Temperature is an indicator of the amount of heat contained in a system and in the human body our temperature is an extension of basic body metabolism and a host of other factors. Heat is a form of energy and every reaction in a human body occurs at a certain energy or temperature level thus tracking well with cell voltage and pH.
It is essential for the normal functioning of the human body, that this internal temperature be maintained, that pH be regulated and cell voltage optimized. The core body temperature of a human body is an important factor, which is always why it should be considered while evaluating the health condition in a checkup.
An important difference between mammals, including humans and other organisms like a reptile are that we are warm blooded creatures. The body temperature of mammals is maintained at a constant level, despite the changes in environmental temperature.
Normal core temperatures are at the exact temperature at which all the functions of the human body can operate with optimal efficiency. The same can be said about pH because all physiological processes are pH sensitive.
Normally the rectal temperature or vaginal temperature is considered as the core temperature. The ideal core temperature is considered to be around 98.6° Degree Fahrenheit or 37° degree Celsius. This temperature is however, the average body temperature and the overall normal temperature varies from a minimum of 97.7° Fahrenheit (36.5° Celsius) to a maximum of almost 99.5° Fahrenheit (37.5° Celsius). Any temperature above or below this range is abnormal. At the ideal temperature, all human body systems function with maximum efficiency with oxygen being supplied in ample amounts because CO2 levels are optimized.
Causes of Low Body Temperature
Body temperature can fall due to numerous reasons .such as being exposed to cold weather or wearing soaked or wet clothing for a long time. On the other hand, abnormally low body temperature can also be a potential symptom of the following diseases and disorders:
- Addison’s Disease
- Drug/alcohol abuse
- Kidney failure
- Liver failure
- Side effects of medications
- Fast Breathing/Asthma
Shivering is one of the most obvious and easily recognizable symptoms. Shivering is accompanied with chattering of teeth and goose bumps. Apart from this the following symptoms are observed:
- Slow heartbeat
- Shallow breathing
- Purple fingers and toes
- Lack of coordination
- Difficulty in making decisions
- Slurred speech
- Dilated pupils
- Weak pulse
One important factor that decides this temperature is the base metabolic rate of a body, which is the rate at which we burn calories and use up our energy stores. Other factors like administration of medications can also affect it, usually in a negative sense.
The control center for body temperature lies in the brain and it is known as the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus is alerted to either extreme cold or hot conditions reducing or opening blood flow towards the external layers of skin. Stress interferes with body temperature regulation driving down body temperature and its interesting the color green is warm and relates to the heart’s emotional center and the hypothalamus.
Changes in hand/foot temperature are a reflection of blood flow – a measure of the stress response. For example, while talking about an upsetting incident involving your parents, an employer/employee, or friend your temperature may drop 5_ to 20_. In contrast, when recalling a minor misunderstanding your temperature may only drop one degree. And yet, when you recall the warm sun on a recent vacation, your temperature may increase a full 10 %.
What is most surprising is how quickly the changes occur. People often comment, “I never had any idea that a little finger could show so much!”
The basic rule for interpreting temperature change is simple, Warmer hands/feet indicate Relaxation while Colder hands/feet reflect Activation or Tension. When the body’s fight/ flight system is activated the muscles tense, heart rate and the vital organs speed up. As a result, blood flow is shunted from the extremities and directed to the vital organs to facilitate the increased level of arousal. As a result, changes of 5, 10 or 15% can occur within just a few minutes.
Every process that goes on inside our bodies requires energy – specifically, metabolic energy. When the body does not have enough energy to function properly, each component of the body will malfunction in its own unique way. For example, if the brain has too little energy, thought processes such as memory and focus become impaired. The body needs energy to keep itself warm – a low body temperature, therefore, usually accompanies low metabolic energy.
Dr. David Jernigan says, “Much emphasis in conventional medicine is usually placed upon feverish conditions; however, a low body temperature can be a much more sinister condition. Where a fever can be viewed as an active developmental and corrective process of the healthy body, a low body temperature can never be viewed as a normal or healthy condition, nor is it a mechanism for a learning or developmental process in the body. The colder a body becomes, the slower the electrical oscillatory rate and therefore the thicker, more viscous, or syrupy the body fluids become. The more viscous the fluids become the more difficult it is for the body to push the fluids through the body. The lymph fluids that are normally supposed to bathe the outsides of all of your cells become progressively stagnant as it is too thick to move efficiently.”
“A low body temperature creates a happy home for viruses and chronic infections, and is a sign of degeneration and gradual cellular death. The problem with a low core temperature is that no effective immune response can be mounted therefore no fever is generated and infections go undetected. The sickest person is one who gets the same infections but never miss a day of work because there is no response by their immune system, so they have a false sense of wellness as healthier individuals go through healthy fevers and immune responses that may cause them to miss work. Low body temperature is the plague of the 21st century. People with low body temperature have a weak reaction to even the most ideal medicines and therapies,” continues Jernigan.
What causes low metabolic energy? The most common cause is poor thyroid and/or adrenal function. Another very common cause is hormonal imbalance – especially low progesterone or estrogen dominance in women or low testosterone in men.
Dr. David Brownstein points out that body temperature is a crucial function of the thyroid, besides regulating the metabolism of every cell in the body. The thyroid gland is located in the neck and is responsible for secreting important hormones into the bloodstream. The thyroid gland controls the process of metabolism thus there is a direct relationship between low body temperature, thyroid function and iodine sufficiency. When the function of the thyroid is compromised by inadequate production of thyroid hormones, the metabolic balance moves at a slower pace and is unable to maintain its primary function – production of heat.
A normal temperature is critical for good health. Low body temperature results when the body is unable to keep the body “thermostat” regulated within a safe range. Under normal circumstances, the body is able to generate and dissipate heat. The internal mechanisms can overcome most outside adversities of freezing cold or broiling heat. Normally, this protective mechanism keeps your body temperature in the safe range in emergencies for maintaining life.
Chronic fatigue syndrome and low body temperatures are symptoms of mitochondrial failure. As the body’s core temperature decreases cellular energy also decreases thereby leading to profound and chronic fatigue that is not relieved by sleep. The normal functions of maintenance, repair and cleansing are slowed and problems develop when body temperatures drop below normal. When the body temperature is low, the body cannot maintain its homeostasis/balance in the way it was designed. The actions of enzymes, vitamins, minerals and essential body chemicals become “depressed”.
The laws of thermodynamics state that if we decrease energy we decrease temperature. The process of energy production leads to heat. It is this heat that keeps the body warm. When resting, body processes produce enough heat to keep the body at its set temperature. This process of heat generation occurs due to metabolism. It is here that the relationship between low body temperature and thyroid comes into the picture.
Persistently low temperatures typically come on or worsen after severe stressors such as childbirth, divorce, death of a loved one, job or family stress, surgery or accidents. The body slows down and the body temperature drops in response to the stress and is supposed to recover once the stress is over, but sometimes it doesn’t. When .our temperature does not recover, this results in the condition Wilson’s Temperature Syndrome (WTS).
Special Note: Much can be said about Iodine, thyroid conditions and low body temperature. I would recommend my book on Iodine and Dr. David Brownstein’s book on Overcoming Thyroid Disorders and Iodine as well. Look for an upcoming essay which addresses specifically thyroid conditions and low body temperature. In addition to iodine supplementation, for thyroid and low body temperature issues, add a Biomat to warm the body directly.
Dr. Mark Sircus
- Iodine, Metabolism and Oxygen
- What is Iodine?
- Main Reasons Iodine Supplementation is Essential
- Iodine Deficiency Symptoms