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If you shiver or feel like your hands and feet are like popsicles even though your friends say it’s a bit toasty outside, well that’s a red flag that signals your internal thermostat is a bit haywire. Doctors refer to such a sensation as cold intolerance.

Here are some of the reasons why you might always feel cold and some potential ways to fix the situation.

Not enough fat

Triglycerides, cholesterol, and other essential fatty acids — the fancy, scientific terms for fats that the body can’t produce on its own — store energy and serve to protect our organs. Fat also insulates the body so underweight people tend to feel colder than they should in normal conditions.

A low body mass index (BMI) is often the consequence of skimping on calories which can slow the metabolism thereby reducing body heat.

Underactive thyroid

Always feeling cold may be a telltale sign of hypothyroidism. An underactive thyroid gland means it can’t make enough thyroid hormone to keep the body running smoothly.

The butterfly-shaped endocrine gland’s job is to produce thyroid hormones into the blood from where they’re distributed to every tissue in the body. These hormones help the body use energy, stay warm and keep the brain, heart, muscles, and other organs in tip-top shape.

Besides feeling constantly cold when everybody else seems comfortable enough, other hypothyroidism symptoms include thinning hair, dry skin, and fatigue.

On average, about 4.5% of Americans have this condition with women affected more frequently than men.

You’re a woman

Due to their physiology, it’s more common for women to report feeling unusually cold. Women have relatively colder bodies, especially hands and feet, than men because estrogen reduces blood flow to the extremities.

Dehydration

Among its many vital roles, water helps regulate body temperature. When in adequate supply, water will trap heat and slowly release it keeping body temperature at a comfortable level. If you’re dehydrated, however, the body becomes more sensitive to temperature swings.

Water also essentially powers the metabolism. Having less water in the body than you ought to can slow down the metabolism cooling the body in the process.

Slow metabolism

Metabolism helps regulate the blood flow throughout your body. As outlined earlier, there are various factors that influence how fast we digest food and transport substances into and between cells.

People with a fast metabolism have an increased blow flow while, conversely, a slow metabolism results in sludgier blood flow.

Some people naturally have a slow metabolism but that doesn’t mean you can’t speed it up. Unless you have an underlying health issue like hypothyroidism, exercising can do wonders. People with more muscle mass tend to have a higher resting metabolism.

Low iron intake

When we think about nutrients, iron seldom comes to mind. You might be surprised to learn though that low iron is the most common nutritional deficiency in the U.S, particularly among women. Around 10% of American women are iron deficient according to the CDC and this comes with all sorts of problems, chronic coldness not the least.

Iron is an essential mineral for the human body whose main role is to ferry oxygen along the bloodstream. It’s the most important component of hemoglobin, the substance found in red blood cells that transport oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. Without healthy red blood cells, your body can’t get enough oxygen and a lack of red blood cells is called iron deficiency anemia. The immediate consequence is constantly feeling fatigued but also feeling cold.

How much iron you need each day depends on your age, gender, and overall health. So you should talk to your doctor about it.

Vitamin B12 deficiency

Besides iron, the vitamin B12 is also heavily involved in red blood cell production and oxygen transport. Without it, our bodies can’t produce red blood cells so not having enough leads to B12-deficiency anemia, or a low red blood cell count. Just like iron deficiency anemia, this lack of vitamin B12 results in chronic coldness.

The main source for acquiring B12 is diet. Aim to include lean meat, fish, and dairy into your meals.

Poor blood circulation

If your extremities — the hands and feet — feel like ice but the rest of the body seems fine then you might have a problem with enough blood reaching these parts of the body. This is usually a sign that your heart is not pumping blood properly and underlying heart disease might be at work. For instance, some arteries might be blocked.

Not enough sleep

According to a 2016 report, a third of all U.S. citizens aren’t getting enough shut eye. Doctors recommend adults sleep at least seven hours a night, ideally eight or nine. But about 35 percent said they usually got less than 7 hours of sleep a night. Frequently getting little sleep puts you at risk of developing obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and frequent mental distress, as well as brain fog.

Not getting enough quality sleep triggers the release of stress hormones and a reduction in the hypothalamus’ activity. The hypothalamus is a sort of control panel of the brain where the body’s temperature is regulated. And, you’ve guessed it, poor sleep can make you shiver.

These are just a couple of reasons that might lead some people to always feel cold. Usually, this isn’t much of nuisance but feeling shivers even if it’s warm outside can be a sign of an underlying illness. Talk to your doctor about it. 

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