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What Is Thermoregulation? How We Regulate Our Body Temperature

Published by Dr. Venn-Watson
Dr. Eric Venn-Watson’s Highlights
  • Thermoregulation is how your body maintains a certain temperature so bodily functions can take place safely. 

    Different events can trigger changes to your body’s temperature, and your body responds by signaling for changes to bring it back to normal range. 

    You can support thermoregulation by supporting the systems that play a role in thermoregulatory messaging. 

When you’re cold, your body knows to activate certain functions to keep you warm, like causing you to shiver or develop goosebumps. When you’re hot, the body responds by causing you to sweat (among other important heat-reducing functions). 

This raises the question of how the body knows when to heat you up, when to cool you down, and how to keep your basal body temperature hovering around the sweet spot of 98.6 degrees. The process is known as thermoregulation. 

We’ll explain what thermoregulation is, how it works, and why it’s important. 

What Is Thermoregulation?

Thermoregulation is the balance of your core body temperature, which should stay around 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit for most people. Keeping your body in this homeostatic state is essential to staying alive. 

Where Does Thermoregulation Begin?

It all starts with external stimuli. You walk outside on a hot, sunny day and are greeted with intense heat. Thermoreceptors in your skin pick up the information that it’s too hot outside of your body to regulate your internal body temperature as-is, and an adjustment must be made. 

This information is sent via specific neural pathways to your hypothalamus, a small part of your brain responsible for many different types of bodily homeostasis. Your anterior hypothalamus receives this information and signals the sweat glands to release sweat to cool you down. 

It also sends a message to your blood vessels to get wider and allow more blood to the skin, a process known as vasodilation. 

Likewise, when the receptors on your skin send information to your brain that says it’s cold, your brain responds by signaling your muscles to shiver, which can create heat. In this case, the brain tells the blood vessels to constrict, known as vasoconstriction, which allows less blood flow to the skin. 

If you get too cold, your hypothalamus will signal the thyroid gland to release hormones that increase your metabolism, which can help increase your body heat. This is known as hormonal thermogenesis.

Why Is Thermoregulation Important?

Temperature regulation is important to our survival. The way our bodies function depends on the fluids and tissues within our bodies maintaining a certain temperature. Changes in body temperature that don’t happen from an obvious stimulus (like being in the cold or the heat) can be a symptom of an underlying issue. 

When Temperature Rises

The body has a healthy temperature range, and staying in that range is essential. Temperatures that climb over that set point can indicate a condition known as hyperthermia. 

Some causes of hyperthermia include:

  • Infections
  • Heat exhaustion/heat stroke
  • Sunburn
  • Certain medications 
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Vaccines or immunizations
  • Cancer
  • Inflammation in the body

You can also increase body temperature through evaporation. If you live in a dry environment, for instance, and begin to sweat, evaporation can cause the sweat to leave your skin too fast before it has a chance to cool you off. 

It is essential to bring the body's core temperature down when it gets too high, and the body’s ability to do so depends on the ability of the hypothalamus to communicate with receptors in the body that help you cool down. 

When Temperature Falls

A body temperature that falls below 96 degrees Fahrenheit is in a state of hypothermia, a life-threatening condition that requires immediate medical attention. 

Conditions that can lead to hypothermia include:

  • Improper clothing for cold weather conditions
  • Staying in a low environmental temperature for too long
  • Being in cold water
  • Staying in cold, wet clothing
  • Living in a condition where there isn’t enough heat
  • Certain endocrine and hormonal disorders like Hashimoto’s disease or hypothyroidism
  • Disorders of the nervous system
  • Side effects of certain medications
  • Illness 

You can also lose body heat through conduction and convection, like sitting on a cold chair or splashing water over your skin. 

It’s important to address heat loss quickly to ensure your body can maintain heat production and bring you back to homeostasis. 

The hypothalamus also houses parts of another regulatory system involved with thermoregulatory function: the endocannabinoid system. 

The Endocannabinoid System and Thermoregulation

The endocannabinoid system, or ECS, is a complex web of receptors located all over the body, and it has one main purpose: to help keep the human body in a state of homeostasis. That means it is directly involved with your body’s internal thermostat. 

How the ECS Works

The ECS has receptors located in the hypothalamus that respond when external temperatures rise or fall. These receptors are located in both the central nervous system (CNS) and autonomic nervous system (ANS). They work with the hypothalamus to collect data from the external environment and send messages to the appropriate body parts to help increase or decrease your body temperature. 

Stimulation of these receptors can help ensure body temperature is regulated. The receptors can be stimulated by cannabinoids, which can either be created by the body (endocannabinoids) or produced by plants (phytocannabinoids). 

Cannabinoids and Thermoregulation

The use of cannabinoids to regulate body temperature has shown promise. For instance, THC, a phytocannabinoid found in cannabis, can raise or lower body temperature, depending on the dose. 

However, we don’t need phytocannabinoids to regulate body temperature — our body has the innate ability to stimulate ECS receptors using our own endocannabinoids. 

The Body’s Endocannabinoids

There are two types of receptors (CB1 and CB2) in our bodies, and for years we’ve only known about two endocannabinoids: anandamide and 2-AG. 

Only 2-AG is fully acting, which means it can stimulate both CB1 and CB2 receptors. We now know of a second fully-acting endocannabinoid, pentadecanoylcarnitine, or PDC. Your body synthesizes PDC from a particular fatty acid known as C15:0, and you may benefit from having more of it in your diet. 

How C15:0 Helps Your Body

Making more of a fully-acting endocannabinoid can help your body maintain homeostatic functions like body temperature, metabolic rate, circadian rhythms, and even appetite and mood. 

By binding to receptors located in the hypothalamus (and all over your body), fully-acting endocannabinoids, like PDC, can help your body maintain balance and reestablish wellness. 

More About C15:0

Although we have been told that all saturated fats are bad for us, science now supports that that is not the case. With the discovery of C15:0, an odd-chained, saturated fatty acid as being essential, we now know that our bodies require this fat to maintain our health and wellness.

The problem is that dietary guidelines, created in the 1970s, instructing us to avoid all saturated fats resulted in a population-wide decrease in the intake of this essential fatty acid, which may help explain why our decreased intake of saturated fats did not result in improvements in our health. 

Reintroducing these healthy, odd-chain fats into our diets can help support our bodies and our ambient temperature.*

Elevate your cells. Elevate your self.

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Getting C15:0

Because C15:0 is primarily found in whole fat dairy products, increasing your intake of these foods would also mean increasing your caloric intake and your ingestion of the ‘bad’, pro-inflammatory, even-chain saturated fats. 

A solution? Fatty15

Fatty15: The C15:0 Solution

Fatty15 is a breakthrough supplement born from scientific discovery, containing one pure ingredient, FA15™. This vegan-friendly, sustainably-produced, award-winning, pure C15:0 ingredient naturally binds to receptors in our ECS, and receptors called PPARs, that help to regulate our metabolism, mood, sleep, glucose homeostasis, and body temperature.* 

In addition, it helps protect and strengthen our cells by:*

  • Integrating itself into cell membranes to keep our cells strong

  • Improving mitochondrial function within our cells by up to 45 percent to help our cells function better and more efficiently

Further, higher levels of C15:0 have been repeatedly associated with improved metabolic, immune, liver and heart health.* More endocannabinoids, improved cellular signaling, and better heart health? We’d call that a win. 

Fatty15 Is Heating Up Your Health Stack

The next time you take your temperature, you’ll probably appreciate the work your body is doing to keep your temperature regulated. To support your body’s homeostatic functions (like thermoregulation), you can take fatty15.* 

It’s an easy way to provide your body with cellular support and support your overall health and wellness.* 

Get started with the fatty15 Trial Kit, or learn more about the science behind C15:0 here


Thermoreceptor - an overview | ScienceDirect Topics

Hypothalamic CB1 Cannabinoid Receptors Regulate Energy Balance in Mice | Endocrinology | Oxford Academic

Behavioral and temperature effects of delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol in human-relevant doses in rats - PMC

Pentadecanoylcarnitine is a newly discovered endocannabinoid with pleiotropic activities relevant to supporting physical and mental health | Scientific Reports

Profile photo for Eric Venn-Watson

Eric Venn-Watson M.D.

Eric is a physician, U.S. Navy veteran, and Co-founder and COO of Seraphina Therapeutics. Eric served over 25 years as a Navy and Marine Corps physician, working with the special forces community to improve their health and fitness. Seraphina Therapeutics is a health and wellness company dedicated to advancing global health through the discovery of essential fatty acids and micronutrient therapeutics.

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