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Always Have Cold Hands & Feet? Here's What It Could Mean, From An MD

hands and feet
Image by TAKE A PIX MEDIA | Stocksy
October 26, 2020

Hormonal imbalances are tricky to spot. Specifically, the signs can be vague, and they typically work together in symphony—it can be difficult to sort through the many symptoms and decide which issue to approach firsthand. Board-certified OB/GYN and functional medicine specialist Kyrin Dunston, M.D., would agree: "[Hormone imbalances] are kind of like ants—there's never just one," she shares on the mindbodygreen podcast.

Although, tackling your hormonal imbalances is paramount for optimal health and well-being—especially for Dunston, who dropped 100 pounds simply by getting her hormones back on track. But when we asked Dunston about some of the ways to tell if you have a hormonal imbalance, her zero-hesitation reply certainly had us intrigued: "Your body temperature might be a whole degree lower, or your hands and feet are always cold." 

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How cold hands and feet can signal a hormonal imbalance.

Specifically, freezing digits can shed light on a thyroid issue. Your thyroid is like your body's "battery pack," says Dunston, as it sets the rate at which your body burns fuel. "The thyroid tells your body to open up the fat and get that fuel going," she says. "That hormone is going to all your cells and telling them how to utilize fuel to function."

So when your thyroid is low, your machinery won't run as well, so to speak. "It's like all your cells don't want to get out of bed," Dunston says. You might move slowly, feel tired, and—you guessed it—have poor circulation. That's why some with low thyroid can't seem to warm up. In fact, research showed that 40% of participants with low-thyroid felt more sensitive to cold1. Another study touts cold intolerance as a skin manifestation of hypothyroidism2 (aka, the condition for underactive thyroid). 

Of course, that's not to say if you have cold extremities you immediately have a hormonal issue—poor circulation can happen for a number of reasons, not all of them related to hormones. It's not always the be-all and end-all, but Dunston recommends seeing the forest for the trees: Say, if you can't lose stubborn weight and have trouble sleeping, anxiety, hair loss, and cold hands and feet, you might want to check up on those hormones. "If you have any of those additional symptoms, that can alert you to a thyroid problem," Dunston adds. 

The takeaway. 

Cold hands and feet are just one of the ways hormonal imbalances can manifest (read: The symptoms are typically vague and vast). Although, if you have a slew of these low-energy symptoms, you might want to check in on your thyroid. According to Dunston, it's worth it to approach any hormonal issues early on. 

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