Why Do You Get Cold After You Eat?

6 Possible Causes

Have you ever eaten a meal and wondered why you get cold after eating? Digesting food can be a taxing action for our bodies, and sometimes it responds with changes to our internal temperature. However, feeling very cold or frequently feeling cold after eating may be a sign of a medical condition. Keep reading for six possible causes for feeling cold after you eat

Written by Olga Adereyko, MD

Does eating affect body temperature?

On a hot day, you might be tempted by a cool drink to try to cool yourself down. On a cold day, you might want a bowl of steaming soup to warm up. Certain foods do affect your body temperature, but it’s not a straightforward case of hot foods warming us and cold foods cooling us down. 

Specific foods cause different reactions in the body. For example:

  • The complex carbohydrates found in rice and other whole grains make them difficult to digest and have a warming effect.
  • Alcohol dehydrates your body and reduces your core body temperature.
  • Because watermelon has a lot of water in it, it keeps your body feeling cool. The same concept applies to most dark, leafy greens.

When you eat food, your body starts the digestion process, which can slightly affect your inner temperature. However, drastic swings in body temperature, especially feeling cold after eating, can be a sign of another issue. Additionally, changes in body temperature that don’t go away long after a meal can be a warning sign from your body that something else is wrong. 

Why do you feel cold after eating?

A girl getting cold after eating

There are several possible reasons why someone might get cold after eating. For example, if you work out and then immediately sit down to eat a meal, it can make you feel cold. However, this is an occasional occurrence. If you are continually getting cold after eating, it may be a symptom of a medical condition. 

Can feeling cold after eating be a symptom of something serious?

If you’re frequently feeling cold after you eat, it may be an indication of one of the following conditions:

Dysautonomia

People with neurological issues often misread their body temperature. For example, dysautonomia is an autonomic nervous system disorder that can make people feel suddenly very hot or extremely cold. However, these feelings aren’t exclusive to when a person is eating. The swings of temperature can happen at any time of the day.

Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism is a condition where the thyroid is underactive. As a result, the thyroid doesn’t produce enough hormones. More specifically, hypothyroidism can directly affect an individual’s metabolism. Slow metabolism can cause people to get cold after eating, because the body needs to exert energy to digest food. People with hypothyroidism often have cold hands and feet, even on a hot summer day. Hypothyroidism can be treated, but if left unaddressed, the symptoms can get worse.

Diabetes

Diabetes is a condition that affects how your body uses blood glucose. The body uses blood glucose as an energy source for forming tissues and muscles and as a fuel source for the brain. If diabetes is left untreated, it can lead to serious medical complications, one of which is kidney damage known as diabetic nephropathy. People with diabetic nephropathy often feel cold all the time. Diabetics often see bodily reactions after meals, such as feeling cold after eating, as their bodies are sensitive to their diet choices.

Anemia

Anemia is a condition where you don’t have enough healthy red blood cells to carry adequate oxygen to your body’s tissues. People with anemia often feel cold at all times of the day, including after eating. Anemia can lead to serious health problems if left untreated, including organ damage. For pregnant women, untreated anemia may lead to preterm delivery or a low birth weight. 

Anorexia

Anorexia is an eating disorder where someone can’t bring themselves to eat enough calories to function. Because people with anorexia often have a very low body fat index and poor blood circulation, they often can’t feel warm. Anorexia is a serious mental health condition and will only worsen if left untreated. Many individuals who suffer from anorexia become dangerously thin, and it can become a fatal condition.

Infection

Feeling cold and developing chills is often a side effect of an infection. If you have a virus, you will continue to feel cold even after eating. Infections and traumas are serious and can lead to additional medical complications if left unaddressed.

When to see a doctor

Feeling cold after eating can be normal if it’s infrequent. If it happens often, it could be a symptom of a more serious medical condition. Consult with your doctor to rule out any serious conditions that could be causing you to feel cold after eating. Treatment for your chronic coldness will depend on your specific condition. 

If you have any concerns about your health, talking with your doctor can give you peace of mind, even if it’s about something as small as feeling chilly when no one else does. Vulnerable populations, such as pregnant women, seniors, and children, should always see a doctor for any existing symptoms. 

If sudden body chills are accompanied by heartburn or upper body pain, it could be a sign of a heart attack. In this instance, seek medical attention immediately.

The takeaway

Body temperatures normally rise and fall throughout the day. It’s perfectly normal for your body temperature to change slightly after eating a meal. However, drastic and noticeable swings in body temperature can be quite concerning. 

If you’re asking why you get cold after eating, this may have happened to you on several occasions or at back-to-back meals recently. Your body often tries to tell you when something is wrong. Pay attention to any warning signs, and talk to a doctor if you notice you’re often feeling cold after eating. Many health conditions that cause people to feel cold are serious and need to be addressed quickly.

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