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Wintering Well: Three reasons why you feel the cold more than most.

Ricky van den Ende - Integrative Naturopath -Bayleaf Wellness - BHSc (Naturopathy)

Photo credit: Aaron Maerz - Manager Care and Wellbeing - Bayleaf Wellness

Winter is coming in (not so) hot.

In a pre-covid era, it would be a time when we would migrate to the warmer whitewashed housed Greek islands or the coconut palm laden Indonesia. This year we are staying put, and to the winter lover this is a beautiful time to be alive, in the hills, snow becomes abundant and the air becomes fresh. To others it is a confronting time, the cold really sets in.

We are effectively entering what is known as 'flu' season. You are going to start seeing bus, trams and billboards advertising the importance of boosting your immune system and getting the flu shot, but there is another phenomenon that takes places over the winter. The cold get colder.

What indicates a cold day?

Well the thermometer is a good start, if it’s dipping below 21 you will feel a nip in the air.

Is the sun out or is its heat refrained by cloud? There’s the wind, the rain, and the humidity. And then there is you.

We all feel the cold differently. You’d know this by glancing around in a public space and observing people dressed warmer than others. Maybe you’re the one feeling the cold the most?

How cold you feel has to do with how optimally your body is functioning.

It all comes down to different processes, we’ll start from the top down.

There is the ultimate conductor in our brain called the hypothalamus.

If your body is too cold it will send messages throughout to preserve or create more heat, by way of; redirecting blood flow, activating muscle function or ramping up metabolism.

Now the hypothalamus may be the master of the temp regulation, but it is only as good as its players in the orchestra. One in particular, the thyroid.

The thyroid is the director of metabolism. Metabolism is the bodily processes that work to build up and store energy, or break down and use energy from nutrients and oxygen. These processes create heat.

When the thyroid is under-functioning, it doesn’t have enough messengers to ramp up metabolism, and so bodily processes slow down, when things slow down less heat is produced and you are more likely to feel the cold easily.

One of the first places on your body you will feel the cold is your hands and feet. It’s not because they are the extremities of the body, well it sort of is, but is more because these are the less important areas of the body in terms of survival.

When the body temperature drops, the blood in the vessels is constricted and sent to the vital organs such as liver, lungs and heart.

Another reason why you could feel cold here is anaemia. This is when your blood is lacking red blood cells which are the taxis that transport oxygen throughout the body.

Same as the rules above favouring important areas key to survival, available oxygen is prioritised to the vital organs, leaving the hands and feet out in the cold and oxygen-deprived.

Blood circulation issues can contribute to coldness

Do you ever remember going on a water slide as a child? As you wind through twisted tubes, arcing around corners, remember the warmth and exhilaration. Well, this is how we want the blood to flow through the inner racetrack of the arteries and veins. This is to ensure nutrients are delivered and adequate heat exchange takes place. You don’t want stagnation, this is when blood can move too slowly, spending too much time near the skin surface where heat is lost. This is seen in cardiovascular conditions associated with high cholesterol and blood pressure abnormalities.

If you feel you’ve been left out in the cold for too long, it may be time to take some action to recalibrate your inner thermostat and book an appointment to see how this can be addressed and warm up this winter.

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