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Low core body temperature, how well you convert fuel to energy

C. A. V. Nogueira, M.D. |
We all know that increased body temperature may point to a disease, but what about low body temperature? Does it mean something's wrong and do you know your core body temperature in the first place?

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When we are talking about body temperature, we talk about the core temperature. The rectal temperature or vaginal temperature - the core temperature - should be around 98.6°F (37°C).

But, this is the average body temperature and it goes from 97.7°F (36.5°C) to 99.5°F (37.5°C). If the temperature is outside those levels, we consider it to be abnormal.

The normal core temperature is the exact body temperature at which all the functions of our body operate with optimal efficiency.

Every process inside our body requires energy which we call metabolic energy. When there is not enough energy, the whole body or some of its parts are not working properly.

Our body needs energy to keep itself warm and it's obvious that a low body temperature accompanies low metabolic energy.

The base metabolic rate of a body - the rate at the body burns calories or uses its stored energy - defines the temperature.

There are two main reasons for abnormal, low body temperature: external influence such as medications and internal such as internal temperature regulation.

The control center for body temperature is the hypothalamus, a region in the brain. When we are in a too cold or too warm environment, the hypothalamus starts the processes to regulate the body temperature. If that regulator is not working well, the whole body has a problem.

Some of the conditions that can lower the body temperature are cancer, diabetes, Addison’s, hypothyroidism, infection, sepsis, liver failure, shock, and stress.

The main symptoms of low body temperature are goose bumps and shivering, but there is also a number of other symptoms that we should pay attention to: slow heartbeat, tiredness, shallow breathing, lack of coordination, weak pulse, and difficulty in making decisions.

When we are under severe stress our body has the ability to slow down in order to conserve energy and deal with a stressful situation, sometimes even to save our own life. But when done we start shivering.

In that situation a doctor will give you a blanket to stop shivering, you surely saw it in the movies. After the stress has passed, the body speeds up to a normal temperature.

It's interesting that there are people who report that they feel warm but when they measure the temperature is as low as 95°F (35°C).

This is not a reason to be worried about if they can function normally, work a normal shift at work and make decisions. They are just people with different metabolism.

However, anything lower than 95°F (35°C) is a sign that hypothermia occurred and in that situation we should ask for medical help because this is an emergency situation.

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