Body Temperature and Thyroid Problems

By Byron J. Richards, Board Certified Clinical Nutritionist

November 19, 2012

Body Temperature and Thyroid Problems
Too hot? Too cold? How do you know if this indicates poor thyroid function or something else? When your thyroid hormone is working properly inside cells you will make 65 percent energy and 35 percent heat as you burn calories for fuel. Thyroid hormone governs 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.

Conversely, a classic symptom of hyperthyroidism is being too hot (making too much heat). However, many people with low 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 wear an extra layer of clothes. You go to bed with socks on your feet or 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 thyroid.

The Basal Temperature Test

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. To do this, place a thermometer (not digital) under your arm for 10 minutes before getting out of bed. This should be done 10 days in a row, averaging the daily reading. Menstruating women should start the 10 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.

Other Factors that can Make You Cold

Note that other factors besides thyroid that can make a person run too cold. Common ones include: A) Protein malnutrition results in a loss of muscle. Individuals with borderline thyroid should eat at least half their ideal weight in grams of protein per day (avoid excessive intake of soy protein). B) A lack of nutrients to produce cellular energy (coenzyme B vitamins, malic acid, Q10, magnesium). C) A lack of nutrients 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. These coldness issues can masquerade as thyroid problems, and in some cases may in fact be the primary cause of the low thyroid 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 means addressing any issue in the common factors, A-E, listed above. And many times it is some combination of approaches, including thyroid support.

Energy, Heat, and Metabolism

Rather than being too cold, many individuals with sluggish thyroid symptoms may even be hot. Remember, normal cell energy production is 65 percent energy and 35 percent 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 percent energy and 50 percent heat. If the problem worsens a person could make 35 percent energy and 65 percent heat. Such a problem will present itself as low thyroid, but it is really a deficiency in energy-producing nutrients like coenzyme B vitamins, malic acid, Q10, magnesium, and antioxidants.*

A common reason for low thyroid symptoms 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 percent heat. Even though cells are not making adequate energy or heat for proper metabolic purposes, 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 helps solve this problem. Those with thyroid problems often have trouble with temperature extremes, especially hot and cold days. 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. The ability to heat up during exercise and cool down following exercise is a test of the thyroid system and a vital necessity for staying physically fit. Easily overheating from exercise, especially in warmer weather, is a sign of weakness in the thyroid system as is becoming too weak or dizzy during moderate exercise. Aging is generally associated with deteriorating thyroid function and troubles regulating body temperature.

Fall Season May Trigger Thyroid-Induced Mood Problems

It could be a beautiful Indian summer fall day, but if you have a sluggish thyroid your mood may already be taking a beating. Fall and spring are often difficult times if you have a struggling thyroid gland. Large fluctuations in temperature pose a unique stress to the thyroid system. Thyroid hormone adjusts itself once every seven days (the half life of the hormone). While the liver has some ability to slightly modulate the rate at which T4 is converted to T3 on a daily basis, the basic production of thyroid hormone changes more slowly. When daytime high temperatures vary 25 – 40 degrees over a period of a few days, the thyroid system really struggles to keep up.

The Northern states have a tough time in the fall from the thyroid's point of view. The first and most obvious symptom is just feeling jolted by the weather changes. Other symptoms include feeling more sluggish, more tired, and your mood may start to suffer. The desire for sweet tasting food increases and you may put on a few pounds. If you have a borderline thyroid status entering the fall season, it is not uncommon to find yourself in a mental funk, even feeling depressed.

Extra nutrient support for the thyroid is vital during this time. Heading into the holidays with a sweet tooth raving and an unstable mood is setting the stage for bottoming out in the winter months. Understanding your body’s heating and cooling system is central to effectively managing thyroid health.

How to Improve Body Temperature and Thyroid Function

Several basic nutritional inadequacies stress thyroid function. These are the very first things anyone concerned with thyroid health should supplement. Core nutrients needed for healthy thyroid function include selenium, l-tyrosine, manganese, iodine, B12, and zinc.

Iodine is absolutely necessary for thyroid hormone formation. I recommend a water-soluble and extremely biologically active form of iodine called Iosol Iodine. It is one of the best supplements to help warm body temperature. Unlike potassium iodide, which can clog the thyroid gland due to its poor solubility, Iosol Iodine readily washes away if it is not needed. It is hands down the best iodine on the market today.

Optimal nutrition can improve the formation of thyroid hormone in the thyroid gland, enhance the conversion of basic thyroid hormone T4 to the biologically active T3, and enhance the nutritional ability of cells to utilize thyroid hormone. This helps you to have better body temperature, energy, mood, and metabolism.

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