By Dr. Shawna Darou, ND
In many cases, we have forgotten the basics – we only think of taking our temperature to check for fever, or in some cases of mapping out a menstrual cycle. As you will learn below, taking your temperature at specific times through the day is an extremely useful way to measure how effectively your body is utilizing thyroid hormones, which can be associated with many health condition.
By measuring your temperature, we may uncover a true thyroid disorder, but in other cases it indicates how well you are metabolizing and utilizing the more active thyroid hormone called T3, or triiodothyronine, which is rarely a true thyroid disorder.
Your thyroid hormones are important for your overall wellbeing, influencing your mood, memory, weight, temperature regulation, cardiovascular function, hormone balance, energy level and more. These hormones are central to your wellbeing!
How and when to take your temperature:
It is best to use a glass thermometer. Hold under your tongue for 5 minutes. If this is not available, an auricular (ear) thermometer or digital thermometer are OK substitutions. With the ear thermometer, repeat 3x in each ear and use the highest reading. With a digital thermometer, if possible calibrate with a glass thermometer first. When measuring with a digital thermometer, leave it under your tongue for a full 5 minutes, even if the thermometer beeps much earlier.
Take your first temperature reading 3 hours after waking. Set an alarm and measure three hours later, and then again after another 3 hours.
Women – the best time to take your temperatures is in the follicular phase of your cycle, meaning somewhere between day 7 and 12, counting from day 1 = the first day of heavy menstrual flow.
Take these measurements for 3 days in a week, and average the numbers each day.
For interest, you may also want to check your temperature at the time of day you feel best and also the time of day you feel worst.
What is a normal temperature?
A normal daytime temperature for a healthy metabolism is 98.6 F or 37.0 C. If your temperature is less than 98 F or 36.7 C, your temperature is low.
If your average temperature is low, the next step is a full thyroid blood panel to determine if there is an actual thyroid disorder, poor conversion of T4 to T3, or the start of a thyroid autoimmune disorder.
What do the results mean?
- True thyroid disorder – this would be indicated by a high TSH (> 2.5 mIU/L)
- Poor conversion to T3 – this shows with a free T3 level less than 5.4 pmol/L
- Wilson’s temperature syndrome – indicates poor utilization of thyroid hormones, with low body temperature but normal lab testing.
A very important note, is that treatment is recommended to raise your body temperature, even if all of the bloodwork is normal. If your temperature is low, it absolutely indicates an issue with thyroid hormone utilization, which is impacting your health.
Low body temperature is associated with:
- Fibromyalgia (Low thyroid hormone levels increase substance P, causing pain. Treatment with T3 hormones can greatly reduce pain).
- Weight gain
- Migraines (Can be associated with decreased mitochondrial function, meaning you can’t bring T3 hormone into the cells).
- Fluid retention
- Hair loss
- Dry skin, Dry hair
- Anxiety and Panic attacks (One treatable cause of panic attacks is low body temperature. When body temperature is low, it can pump out catecholamines such as adrenaline and norepinephrine which create feelings of anxiety).
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Asthma and Allergies
- Irregular periods
- Decreased memory
- Decreased concentration
- Muscle and joint aches
- Low sex drive
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
(From “Evidence-Based Approach to Restoring Thyroid Health” – by Denis Wilson MD)
How is low temperature treated?
Nutrition and lifestyle:
Nutrition to support blood sugar stability, reducing caffeine and avoiding artificial sweeteners and especially foods that may contain bromine is a start.
The thyroid requires key nutrients, especially iodine and selenium to function optimally. Interestingly, we are very deficient in these nutrients in North America, and this can greatly affect thyroid function and also thyroid hormone conversion from T4 to T3.
Iodine deficiency causes hyperplasia of the thyroid, and also hyperplasia of the breasts. If you have low temperature and also fibrocystic breasts, you may be iodine deficient.
Note: It is very important to take iodine supplements only under care of a trained health practitioner.
Several herbal medicines make a great impact on thyroid function, thyroid hormone conversion and also lowering thyroid antibodies in cases of autoimmune thyroid disorders.
These include lemon balm, blue iris, ashwagandha, guggul for example.
Thyroid hormones may be necessary to optimize temperature and wellbeing. This may include desiccated thyroid and possibly T3 therapy. As a naturopathic physician, we start with herbs, nutrition and nutrients first, but in some cases these therapies are required and extremely helpful.
In conclusion, the simple measurement of your body temperature can provide immense clues to your hormonal health. Low temperature is associated with many chronic health conditions, and in addressing the low temperature through thyroid hormone support we can make a tremendous impact on your health and wellbeing.