Do you have a low body temperature? Or did your doctor tell you that a lower body temperature below than the standard 98.6 was still “normal,” and not to worry?
A low body temperature, while becoming increasingly common, is still not in fact, “normal.” It’s actually indicative of poor health.
Why? Because a low body temperature is a sign of a low metabolism. And with a low metabolism, all of your body’s systems can’t function the way they were meant to. It really is that important. And your low body temperature should be taken as a serious sign that your body needs healing.
Low body temperature: Your first sign that the body’s metabolic rate is failing
Dr. Broda Barnes, a pioneering endocrinologist from the last century, was among the first to begin to consider the body temperature as an outward marker for the body’s most basic functioning—cellular metabolism. He noted that patients who presented with the symptoms of a low metabolic rate—lowered thyroid function especially—also generally presented with a lowered body temperature which was typically 97.8 or below. Barnes contended that the body temperature was actually by far the clearest indicator of lowered metabolism and low thyroid function—much clearer in fact, than even blood work and lab results. His work has influenced many physiologists and endocrinologists that followed, and today, it is well-known that body temperature is indeed a biomarker for metabolism and thyroid function.
What this essentially means, is that a higher body temperature is a reflection of a higher metabolism, while a low body temperature will indicate a low metabolism. It’s critically important, because your metabolism is essentially how well your cells are able to convert fuel to energy.
And just about everything in your body needs that energy to function. Everything from your digestive system to your liver and all other vital organs; to your endocrine system and all its critical hormones; to your brain and nervous system—everything relies on how well your cells produce energy.
So when your metabolism is low? You’ll start to see symptoms like these:
- Poor digestion and food intolerances
- Constipation or abnormal bowel movements
- Cold hands and feet
- Frequent urination
- Mood swings and instability
- Dry skin and/or skin disorders such as acne and eczema
- Thin, brittle hair and nails
- Sleep problems and insomnia
- Exhaustion and a “wired/tired” energy level cycle
- PMS, infertility, low sex drive and other hormonal imbalances
- Blood sugar crashes and instability
- Susceptibility to illness
- Weight gain, particularly around the midsection
- Chronically low body temperature
Yes, metabolism means how all of your body’s systems are fueled at the cellular level. It’s a big, huge, really big deal. And it needs to be working properly in order for your body to be in good health. If you’ve got a low body temperature, that’s your first sign that you need to work on improving your metabolism so you can improve overall health and avoid the damage and disorders that can accompany a lowered metabolism.
But, first thing’s first. Do you have a low body temperature?
How to Determine if Your Body Temperature is Too Low
When was the last time you or your doctor took your body temperature? If you can’t remember, now’s the time to figure it out.
First, you’ll need a good thermometer. I use and recommend this particular digital thermometer, as it’s designed to give an accurate reading of your basal temperature, which is what you’ll be taking.
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Now, to do this, you’ll want to take your temperature first thing in the morning—before you even get out of bed to pee. This is what’s referred to as your basal body temperature, and it’s the most accurate way to see where your body’s temperature stands, without any other factors such as things you’ve eaten, or your level of activity coming into play. It’s how your body is regulating its temperature while in a resting state.
What’s too low?
If your thermometer is reading anything less than a 97.8, that’s a low body temperature. And as you now know, it’s indicative of a low metabolism.
Don’t get too freaked out over this—many people commonly have body temperature readings that are quite low. Chances are, this has been the average for your body for a while. But that certainly doesn’t mean that it can’t, or shouldn’t, change.
What is scary to me though, is that a low body temperature is becoming the new “normal.” There was actually an article in the New York Times entitled, “Rethinking 98.6,” as though we really ought to consider the epidemic of low body temperature as being clinically acceptable!
I couldn’t agree more with Matt Stone’s rebuttal of the article, in stating this:
“Body temperature is so significant that it is virtually impossible to develop heart disease or type 2 diabetes while maintaining a healthy, albeit abnormal body temperature of 98.6 F into old age. Whatever your health problems are, don’t give up until you’ve brought that temperature back to normal. There are countless tips and strategies to do this, and it certainly doesn’t require starvation dieting, overexcercing, and the like, which lower body temperature like nothing else can.”
How do you fix a low body temperature?
So, what do you do if your body temperature is too low? Well, the cause of the low body temperature is a low metabolism. And the cause of a low metabolism could be many things.
What can affect metabolism the most?
- Your diet, and especially whether or not you restrict what you eat. Restrictive dieting can severely hurt metabolic function.
- Your level of physical activity—both too little activity and too much activity can negatively impact metabolism.
- Your sleeping habits—too little sleep, or poor quality sleep, will impact metabolism significantly.
- Your level of stress. This is everything from psychological stress from a busy lifestyle or difficult life circumstances; environmental stressors such as exposure to toxins; and physiological stress from the body’s stress response running on overdrive, causing damaging stress hormones to be activated too much of the time.
Improving these metabolic factors isn’t as difficult as you might think. Here’s some simple steps to take to improve each of them.
- Eat an appropriate amount of food. Many people, even those who are overweight, do not eat enough food to support their level of activity. This only serves to make the body think its experiencing a famine—and it causes the metabolism to slow down, so you can make the most use of the limited amount of fuel your body is getting. Not good.
- Don’t restrict the types of foods you eat. Learn the basics of how to eat healthy, and make sure your diet is balanced. We’re talking, a good amount of all three of the big macronutrients—fat, protein, and carbohydrates. They all are very important in supporting metabolism.
- Your cells need fuel for energy—and that includes a careful balance of glucose and electrolytes, including sodium—this is the stuff your cells’ “batteries” are made of. That means your diet needs to be balanced between sources of caloric energy, sodium, and fluids. Drinking too much water, and not eating enough sources of glucose and salt, can cause your metabolism to crash, and your body temperature to plummet.
- If you’re sedentary, find ways to work in small amounts of physical activity, and continue to make progress from there. Make the activity you do enjoyable—it doesn’t have to be a “work out!” Just going for a short walk each day may be all you need to start working in a healthy level of activity to support metabolic function.
- Don’t overdo it. Exercise can backfire on you—if it’s too much physical stress on your body, it can hurt your metabolism.
- Get on a sleeping schedule. Everyone knows that you should be getting at least 7-8 hours of sleep a night, but if you don’t plan for it, it won’t happen. Making sleep your top priority is a great way to see big improvements in your health, in a relatively short period of time.
- Start a calming bedtime routine that includes turning off stimulating lights from your computer and other screens, taking time to wind down, and eating a blood-sugar leveling snack to keep things stable through the night. A piece of cheese and some fruit works great!
- Address psychological sources of stress—emotional disturbances, unhealthy relationships, or stressful situations. If you can make a change in these for the better, do it. Get the support you need to help you through.
- Adopt therapeutic lifestyle habits. Allow time every day for downtime and relaxation, and even stress management activities and techniques like meditation, yoga, aromatherapy, or calming baths.
- Work on managing the environmental stressors in your life—even something as simple as spending too much time indoors and not getting enough sunlight, or being exposed to things which you are allergic to, can be sources of physiological stress.
This last one is what it all really comes down to. A poor diet, bad exercise habits, and lack of quality sleep are all physiological stressors in and of themselves, and contribute to a stressed metabolism. To fix the stress from all sides–emotional, physical, and physiological—these basic lifestyle changes need to be addressed first.
Want to learn more about body temperature and metabolism?
A low body temperature and a low metabolism can be nourished back up to health. There are very specific ways to address this type of healing that can quickly bring about powerful changes in your body’s health and functioning. But, wading through all the sources of information out there about this stuff can leave you very confused and with conflicting advice that may not get you where you need to be.
That’s why I highly recommend reading The Nourished Metabolism by Elizabeth Walling. It’s the most simple, straightforward guide to achieving metabolic health that I have come across.
If you just want to know why you have these symptoms you can’t seem to shake, and what to do to start feeling better fast, without having to make drastic or difficult changes in your diet or day-to-day life, this is what you need. You’ll learn everything from how to improve your digestion, to how to start sleeping better tonight, and all the steps you need to get your metabolism up to speed and be healthier than ever before. And it all starts with taking that temperature reading!
There are also a couple other books I recommend for further reading and education on these subjects. Diet Recovery 2 by Matt Stone, specifically addresses those who have struggled with yo-yo dieting, fad after failed fad, and guru after failed guru, only to end up in worse shape than when they started. And that unfortunately describes a lot of us.
Another of Matt’s books, Eat for Heat, goes into the specifics of how to tweak your diet for the most bang-for-your-caloric-buck improvement in body temperature. You’d be surprised at how simple and easy it can be to raise the number on that thermometer after reading this.
With these resources, you can make huge strides in improving your metabolism and raising your low body temperature. It truly is the key to health, so don’t waste another day struggling with all those icky symptoms and freezing cold body temperature! You can start feeling better fast once you implement these changes and crank up your body’s thermostat, so get to work on getting hot!
Do you have a low body temperature?
What symptoms have you experienced along with it? Are you still struggling? Or have you been able to raise your temperature and fix your metabolic health? Tell us about it in the comments below.