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Why Are My Hands and Feet Always Cold?

Why Are My Hands and Feet Always Cold?

It’s a warm and slightly humid 82 degree end of summer kind of day. Bright sun, kids heading back to school, thoughts of reorganizing and cleaning out the house are pervasive as we move from one season to the next. If you look carefully the outer tips of leaves are starting to change, some have even begun to fall bringing with them thoughts of apple picking, football and pumpkins. A wonderful stirring of emotions until you remember this seasonal change brings with it a drop in temperature and the longing for spring when your hands and feet will be warm again. Unfortunately, some of us don’t even enjoy the reprieve of summer; we spend our days wondering “why are my hands and feet always cold?”

Contrary to popular belief cold hands and feet don’t just happen, they are a symptom of something not working optimally in your body that the warmest of mittens won’t fix. Although there can be a number of CAUSES for your cold hands and feet, it’s important not to fall too quickly into the trap of focusing on one single thing as the culprit.

Possible causes of cold hands and feet:

  • Anemia and other nutritional deficiencies
  • Autoimmune diseases like Raynaud’s and Hashimoto’s
  • Over active sympathetic nerves
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Thyroid Dysfunction 

Chances are you have been researching your condition and understand my caution when reading the above list. For those new to this information let me explain. All of the conditions listed have the ability to cause cold hands and feet on their own BUT they are most often intertwined with one another. We refer to this as a “web of physiologic dysfunction.” For instance, thyroid dysfunction occurs in approximately 30% of women, some will have anemia and cold hands and feet, or the autoimmune condition known as Raynaud’s and an inability to lose weight, others may be experiencing digestive disorders and depression along with their cold hands and feet. So, again it is essential to consider all the possible culprits.

Let’s look at some of the possibilities more closely starting with thyroid conditions.

As mentioned, 30% of women in the US suffer from thyroid related issues. Your thyroid gland controls your metabolism. Metabolism is your body’s process for turning food into energy. If your thyroid is sluggish your metabolism slows down and so do all of the systems of your body that depend upon it. Cold hands and feet can easily be attributed to poor blood flow to peripheral nerves as a result of faulty metabolism. Other metabolic break downs may appear as hair loss, weight gain, depression, fatigue and digestive disorders.

80% of thyroid related issues actually stem from an autoimmune condition call Hashimoto’s. What does that mean for you? Your thyroid symptoms, fatigue, depression, hair loss, dry skin, digestive disorders and yes, cold hands and feet are secondary to an autoimmune condition. Meaning you generally won’t have one without the other. The web of physiologic dysfunction is in play here. If your thyroid condition is treated without considering the autoimmune component or vice versa there is a high probability you will continue to suffer and allow the underlying cause to wreak havoc on your body.

Anemia, hormonal imbalances and nerve issues, all of which may be related to metabolic breakdown, are also listed above as possible culprits of your cold hands and feet. But as you are learning, these may be the primary problem causing your symptoms OR the secondary problem; remember the role the web of physiologic dysfunction plays in your health. The relationship of anemia in thyroid sufferers is well documented, with some studies claiming as many as 43% of hypothyroid patients having some type of anemia.

In reality you are suffering from two things: the SYMPTOMS – cold hands and feet, and the underlying CAUSES of your condition.

The biggest pitfalls in your care will be treating the symptoms as the problem, and focusing only on one possible cause. Avoid these pitfalls and stop asking “Why are my hands and feet always cold?” Get proper testing, including a complete thyroid panel (not just TSH) with thyroid antibodies, check Vitamin D levels, as low Vitamin D is a precursor for many diseases including autoimmune conditions, and when indicated, test for intestinal permeability, a condition that will cause significant nutritional deficits.

Wouldn’t it be a nice change to enjoy a mug of warm apple cider because of the sweet, spicy dance it performs on your tongue instead of holding onto it for dear life as your hand warmer?

Corey Kirshner