Some people have difficulty “getting warm” in their hands and feet. This can be due to many reasons, but one of the most often overlooked reasons is vitamin deficiency. Which vitamin causes you to feel cold? We’ll tell you after this short lesson on how your body generates heat.
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How Does the Body Generate Heat?
The body generates heat through a process called thermogenesis, which is the production of heat by chemical reactions in the body.
This reaction occurs within the cells of your body, which contain enzymes that are constantly working to maintain an optimum temperature and help you stay healthy.
The body uses two main heat-generating methods: shivering and nonshivering thermogenesis.
Shivering is an involuntary response that occurs when your body needs to produce more heat than it’s getting from its environment. It’s activated by cold temperatures or emotional stress.
Nonshivering thermogenesis is an involuntary process that allows your body to create heat from calories you eat or by burning fat.
This is why we feel warm after eating a meal—our bodies produce heat as they digest our food.
In addition to these methods, the body generates heat when we exercise or do other types of strenuous physical activity.
Working out makes our muscles contract and relax in rapid succession, which creates friction between muscle fibers and the soft tissue around them. This friction causes energy to be released as heat.
Heat Generation and Thermoregulation
Heat generation is one of the techniques of thermoregulation. Thermoregulation is the body’s ability to maintain a stable internal temperature. It is accomplished by increasing or decreasing heat production and conducting heat away from the body via evaporation, radiation, and convection.
The body’s ability to maintain a constant internal temperature is vital for your health. For example, if your temperature drops below 98°F (37°C), you will likely experience shivering, which is the body’s way of keeping things warm.
If your temperature rises above 104°F (40°C), you will likely experience sweating. The process works like this: when it gets hot out—whether from environmental conditions or physical activity—your skin begins to sweat.
Sweating causes your body to lose fluid, which evaporates off your skin and into the air around you.
Evaporation cools you down instantly, allowing you to maintain a comfortable body temperature despite changes in external conditions or internal activity levels.
If your body’s routine is disrupted, it may feel too hot or cold. But we’ll focus on the latter, and we’re going to target vitamin deficiencies specifically. Now, what vitamin deficiency causes you to feel cold?
Vitamin B12, or cobalamin, is a water-soluble vitamin essential in normal brain function and red blood cell production.
This vitamin helps to maintain healthy nerve cells and DNA, as well as make sure that the body can make new cells. It helps synthesize of DNA, methionine and S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe).
These molecules are important for the normal functioning of the brain and nervous system. This vitamin also acts as a cofactor in converting homocysteine to methionine and L-methionine to S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe), which are involved in many metabolic processes.
Vitamin B12 Deficiency and Cold
What happens when your body doesn’t absorb enough vitamin B12? It falls prey to a condition called pernicious anemia.
Pernicious anemia is a type of anemia that occurs when the body doesn’t produce enough red blood cells, which are responsible for carrying oxygen throughout the body.
The more red blood cells you have, the more oxygen can be carried around your body, making you feel warmer.
When you are deficient in vitamin B12, your body will feel cold and clammy because your blood flow has slowed down due to the lack of oxygen-rich red blood cells. This can also lead to fatigue, dizziness, pale skin tone and loss of appetite.
How to Get More Vitamin B12
Since this heroic vitamin is produced by bacteria, it is not found in many foods humans eat.
The only animal sources of vitamin B12 are meat products like fish, shellfish, and organ meats like liver.
Other foods that contain small amounts of vitamin B12 include eggs and dairy products made with or from milk (butter and cheese).
Vegetarians who do not eat animal-based products must rely on fortified foods or supplements to obtain sufficient amounts of vitamin B12 daily.
Folic acid, or vitamin B9, helps the body produce red blood cells, which help oxygen reach the muscles and other tissues.
Vitamin B9 Deficiency and Cold
These red blood cells contain iron which helps your body produce heat. If you don’t have enough folic acid in your diet, you may be unable to create enough red blood cells, so your body won’t be able to produce enough heat.
And, if you aren’t getting enough folic acid in your diet, then your body will start using up its stores of iron faster than normal. The formula is simple: inadequate B9 means low red blood cell count, which results in low iron levels and heat loss.
How to Get More Vitamin B9
Vitamin B9 is found in leafy greens, legumes, citrus fruits, and fortified cereals. Most people get enough folic acid through their diet. However, some people may need to take fruit and vegetable supplements to meet their daily needs for folic acid.
Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin, meaning that it dissolves in water. It’s also called ascorbic acid and is found in many fruits and vegetables, especially citrus fruits.
Besides helping your body produce collagen, a protein that gives structure to skin, bones and other tissues, ascorbic acid forms some of the body’s neurotransmitters. These are chemicals that send signals from one nerve cell to another.
Also, vitamin C is an antioxidant, protecting cells from free radicals. A free radical is a highly reactive molecule that can damage cells or DNA if not neutralized by antioxidants like vitamin C. On top of everything, ascorbic acid helps maintain healthy gums.
Vitamin C Deficiency and Cold
While there’s no solid scientific evidence that a vitamin C deficiency can cause a cold, some research has been done on the connection between vitamin C and the common cold.
This research consisted of 29 studies spearheaded by a group of inquisitive minds at Cochrane Collaboration.
On the one hand, those studies revealed that taking vitamin C while down with a cold increases the recovery pace by 10%. On the other hand, consuming vitamin C before falling ill can reduce one’s chances of developing a cold.
What to Do
So should you increase your vitamin C intake? Yes, but not above the recommended daily dose because the body doesn’t store vitamin C anyway. Excess ascorbic acid is simply passed on to urine and flushed down the drain.
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that is important for absorbing calcium and phosphorus, essential for healthy bones and teeth.
However, some medications may decrease the amount of vitamin D and vitamin D3 that your body produces when exposed to sunlight. These include birth control pills and hormone replacement therapy (HRT) drugs.
Vitamin D Deficiency and Cold
One of the more common symptoms associated with vitamin D deficiency is cold-like symptoms, including sore throat, sneezing, and coughing.
This is because vitamin D is an immune system booster. It regulates the function of white blood cells.
White blood cells are responsible for fighting off infections and other diseases, but they need to be able to recognize what is foreign to attack it. Vitamin D helps them do this by telling them what is not a threat by allowing them to identify foreign substances.
When your body doesn’t get enough vitamin D, it can be harder for your immune system to fight off infections like colds.
How to Get More Vitamin D
The body can make Vitamin D when exposed to sunlight. However, many people do not get enough sunlight exposure during the day. Not getting enough sunlight is more common during winter months or when they live far from the equator.
In addition to being obtained from UVB radiation from sunlight and artificial sources such as tanning beds, vitamin D can be obtained from food sources.
Such foods include fatty fish, egg yolks, mushrooms, fortified milk products, cereals, and soy beverages.
Is a Vitamin Deficiency Causing You Cold?
You think the best way to avoid colds is to plan. So when you feel a tickle in your throat, you buy that vitamin C pill your neighbor told you about last month.
Or maybe you hoard cough drops like a squirrel collects nuts for winter. Either way, you’re always prepared for that one cold that seems to invade every other week, not knowing why the cold attacks.
If you suspect that a vitamin deficiency is causing your cold, there are some things you can do.
Eat More Fruits and Vegetables
These are high in antioxidants. And antioxidants help fight off free radicals, which can cause damage to cells and lead to health problems like cancer.
If you’re worried about not getting enough vitamins from food alone, talk to your doctor about taking a multivitamin supplement.
Do you have trouble eating fruits and vegetables regularly or don’t think a multivitamin is enough? Please ask your doctor about specific fruit and vegetable supplements that could boost your immune system.