Your body has an in-built thermostat, a sort of climate-control mechanism that helps regulate internal temperatures. It keeps you cool when temperatures soar in summer, and changes that up when the weather turns cold. But what when you’re cold even in hot weather? “It’s natural for a person to shiver when there’s an infection or a deficiency,” says Dr Sujit Kar Purkayastha, Consultant Gastroenterologist, Peerless Hospital, Kolkata. For instance, many women who get a UTI, shiver, and you may find your child buried under a quilt when she gets the flu. There is, of course, the rare case of cold intolerance, possible in some people who are abnormally sensitive to cold temperatures, but for most, there’s a underlying cause that can be cured.
The thyroid gland regulates heat in the body. When the gland is underactive, the body metabolism goes down and a person can feel unnecessarily cold. “A malfunctioning thyroid results in a decrease in pulse pressure, indicating poor heart function.
Blood flow is diverted from the skin, making the extremities feel cold,” says Dr Alok Prasad, consultant physician, Irene Hospital, Delhi. Visit a doctor to get tested if you notice these signs. Most people get their normal energy levels and feel warmer soon after starting treatment.
Iron is a key mineral that helps your red blood cells carry oxygen throughout your body, bringing heat and other nutrients to every cell in your system, says Dr Thillai Vallal, senior consultant cardiologist, Venkataeswara Hospitals, Chennai. Without enough iron, red blood cells can’t effectively do their job, and you tend to feel cold. Iron is also crucial because a deficiency can make your thyroid lethargic, leading to hypothyroidism, which further leaves you cold. A blood test will pick up any problems, and you’ll be prescribed medication. Iron supplements can help, but the best way to boost your iron intake is through healthy food. “Include plenty of iron-rich food in your diet, such as lean meats, dark green vegetables, pulses and dried fruits, and pair vegetarian food with citrus fruit high in vitamin C,” says Naini Setalvad, a nutritionist based in Mumbai.
If your extremities (your fingertips and toes) are the only parts of your body that feel cold, it could be because of poor blood circulation. “The reason could range from your heart’s inability to pump blood effectively, to narrowing of blood vessels or a blockage in the arteries,” says Dr Pavan Kumar, a Mumbai-based cardiac surgeon. It’s a warning sign that you shouldn’t take lightly.
If you’re a smoker, all the more reason to get it checked.
Low body weight
When you’re underweight, you may lack an adequate amount of body fat to ‘insulate’ you from the cold. If you aren’t eating much, then your metabolism may struggle to create enough heat. This happens especially if you’re on an unreasonable diet, or if you struggle with an eating disorder. A healthy diet, containing whole, healthy foods that have protein, fat, and carbohydrate, is the only way out, says Setalvad. Check whether you’re getting enough B vitamins. These are required by the body to convert the food we eat into energy. You can find this group of vitamins in grains such as brown rice, barley and oats, as well as lean proteins and oily fish.
This may seem counter-intuitive. After all, we drink water to cool down. Water traps heat and releases it in small doses, regulating body temperature. Aim for the requisite eight glasses a day, and make sure to hydrate if you’ve been working out hard.
Researchers still haven’t got the answer to why this happens, but studies suggest that one of the reasons could be that not getting enough sleep could affect how efficiently your hypothalamus (regulates body temperature) works. Also, when you’re fatigued, your metabolism works at a more sluggish pace, producing less heat and a slower circulation.
Bacterial and viral infections
Whether you get a slight throat infection, or food poisoning, you’re bound to feel cold, because the thermostat is set at a higher temperature, says Dr Vallal. It’s the body’s way of fighting against bacteria or viruses that are sensitive to temperatures.