We are at the last change of season of the year, on the day of the Winter solstice . The air is cold, the days are short (too short), and the Christmas lights illuminate the cities and houses. There are those who are looking for the last gifts, those who are already shopping for family lunches and dinners, those who are working until the end (and beyond) and those who are leaving for a holiday.
But for everyone, winter is the long season of cold, in certain areas decidedly very cold.
How does the body react to such cold temperatures?
Maintaining body temperature is one of the most important aspects of animal, and therefore human, physiology: the functioning of enzymes, neurotransmitters and the brain itself strictly depends on it. There is a precise range in which this temperature must fall to allow the systems to function optimally, and it is between 36.1 and 37.2 degrees Celsius. Just below and just above this temperature the body still manages to carry on the vital processes, but in a more slow manner in the first case , and in an imprecise manner in the second .
It is very interesting to see what happens when the organism is exposed to low temperatures (not necessarily freezing) and how it reacts to maintain homeostasis, or balance, in this case the ideal internal temperature. Several studies have been conducted both in extreme conditions and in temperate zones in the daily life of cities. And it is these observations that we will look at in detail.
In case of exposure to low temperatures, the body has two physiological mechanisms available to maintain thermal homeostasis: one of an insulating type and one of a metabolic type.
Insulating thermal homeostasis
The first consists in decreasing the flow of blood from the internal organs towards the skin and peripheral areas (hands and feet), vasoconstricting the most external arterioles. This restricts heat transfer from the core of the body to the extremities, decreasing skin temperature and limiting heat loss.
Metabolic thermal homeostasis
The metabolic response consists of an increase in metabolism : the cells produce more energy, which is partly dispersed in heat. Increasing the waste heat also increases the internal temperature.
The organism's adaptation to low temperature conditions is called acclimation. It has been noted that the response to cold is individual, and the mechanisms that come into play vary from person to person: in some cases the insulating response predominates, in others the metabolic one. The researchers therefore asked themselves this question: is the ability to acclimatise also a genetic trait? The answer is yes.
A subject's ability to use the isolating mechanism is inversely proportional to his ability to use the metabolic mechanism, and vice versa. Furthermore, unlike adaptation to hot temperatures, once a certain pattern is activated, it persists during acclimatization throughout the winter season.
Another curious aspect that resulted from this study published in the American Medical Journal is that being overweight makes the activation of the two acclimatization mechanisms slower and less effective, and that individuals with higher lean mass have a already higher metabolic rate and therefore a higher internal temperature.
So, as always, our body knows how to react in adverse situations and does it in the way it does best, that is, by adapting.
How can we further help our body during these cold and long months?
There are three aspects to focus on: defenses, digestion and joints . A good dose of Vitamin C taken daily helps prevent seasonal ailments, and having some Grapefruit Seed Extract in the cupboard can be useful in case of coughs and colds . Fumigations with Eucalyptus Essential Oil are an excellent help for dissolving excess mucus.
Why also take care of digestion?
Partly because during the Christmas holidays we tend to exaggerate a little in terms of the quantity and type of foods eaten , and partly because in winter gastroenteritis and colds are just around the corner. Good stomach support with Ginger and digestive enzymes, together with Ficus Carica acting on the entire gastrointestinal tract improving its functionality are an excellent combination. And let's not forget probiotics , especially essential after courses of antibiotics.
For those who have joint pain due to trauma, a sedentary lifestyle or advancing age , and who are made worse by the cold , a good mix of MSM and Turmeric reduces inflammation in the joints, thus also improving mobility.
Towards the end of February , before pollen starts to spread in the air, if you suffer from respiratory allergies the combination of Perilla and Ribes Nigrum helps prevent those annoying symptoms such as burning eyes, stuffy nose, cough.
Grandma's old advice " wrap up well! " is always an excellent suggestion to follow in the cold season, for everything else there is the Winter Program!