Dealing With Excessive Body Heat


To gain an understanding of what can cause excessive body heat, one can either go to the medical books or to a book on the fundamentals of thermodynamics. The latter isn't recommended, unless you have an inclination towards things technical or scientific, and have a bit of advanced math under your belt. That's not to say that an in-depth medical book would be any easier reading, but the way in which our body regulates its internal temperature, and why excessive body heat can sometimes occur, can be simply explained, though the details and some of the reasoning as to why certain things happen can quickly get complicated.

Thermodynamics 101 - From the standpoint of thermodynamics what happens is when a body (including our body) cools down, it radiates heat. One would naturally come to the conclusion that excessive body heat means the body is heating up, but the opposite is true. True, the body is overheated to begin with, but we don't notice it until it tries to cool down. It does so by sending blood to the capillaries near the skin, dilating those capillaries, and in the process loosing heat through convection and radiation. At the same time, sweating may kick in. As air cools the perspiration on the surface of the skin, more heat is drawn out of the body, and we start to cool down. In short, we cool down by radiating heat, and we are more apt to feel discomfort during the process of cooling down.

Of course, this basic principle of thermodynamics, a body radiates heat when cooling down, isn't going to help you much if you're experiencing the effects of excessive body heat. So it's time to turn to the medical books.

Our Thermostat - Our automobile, if it has a water-cooled engine, has a thermostat that helps control the temperature of the water in the cooling system, mainly keeping it from becoming excessively hot. We have such a device as well. Our thermostat is called the hypothalamus, which functions to keep our core body temperature within a certain range. The hypothalamus works more or less in tandem with our thyroid gland, which among other things, controls our metabolic rate. There are two main sources of heat in our body, heat generated metabolically, that is by the conversion of food or nutrients into energy, and heat generated by the muscles, when they are exercised. We have some control over muscular activity, but not much over the workings of the hypothalamus and thyroid, except indirectly through the foods we eat.

What We Can And Cannot Control - There are some things then which can cause excessive body heating which we have little control over. An infection, especially one that causes a fever, will cause the body temperature to increase. Hyperthyroidism, or an over active thyroid, can increase our metabolic rate, producing more energy, and consequently more heat, during a given unit of time. Things we do have at least some control over would include strenuous exercise, the foods we eat, and the medications or drugs we take. Obesity, that wonderful provider of insulation, can result in significant body heating problems, as can several systemic diseases, especially those affecting the heart and kidneys, as well as a number of skin disorders.

Take Notes, See Your Doctor - We are all not made quite the same, and some will have more difficulties with their internal heat regulating process than will others. Age can sometimes play a role, as can diet. If you're suffering from excessive body heat, see your doctor, and take pains to provide your doctor with as many details as possible. A probable cause may or may not be easy to determine, but it will be well worth the effort to at least try and find out what might be the cause of what's ailing you.