The Significance of Low Body Temperature and Health
by Betsy Thomason, March 2023
While writing my own Lyme story, I discovered that low body temperature is associated with Lyme disease. This was news to me.
Now in 2023, thanks to research on the internet, I’ve discovered that my decades-long low body temperature may be providing a safe harbor for the very Lyme critters I’m trying to eliminate.
Dr. Susan Marra, drsusanmara.com1, who has worked with Lyme specialists Dr. Richard Horowitz and Dr. Charles Ray Jones, says in her blog, "Many patients who suffer from chronic Lyme disease and coinfections or chronic complex illness, also suffer from a low core body temperature (less than 97.0 degrees F.). Sometimes this cold body temperature is due to hypothyroidism, which is relatively easy to diagnose with blood tests and a thermometer, and easily treated with some combination of T3 and T4 sustained-release capsules.” I understand that this is not a causal relationship; rather it is an associative relationship. Still it is a fact that I must address.
With further internet research, I discovered the work of Dr. Denis Wilson, MD, published in Integrative Medicine: A Clinician’s Journal in the June 2015 issue: Low Body Temperature as an Indicator of Poor Expression of Thyroid Hormone. Dr. Wilson says that the standard indicator of a healthy thyroid gland is the measure of TSH—thyroid stimulating hormone. However, he continues, if you have chronic low body temperature (as opposed to hypothermia caused by cold exposure or dehydration or loss of body fat, as in elders), your thyroid problem is probably related to your body’s inability to convert T4 to T3, which is the active thyroid hormone. Dr. Wilson says it’s a conversion problem, not a supply problem. You have plenty of T4 but you body is not converting it to the useful, active form, T3. He dubbed this Wilson’s Temperature Syndrome in 1988. He was the first to use sustained-release T3 to resolve the problem, with much anecdotal success.
The symptoms associated with low body temperature are vast. Dr. Wilson includes “fatigue, chronic fatigue, and headaches—migraine headaches. A huge percentage of patients with migraine headaches have low body temperatures and I have seen so many people when they get their temperatures corrected, their migraines sometimes disappear completely.” He continues: “Irritability, fluid retention, anxiety, panic attacks, PMS, hair loss, depression, decreased memory and concentration, low sex drive, unhealthy nails, low ambition and motivation, constipation, easy weight gain for sure, irritable bowel syndrome, dry skin, dry hair, insomnia, and even some things that people wouldn’t normally expect like asthma. . . . and hives and allergies can sometimes respond to normalizing a low body temperature. Carpal tunnel syndrome and conditions caused by fluid retention—so there’s a tremendous number of things.”2
Why is body temperature the culprit? Chemical reactions in our body require a specific temperature range. If there’s not enough heat, the molecules can’t rearrange into useful forms. Over the past 100 years, the body temperature norm has been cooling from 98.6 Fahrenheit to 98.04 for people under 60 and to 97.7 for people over 60, according to healthline.org3. (I’m wondering if people with chronic low body temperature (96.0 to 97.6) are skewing the data.
Here’s Dr. Wilson’s understanding: “I believe that it is the temperature itself that causes the symptomatology because the correlation is so complete. My favorite theory has to do with the enzymes we talked about, the transcription of DNA in the nucleus, and that when DNA is transcribed, it makes proteins and enzymes and structural elements. Those enzymes are the key of every chemical reaction in the body and the speed at which those reactions take place and the efficacy of those reactions depend on the enzymes. The whole purpose of an enzyme is to help a reaction take place at a reasonable temperature, like body temperature, when it would not take place at that temperature without it.”4
Dr. Wilson concurs that “the crux of the matter is that because the conversion of T4 to T3 is dependent upon an enzyme, there are circumstances—including ambient temperature of the body—that will affect the ability of the enzyme to function or affect its functional efficiency. That is what the ‘conventional’ approach is missing.”5
How can body temperature be improved? Dr. Wilson suggests diet, herbs, and T3. In the herb category is seaweed because it contains bioavailable iodine necessary for thyroid hormone production. One particular species is bladderwrack that grows in cold oceans. An internet search for studies of seaweed and thyroid function in humans reveals animal (rat) studies only, and related to obesity, mostly, not thyroid function.
Over the decades, my health modus operandi has been to use non-toxic remedies, starting gradually and documenting my daily progress. Thus, I have started drinking one cup of bladderwrack tea each day. While I’m curious about my body temperature, I’m not going to be a slave to the thermometer. Healing takes months, sometimes even years. If in a year or so my body core temperature is not above 97 degrees, I’ll consult a medical professional and consider T3 supplementation. This personal research is essential to insure that I have explored every avenue before taking a pharmaceutical.
1. Dr. Susan Marra. google: Low Body Core Temperature blog
2. Integrative Medicine: A Clinician’s Journal, June 2015. Low Body Temperature as an Indicator of Poor Expression of Thyroid Hormone. Craig Gustafson interviews Dr. Denis Wilson. [no page numbers—quote is at paragraph 11.]
4. Integrative Medicine: A Clinician’s Journal, June 2015. Low Body Temperature as an Indicator of Poor Expression of Thyroid Hormone. Craig Gustafson interviews Dr. Denis Wilson.
[no page numbers—quote is at paragraph 16.]
5. Integrative Medicine: A Clinician’s Journal, June 2015. Low Body Temperature as an Indicator of Poor Expression of Thyroid Hormone. Craig Gustafson interviews Dr. Denis Wilson. [no page numbers—quote is at paragraph 28.]
Restorative Medicine www.restorativemedicine.org
Maine Seaweed www.theseaweedman.com
PR Health Science Journal. 2006 Mar;25(1):23-9. Supraphysiological cyclic dosing of sustained release T3 in order to reset low basal body temperature. Michael Friedman, et al.
Dr. Denis Wilson’s website wilsonssyndrome.com
Wilson, Denis, MD. Evidence-Based Approach to Restoring Thyroid Health. For free access to pdf, google book title, scroll to en.calameo.com, click on “read the publication” under icon of book cover.
Barnes, Broda, MD. Hypothyroidism: The Unsuspected Illness. New York, NY: Harper; 1976.