is responsible for the proper functioning of basic metabolism and therefore, temperature which is called thermogenesis

If you have hypothyroidism, your metabolism will be slowed down. As a result, you will be prone to cold feet. 

Conversely, in hyperthyroidism, the metabolism runs at an accelerated rate which can cause hot flashes and excessive sweating. 

Most women suffer from hypothyroidism without it really being pathological. This may be one of the reasons why it is mostly women who can't stand the cold in winter.

Exercising produces heat.

It has been noted that people who participate in sport regularly are less prone to colds because physical activity stimulates energy production and thus heat. In addition, it activates the blood circulation thus irrigating correctly the whole body. 

However, in winter, because of the cold and the bad weather, many people stop (or at least reduce) their sport...

Interiors are overheated.

In our latitudes, our living habits are not adapted to the cold. We tend to live in interiors that are far too hot. The heat shock experienced when going outside sets in motion the response of the hypothalamus to regulate temperature. 

It is strongly advised (also for the sake of the environment) not to heat your apartments excessively.

Being chilly, a matter of temperament.

According to the principles of naturopathy, there are 4 temperaments known as "hypocratic": nervous, sanguine, bilious and lymphatic. Each of them corresponds to specific physiological and psychological characteristics. 

The nervous temperament is the one characterized by the cold and dry appearance. He will be inclined to coldness and will have to watch what he puts in his plate not to maintain or exacerbate his coldness. 

He should favor: hot, split meals, spicy, rich in quality proteins (fish, eggs, seaweed, poultry) and limit citrus fruits that tend to refrigerate the body.

Essential fatty acid deficiency.

The fat acts as athermal insulator. The hunt for "bad" fat has led us to lose sight of the fact that there is "good" fat that is necessary for the proper functioning of your cells. The essential fatty acids are "essential" because the body cannot synthesize them. They must be provided by your diet. The best known are the omega 3

Consume oleaginous daily, olive oil, rapeseed oil, oily fish.

Poor blood circulation.

Stress, inadequate diet, lack of exercise and a nervous temperament are factors that aggravate the feeling cold. However, bad blood flow can just as easily have the same effect. As stated above, in cold weather, the blood supply decreases in the extremities to favor the noble organs. Having good general blood flow delays the time when your extremities will be less irrigated.

To conclude, alcohol, that false friend.

Does alcohol warm up? This is just a delusion... Even if alcohol does cause vasodilation, it is dangerous because all the heat will escape from your body. This is thermolysis. You risk hypothermia...

Alexia Bernard 4 February, 2020
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