Why Do I Feel Cold All the Time?

Do you always find yourself freezing while the rest of your family or friends are perfectly comfortable? The fact that you are so chilled all the time is not something that is simply “all in your head.” While it may be normal to feel chilly when you are walking out in the winter snow, but if you are always shivering or your hands are constantly cold while others feel nice and toasty, then it is time to speak to your doctor.

It is common for women to feel cold, partly because of physiology and also a greater susceptibility to conditions that can contribute to coldness, says Holly Phillips, MD, medical contributor for CBS2 News and author of The Exhaustion Breakthrough. Here are a few more reasons why your internal thermostat is out of whack, and how you can help yourself defeat the chill.

You Are Too Thin

Being underweight, with a BMI that is around 18.5 or under, can cause you to feel chilled for a few reasons. First, when you are underweight, you do not have the right amount of body fat to insulate you from cold temperatures, says Maggie Moon, RD, a Los Angeles–based nutritionist.

Another thing is to maintain that low BMI< you should reduce your food intake so you likely aren’t eating very much at all. Skimping out on all those calories will lower your metabolism causing you to not be able to create enough body heat. Consider putting on a few more pounds by eating healthy foods that contain plenty of protein, fat, and complex carbohydrates.

Your Thyroid Levels are Incorrect

Being intolerant to the cold can be due to your thyroid gland not functioning correctly. “Always being cold is a telltale sign of hypothyroidism, which means your thyroid doesn’t secrete enough thyroid hormone,” says Dr. Phillips. Without the right level of this hormone, your metabolism slows, preventing your body’s engine from producing adequate heat. Other signs of hypothyroidism are thinning hair, dry skin, and fatigue.

Around 4.5% of Americans have thyroid disease and the rates are much higher in women who have recently been pregnant or those who are over the age of 60. If you believe that your thyroid could be the problem for your chills, you should consult with your physician as soon as possible.

You Aren’t Consuming Enough Iron

Low iron levels are another reason for common coldness. The reason why is because 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. Phillips. Without enough iron, red blood cells can’t effectively do their job and you shiver.

Iron is also crucial because a deficiency can make your thyroid lethargic, leading to hypothyroidism, which further leaves you freezing, says Moon. Iron supplements can help, but the best way to boost your iron intake is through healthy food: meat, eggs, leafy greens like spinach, and seafood are the best options, says Moon.

You Have Poor Circulation

If your hands and feet are always as cold as ice, but the rest of your body is comfortable, then a circulation problem that keeps the blood from flowing to your extremities might be to blame. Cardiovascular disease can be one cause, it’s a sign that your heart is not pumping blood the way that it should, or that there is a blockage in the arteries that prevent blood from getting to your fingers and toes, according to Margarita Rohr, MD, an internist at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City. Smoking can also bring on poor circulation issues, since it constricts the blood vessels, says Dr. Phillips.

Another possibility is a condition that is known as Raynaud’s disease. This health issue prompts blood vessels in your hands and feet to temporarily narrow when your body senses cold, says Rohr. Reynaud’s disease can be treated with medication, but you need to check in with your doctor for a diagnosis first.

You Aren’t Getting Enough Sleep

“Sleep deprivation can wreck havoc on your nervous system, throwing off regulatory mechanisms in the brain that affect body temperature,” says Dr. Phillips. It isn’t clear why this occurs, but studies suggest that in response to the stress of not getting enough sleep, there is a reduction of activity in the hypothalamus. This is the control panel of the brain where body temperature is regulated.

A study from the European Journal of Applied Physiology appears to back this up. Researchers documented a drop in body temperature in 20 sleep-deprived young adults. Metabolism may be a culprit here as well. When you’re fatigued from a restless night, your metabolism works at a more sluggish pace, says Dr. Phillips, producing less heat and slower circulation.