frost-etched orb on frozen blue surface in winter sunlight


Why am I so cold?

Are you the type of person who is constantly cold? The type who remains happily bundled up even while others around you are shedding layers? Or, are you the person who snuggles in close to a special someone, with the ulterior motive of stealing their body heat? You know who you are. This kind of coldness is considered to be pathological according to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), and you don’t have to live like that.

Two Types of Cold

According to TCM there are two different types of cold in the body: Excess cold and deficient cold. Excess cold refers to having too much cold energy in your system, which not only can leave you feeling cold, but is commonly seen with other health issues as well. When there is an insufficiency of warm fiery energy (yang), this is referred to as deficient cold. You feel cold, not because the cold is so strong, but because you don’t have enough fire to balance it out.

Excess Cold

As mentioned, excess cold refers to an over-abundance of cold energy in the body. Think of excess cold as sitting in a bathtub full of ice water. You are not cold because your internal heater is off, you are cold because some external factor is causing you to be cold. This condition is often acute and may relate to being outside in cold weather, exposing a certain area of your body to cold water, or to cold wind. Symptoms vary depending on the area of the body that is affected and the situation.

For example, you may feel like you cannot get warm because you are coming down with a common cold virus. TCM views this as cold being trapped under the skin or in certain channels of the back and neck, which causes you to have a stiff neck, occipital headache, or a runny nose. If you want to prevent this, make sure you wear a scarf and stay away from fans/wind pointed directly at you.

Excess cold can also lodge itself in the digestive system. Consuming cold foods, or drinking ice-cold beverages, especially while in a cold environment or after being outside in the cold, can lead to digestive dysfunctions. To prevent symptoms like painful abdominal cramping, diarrhea or loose stools, be sure to eat and drink warmer foods during the winter. Eating a salad and a smoothie on a cold day is perhaps not the best choice.

Cold can also enter the uterus. This can happen if you are swimming in cold water or sitting on a cold surface. Historically, many Chinese spent their days cultivating rice, wading through rice fields. It was discovered that after spending time in the cold water, women started to develop a feeling of cold in the uterus, pain and cramping before and during their period, menstrual clots, and possible problems with fertility.

All of these excess-cold conditions can be avoided by limiting exposure to cold environments and cold foods. Introducing heat internally through teas, soups and warming herbs can also help.

Deficient Cold

Health is a state of balance between yin and yang. But what are yin and yang? Yin refers to the cool, watery, passive parts of our physiology, whereas yang refers to the hot, fiery, active parts. When the fire, yang, becomes weakened, there isn’t enough heat to balance out the cool and watery properties of yin. This can lead to loose stools, lack of energy or motivation, wanting to sleep all of the time or fluid accumulation. It can also cause a pervasive feeling of cold that is hard to shake, even with lots of blankets and warm drinks. The person with this kind of cold – yang dificiency cold – is always cold, no matter what. Yang deficiency cold is a little more challenging to treat. Although altering your diet to include more warm foods may help, it usually requires use of Chinese herbal medicine, acupuncture and moxa to treat successfully.

But wait… There’s more! Excess and deficiency cold are certainly the main reasons for feeling cold, from a TCM perspective. However, Qi (energy) stagnation and blood deficiency can also show symptoms of feeling cold.

Qi Stagnation

When Qi is congested, or stuck, it prevents proper circulation and heat can’t get to our extremities effectively. This kind of cold manifests as cold hands and feet. There is a saying that where qi flows blood follows. The best way to get blood moving is, you guessed it, exercise. Exercise also helps to reduce stress. You may also consider limiting heavy foods.

Blood Deficiency

Blood deficiency can lead to a low-grade constant feeling of cold less severe than yang deficiency cold, but still pervasive and consistent. Eating a well-balanced diet with a lot of blood-nourishing foods can be helpful. Reducing stress, getting enough sleep, Chinese herbal medicine, and acupuncture are also beneficial.

What Kind of Cold Are You?

If you feel cold all the time, contact us to discuss if TCM is right for you. We offer free phone consultations to help you decide before committing to an appointment. Then, come in out of the cold and enjoy a session on one of our heated tables!

Calandra Center for Health & Wellness is located in Chicago’s South Loop and Schaumburg. We offer a variety of modalities including acupuncture, Traditional Chinese Medicine, Chinese herbs, and Essential Oils.

Teri began her studies in energy medicine as part of her own personal development journey, and continues to to learn and integrate that knowledge into her practice. Teri is the founding practitioner of Calandra Center for Health and Wellness in Chicago, Illinois. She is licensed by the State of Illinois in acupuncture (L.Ac.), and board certified through the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM).