There was a time in my life when I truly believed that I would never feel warm again. Winter or summer – it didn’t matter. In the summer, I would only stand on the beach, feet firmly entrenched in the sand, afraid to go in the water for fear of not being able to warm up again. On the coldest days of winter, I didn’t want to remove my gloves or touch any snow; worried if I did my fingers would go numb and I’d have to flee inside to bring them back to life.
I searched the web for answers and found a lot of well-intentioned advice:
- Stay inside – let everyone else go out while you man the fire, or make the cocoa
- Layer up!
- Take a hot bath or shower (make sure you use a space heater so you don’t catch a chill when you get out)
- Keep your feet warm!
- Use a heating pad or a hot water bottle
- Never leave home without hand warmers
- Stock up on blankets
- Double up on socks at night
Blog after blog offered coping strategies, but I found no advice on how to improve my relationship to the cold.
Then I stumbled across an article entitled Cold Thermogenesis Can Fix Your Thyroid. There it was in black and white: exposure to cold increases thyroid activity; complete with studies to back up the claims. A quick google search turned up more promising leads on hypothyroidism and cold thermogenesis. I saw this article describing how athletes use cold thermogenesis to improve performance. I found some practical advice in the comments on how to incorporate cold “therapy” into my everyday life.
Wellness is a journey. One I’m learning to embrace. The skeptic in me finds it funny that cold thermogenesis is the cure for cold intolerance. The Universe clearly has a sense of humor.
I’m too much of a wimp for the highly recommended cold shower. I decide on a plunge pool at my neighborhood spa. I’m sure I can give this a go if I can follow it up with 5-10 minutes in a warm sauna. The first minute in the plunge pool is the hardest (I stay in for three-minutes). In the end I do three rounds of cold/hot “therapy”. Followed up by more weekly visits. I even take a trip out to Montauk on a cold December’s day to swim in the ocean.
Embracing the cold isn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be. I immediately feel stronger, more resilient. I sleep better than I have in a long time. I stop turning up the hot water in the shower. I actually leave the house without giving much thought to scarves, gloves, or hats for the first time in a long time. I find myself walking around in the dead of winter with my coat unzipped. Little things people who don’t have Hashimoto’s probably wouldn’t understand or consider a big deal.
It turns out cold thermogenesis is a form of Hormesis. Hormesis is best summed up as a source of low dose stress that provides big benefits to the body in terms of adaptation and resiliency. My original intent was to improve my relationship to the cold, but I end up improving my ability to adapt to other stressors, like exercise, too. I’m suddenly not so exhausted by cardio, HIIT, or yoga. Exercise, it turns out, is another more commonly understood form of Hormesis. One that had been off-limits to me since my diagnosis – too exhausting. Cold thermogenesis not only improves my relationship to the cold, but also allows me to get back to the gym.
Are you suffering from cold intolerance? Let’s talk!