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Normal Body Temperature is Critical for Good Health
By Denis Wilson, MD

If I had to guess which body function is most similar among all healthy people, I would guess the body temperature. In fact, body temperature is so similar from person to person that doctors tend to overlook it and take it for granted. However, the fact that body temperatures are so similar from person to person only demonstrates how critically important they are.

It is well known that very low body temperatures (ie: hypothermia from falling into cold water) and very high body temperatures (ie: a high fever from infection) can both be life-threatening. It is also well known that a slightly elevated temperature from the flu can cause many symptoms of discomfort. It's logical then, that within this wide spectrum from hypothermia to fever, a temperature that falls slightly below normal would also cause symptoms of discomfort. Unfortunately, this simple fact has not been readily acknowledged by the medical profession.

Every bodily function depends on biochemical reactions. The way to gauge the efficiency of a biochemical reaction is to measure its rate or speed. If reactions are occurring too slowly or too quickly in the body, health problems can result.

Doctors check thyroid hormone blood tests as a way to measure if the biochemical reactions are working at the correct speed. Unfortunately, many physicians don't realize that sometimes temperatures are low, despite normal lab tests. They aren't aware that body temperature is a much more direct measurement of how fast the body is operating. Many patients with normal thyroid tests have low body temperatures and feel fatigue, unexplained weight gain, difficulty in losing weight, depression, and other symptoms.

Having a normal thyroid level is like having a full tank of gas in the car. The speed of the car is determined by the rate at which that gas is being burned in the engine (not the fact that the tank is full). Similarly, the speed of your body (metabolism) is determined by how well the thyroid hormone in your body is being transported, converted, and utilized inside your cells. Having normal thyroid levels, like having gas in the tank, doesn't necessarily equate to fast metabolism. Metabolism is about what happens inside the cells of your body and determines how well you feel. Body temperature reflects what is going on in the cells. A thermometer is literally a speedometer. The faster the molecules in your body are traveling, the higher your temperature will be.

The fact that most physicians overlook low body temperature has profound consequences on the lives of millions of people. People with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Multiple Chemical Sensitivities, Fibromyalgia, and Lyme Disease often suffer from debilitating fatigue. Many of these patients have normal thyroid tests, accompanied by low body temperature and low thyroid symptoms. Yet their doctors often conclude that their metabolism is normal, when, in fact, it isn't.

There are also many people that are taking thyroid hormone medicine to the satisfaction of thyroid blood tests, yet they still suffer from many of the symptoms of hypothyroidism because of their low body temperatures. They have a full gas tank, but their car is moving slowly.

What causes low thyroid hormone?
T4 is the thyroid hormone produced in the thyroid gland that is transported to the cells of the body, where it is converted to T3, which is the active thyroid hormone. Active thyroid is what affects metabolism. Current research shows that the amount of T4 that is converted to T3 in the cells of the body is tightly regulated. Under conditions of severe emotional, physical, or mental stress, the body can signal cells to decrease the amount of T4 that is converted to T3 in order to cope with the stress. When the stress passes, the body temperature is supposed to come back up to normal, especially with proper rest, exercise, diet, herbs, and nutrition. Unfortunately, it doesn't always work that way. Sometimes our systems remain depressed even after the stress has passed, especially if the stress was long-term.

Many people with Chronic Fatigue, Fibromyalgia, and Multiple Chemical Sensitivity can recover completely when their body temperatures have been normalized with proper thyroid and adrenal support. Almost all patients with Lyme Disease have low body temperatures and can benefit from thyroid and adrenal support.

Certain herbs and nutrients can support the thyroid and adrenal glands. Eleuthero, astragulus, ashwagandha, and codonopsis can help restore normal adrenal function and improve stamina. Iodine, diiodotyrosine, bladderwrack, and selenium support thyroid hormone production.

If thyroid and adrenal support with herbs and nutrients don't fully resolve low temperatures, the advanced step is to seek a prescription for T3-only hormone. Using the active form of thyroid hormone is preferred over the typical prescription of T4 (ie: Synthroid). It is common to have problems with converting T4 to the active T3, so taking T3 directly may be more effective. Unlike T4 (Synthroid), which is taken indefinitely, T3 can actually rehabilitate and refresh the thyroid system so eventually normal thyroid function may resume without medication.

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