I'm always cold—no matter what the weather is like outside. What can I do to warm up?
Cold extremities generally result from poor circulation. Both heart and kidney disease reduce blood flow to and from the hands and feet, while low thyroid function decreases the body's overall temperature. Diabetes damages blood vessels in the fingers and toes, making it difficult for blood to reach the extremities. But some people run colder, no matter how healthy they are.
Taking a hot shower and finishing it with 60 seconds of cold will dramatically increase circulation and body heat. You could also eat warming foods, such as red meat, miso soup, sweet potatoes, cayenne pepper, and ginger; and drink hot teas containing cinnamon, black pepper, or cardamom.
Opt for steamed or blanched vegetables when feeling chilled. Although raw veggies are packed with fiber and vitamins, they require more work to digest, which pulls potentially warming blood away from the hands and feet.
Drink plenty of water to increase blood flow to the extremities. And exercise 30 to 60 minutes five days per week to increase metabolic processes and promote warmth throughout the body.
—Kaycie Rosen, ND, founder
Golden Naturopathic Clinic, Golden, Colorado
Cold intolerance can be caused by an underactive or overactive thyroid, low hemoglobin, or anemia; but some peoples' body temperatures naturally run a few tenths of a degree below 98.6. In most cases, people who wear five sweaters at once and still want the thermostat turned up while everyone else is comfortable are not any more prone to developing serious health problems.
When the body is cold, it spasms and contracts the arterial blood vessels that run to the fingertips, toes, and tip of your nose in order to divert blood inward to generate heat for the entire body. This decrease in blood flow to the extremities causes them to feel cold.
But persistently chilly hands and feet are often a result of poor circulation. Hypertension, high cholesterol, unbalanced diet, and cigarette smoking can all cause blockages in the arteries, which hinder circulation. Swimming, jogging, or using a stair-climber a few times a week causes arteries to form alternative routes around blockages. This restores blood flow to the feet and hands, causing them to warm up.
—Les Forgosh, MD, director
St. Paul Cardiology, St. Paul, Minnesota
If your hands and feet tend to run cold, you most likely have a deficiency of the vital, warming energy known as qi (pronounced "chee"). Chronic stress, illness, emotional strain, and poor diet can all deplete qi, which hinders blood flow to the extremities.
In theory, acupuncture increases circulation by stimulating the peripheral nerves that relay information to the brain. This creates a cascade of beneficial physiological effects, such as gently dilating blood vessels, which enhance vascular flow to the extremities.
As for dietary changes, be sure to eat plenty of warming foods, including ginger, cinnamon bark, cabbage, lamb, and mustard greens, and avoid cold foods like ice cream and raw salad greens, as well as frosty beverages. If cold extremities persist, or are accompanied by pain, numbness, or tingling, you should ask a medical doctor to screen you for systemic disorders such as diabetes or Raynaud's disease. Remember: Addressing internal imbalances early makes them much easier to correct than waiting until after the body has become compromised by a chronic pattern.
—Christine Friel, LAc, owner
Double Happiness Health, San Francisco