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newsletter #3

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I published my first newsletter in January 1996 and now I am reprinting my March 1996 newsletter.


In order to keep warm, it is necessary to know how your body functions in the first place. Thinking that you know what to wear has in fact proven to be very wrong for some people since they didn’t have the basic knowledge of their body to begin with.

The following information comes from the December 1994 issue of Healthline, Mayo Clinic Health letter of March 1994, American Heath issue of Jan/Feb 1994 and the Living Body by St. Mart’s Medical School, London 1985.

The skin, the largest organ in the body regulates body temperature.

All human beings have an average internal temperature of 98.6 degrees F. each person has a unique tolerance for heat and cold. The skin plays a key role in the body’s reaction to temperature change. Heat and cold receptors in the skin convey information to the spinal cord, where it is passed along to the anterior hypothalamus in the brain. The hypothalamus is believed to contain temperature regulators that operate similar to a thermostat. The body “sets” itself at a certain temperature and works constantly to maintain that temperature. (This statement appeared in all of my reading on the subject. Therefore, one must accept that we are all slightly different in our reaction to cold. At no point was it stated why this occurred. Maybe some day science will have an answer. However, I think it may be psychological.) If you get too warm, your blood vessels dilate (vasodilation) and you begin to sweat. The perspiration evaporates on the skin, thereby cooling your body. Now consider what occurs to your body if you are in a cold environment and you are very active. Further consider what effect the moisture has on your body if it cannot escape from your skin surface. We already know how efficient moisture is at conducting heat, now your entire body is covered with a thin layer of liquid (sweat), and it is conducting massive amounts of heat from your body. I state massive because it is true. Ever chop wood for half an hour or so and then rest or ski down a mountain and then ride the life back up? Massive amounts of body heat were being conducted from your body due to the existence of moisture on your skin surface. If you get cold, the blood vessels constrict (vasoconstriction). Two actions occur; 1- small surface blood vessels redirect blood away from your skin’s surface to preserve warmth of vital organs, and 2- as the cold becomes more severe you begin to shiver. The action of shivering speeds up the metabolic process, producing heat and thereby warming your body.

We have the ability to make quick temperature adaptations. For example, when you step into a shower, it initially feels either to hot or to cold. For a moment you feel uncomfortable, but that quickly changes as receptors in the skin adapt to the new temperature. The ability to adjust to temperature change diminishes with age. The very young also do not adjust well to temperature extremes. The reason is simple, these two groups as well as women regardless of age suffer from the same problem so to speak, and that is lack of muscle mass. Children are still developing muscle aged people have muscle mass that is deteriorating and women naturally don’t have the same muscle mass as men. Muscle mass is where the blood or water in the blood picks up heat as it travels through the body. I quote from the St. Mary’s paper; “Because of its water content, blood has a large capacity to conduct heat. At places of heat production-for example in muscles or in the liver-the blood quickly takes up this heat. On its way through the body it reaches places with lower temperature, which are them warmed up again.”

Now that we have a better understanding as to how the human body works to keep itself warm, we can better dress ourselves for the variety of weather conditions we confront throughout our lives. And now you can better understand why fish net long underwear is considerably more efficient a first layer than any close knit long underwear.

I was prompted to reprint this article when I read that a well known mountaineer was endorsing a manufacturer of close knit maybe wool base layer underwear. 

When you are cold your body reduces the arteries that they blood flows through and as such the blood pressure increases and to decrease the pressure the kidneys take the water out of the blood so you urinate more often.

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