Cold feet

It’s not even winter and you have cold feet. Sound familiar? It might help you to know that you’re not the only one with this problem. Research suggests that at least 30 per cent of women regularly suffer from this problem, compared to just six to seven per cent of men.

Cold feet is usually a harmless condition. But it’s still unpleasant. Throughout the day, you don’t feel entirely well and comfortable in your own skin. Working calm, concentrating at your desk, cycling or driving in a relax way, enjoying a book on the sofa. Say goodbye to ‘Calm, relax and enjoy’. And let these be the factors that contribute to happiness and enjoyment in your everyday activities. It’s not just during the day that cold feet can be a problem – they can also prevent you from falling asleep when you’re in bed.

And yes, once you have cold feet, the cold often transfers to the rest of your body too. Once cold, it’s difficult to warm up easily. It’s high time to warm up those ice-cold feet!

Before we look at the tips, let’s dive into the origins of cold feet and what causes them. This is important, because if you succeed in tackling the cause, you’ll have an immediate solution to your symptoms.

What causes cold feet?

If the temperature’s 30°C, you won’t have a problem with cold feet. The cause, then, is a low ambient temperature and decreased body temperature as a result. When the body’s temperature falls, the blood vessels in the skin contract to prevent heat loss and to keep your vital organs, such as your heart, lungs and kidneys, nice and warm. Unfortunately, in some people the blood vessels contract so much that the blood flow to their arms and legs is reduced, and the blood flow to the extremities of the body – the hands and feet – is especially difficult.

Stop and think, do you have cold hands or feet? You ‘ll often have cold arms or legs to one degree or another, but your stomach and back will be nice and warm. It’s nice of our body to have such efficient temperature regulation. But it’s not always pleasant.

So, it all starts with the ambient temperature. Research suggests that the best working temperature for women is between 24°C and 25°C, compared to between 21.5°C and 22.5°C for men. No wonder we are often cold! But…why is there such a big difference between men and women?

Cold feet in bed

It explains why women are more likely to suffer from cold feet than men.

Always have cold feet? Most likely, you’re a woman. Women’s bodies, when compared to men’s, are better able to carry blood to the vital organs, but have less blood in the extremities of their bodies, such as the fingers, toes and tip of the nose. Why is that?

Fat keeps you warm: fact or fiction?

Women generally have a higher percentage of fat than men, and research shows that slimmer women suffer more from cold than those with a high BMI. One plus one equals two, so many people come to the conclusion that fat percentage plays a major role in cold weather. However, there is hardly any fat in your toes and fingers. So… how is that possible? Does fat really play as significant a role as you might think and is it indeed wise to raid the kitchen cupboards to keep your feet warm?

Put that Mars bar away, we’re sorry to disappoint you. The only heat it gives you is the physical act of walking to the cupboard to get it. In fact, it is not the percentage of fat but our muscle mass that acts as a body heater. Muscles burn sugars and fats throughout the day, thus releasing heat. Women naturally have lower muscle mass than men, which puts them at a disadvantage when it comes to maintaining their internal body temperature. A layer of fat does have some insulation value, but the fat in you body is mostly around your organs and not in your hands and feet.

There is another reason why it’s women who have to warm up their ice-cube legs on their male partners’ legs in bed and not the other way around. It’s purely their hormones. The female hormone estrogen regulates the outer thin blood vessels, also called capillaries. During the menstrual cycle, a woman’s hormone levels change. High estrogen levels make capillaries more sensitive to temperature. There is a minor upside – after the menopause, the body produces around 60% less estrogen, meaning less sensitivity to cold.

Causes of cold feet

What is the cause of cold feet?

We have already discussed how your hormones and muscle mass have an important impact on the temperature of the body. Still, it’s a good idea to investigate other potential causes so that you can target the solution to your problems.

FLAMMER SYNDROME

Never heard of it? You might not have. It is a relatively newly described condition that occurs mostly inslim, athletic and often highly educated women. It is the opposite of metabolic syndrome. An increased circulatory response to stimuli – such as cold, emotions, stress, sounds – can result in cold hands and feet. They are also more sensitive to pain, medication, caffeine, sounds and smells and often sleep poorly. Flammer syndrome is not dangerous, but it can cause considerable discomfort. Take care of yourself, avoid too much stress, pick a calm sport (such as yoga) and don’t overdo cardio. Would you like to know more about it? This Swiss website provides clear information on the syndrome: http://www.flammer-syndrome.ch/. Dive right in to the tips at the bottom of this page and find a solution to your cold feet problem.

Low blood pressure can also cause you to quickly suffer from cold hands and feet. How do you know if you are suffering from low blood pressure? You should check your blood pressure with the help of a blood pressure monitor; every GP will have one.

A major cause of low blood pressure is your body losing too much fluid too quickly, and the fluid not being replenished in a timely manner. While exercising in particular, make sure to drink plenty of water. Not only does this have a beneficial effect on your blood pressure, but other organs, including your skin, will thank you for it!

low blood pressure

chilblainsAlso known as perniones. If you have been out in the cold and your feet feel itchy, burning or sore, chances are you have chilblains. When you have chilblains, the blood does not flow properly to the feet and toes and the skin turns red or bluish-red, before swelling and becoming inflamed. You may also get blisters and wounds. Unfortunately there is not much you can do about chilblains – symptoms will go away on their own but sadly, it can take all winter and your chilblains can come back every year. Prevention is better than cure, so exercise enough and keep those feet warm!

RAYNAUD’S DISEASE

Raynaud's DiseaseAlso called Raynaud’s Phenomenon. When the arteries contract too quickly, the blood supply to the hands and feet stops. Your toes or fingers start by turning white, then blue, then red. It is estimated that as many as fifteen per cent of women and one per cent of men suffer from Raynaud’s Disease to one extent or another. The disease is usually harmless, so the best tip is to keep your feet as warm as possible by wearing thick socks and getting plenty of exercise.

THYROID

thyroidIt could be that your thyroid is working too slowly, a phenomenon known as hypothyroidism. If, in addition to cold hands and feet, you also suffer from fatigue, pale skin, somber moods and hair loss, it is a good idea to see your doctor and find out if you may have a thyroid hormone deficiency.

LACK OF VITAMINS AND MINERALS

vitamins

Always suffer from cold hands and feet? Check that you are getting enough vitamins and minerals.

Iron

Iron deficiency is commonly seen in people who are vegetarians. On average, iron levels in women are lower than in men, so women in particular should pay close attention to their iron intake. In fact, an iron deficiency can lead to anaemia because the body produces less haemoglobin in the red blood cells. That in turn can lead to cold hands and feet, fatigue, pallor and dizziness, amongst other things.

Magnesium

Magnesium supports energy metabolism and plays an important role in regulating blood pressure. A deficiency can lead to a number of different symptoms, including cold hands and feet, tense muscles, lethargy, irritability, low libido and migraines. Did you know that magnesium also helps relax your brain and muscles? If you decide to take a magnesium supplement, it is best to take it two hours before bed for sleep support.

Vitamin B12

Notorious among vegetarians and vegans: vitamin B12 is found primarily in animal products (meat, fish, dairy) and vegetarians and vegans should take a supplement. This is because B12 is responsible for the production of blood and nerves, amongst other things. An incipient deficiency can lead to pallor, weakness, lightheadedness and feeling cold. Have concerns? If so, see your GP so that he or she can refer you for a blood test.

DIABETES

In diabetic patients, the blood vessels can become damaged, reducing the ability of the blood to circulate. The result is cold feet. Nerve damage, also known as neuropathy, can also happen as a result of diabetes. This makes you feel like you have cold feet, even though the body is maintaining them at the right temperature. It is caused by a faulty signal from the brain that unfortunately cannot be helped.

What can you do about cold feet?

And now, drum roll… We have come to the reason you are reading this article: a solution for your cold hands and feet. And no, there is no advice like ‘wear sandwich bags around your feet’ or ‘tie sandwich bags around your shoes’, ‘tape off the holes in your shoes’ – these are suggestions I have actually seen on the internet! You obviously didn’t go to all that trouble to read this article and then end up with such rubbish tips. So here they come, the very best tips that really work:

The five best tips for warm feet

Tip 1

Exercise plenty, but focus on building muscle. Muscles burn fat and sugar. The more muscle mass, the more they will burn. And that’s how you get nice and warm. Start with ten minutes of strength training a day, you will notice the difference after just a few weeks.

Tip 2

The first tip does not provide instant heat. But with heated socks, you don’t have to have quite as much patience. You’ll have warm feet within 30 seconds with just one press of a button! And they’ll stay warm for several hours (up to eight hours on the lowest setting) at a time. Great for at your desk, on a winter walk or in bed. Now of course you’ll think that we would say that! But as experts in cold feet, wehave developed socks that really do work, are really nice to use and are really comfortable.

Tip 3

And yes…if you ask someone who is naturally cold to ädevelop something for warm feet, they may very well do just that… and then some! So we offer not only heated socks but also rechargeable soles, heated slippers and heated shoes. Maybe we’re a little ‘over the top’, but warming up or preventing cold feet really does add so much happiness to your life.

Tip 4

This tip is so obvious, but you probably catch yourself doing it often. It’s a beautiful autumn or spring day, the sun is shining and the sky is blue. You feel like looking a little more summery and you dress just a little too light. When your body experiences cold, your body’s first reaction is to keep your vital organs warm and reduce blood flow to your arms and legs (starting with that of your hands and feet). Nice efficiency from your body – but not so nice for you! So no matter how warm it looks outside, always bring an extra jacket along! And also put a shawl, a pair of extra thick socks and maybe even a heated pillow in your bag.

Tip 5

Socks with silver thread, quitting smoking, woollen socks, contrast baths, not sitting with your legs crossed…these are all tips that help around the edges. If you don’t have electrical socks to hand, the only thing that will help is a hot bath or shower. No time? A quick foot bath so you can immerse your feet for a while can also be blissful.

In my opinion, these five tips are the only tips that really work. Believe me, I’ve tried everything. I know every list of ‘tips to prevent cold feet’ by heart. Visit your GP should your symptoms get worse to rule out medical problems. But, this list is for all those people who, like me, just get cold feet quickly – and are tired of all those well-meaning home, garden and kitchen tips from people who have never experienced the problem themselves –  hopefully you will benefit from it!

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I consulted several sources for this article. You can always ask me for more background information. – Lobke Buijs