Raynaud's phenomenon is a medical condition that impacts the circulation of blood to the extremities like the fingers, toes, nose, and ears. It is identified by episodes of numbness, tingling, or pain in these areas, which are prompted by cold temperatures, stress, smoking, or certain medications. When these episodes occur, the affected areas can turn white or blue due to restricted blood flow, and then turn red as blood flow returns.
Raynaud's disease is categorised into two types: primary and secondary.
Primary Raynaud's disease is more prevalent and affects individuals who do not have any underlying medical condition.
On the other hand, secondary Raynaud's disease, also known as Raynaud's phenomenon or syndrome, is caused by an underlying medical issue. It is less common than primary Raynaud's disease and is typically more severe.
Raynaud's phenomenon is caused by a narrowing of the small blood vessels that provide blood to the affected areas. This narrowing can be triggered by different factors and can also be linked to certain medical conditions such as autoimmune diseases, thyroid disorders, or connective tissue disorders.
Diseases of the arteries: Conditions like atherosclerosis, which is the build-up of plaque in blood vessels, and Buerger’s syndrome, which is a disorder that causes inflammation in the blood vessels of the hands and feet, can cause Raynaud’s symptoms.
Carpal tunnel syndrome: This condition puts pressure on nerves that travel to the hand, which increases susceptibility to Raynaud’s symptoms.
Medications: Certain medications, such as beta blockers, ADHD medications, migraine medications containing ergotamine or sumatriptan, some chemotherapy drugs, and some over-the-counter cold remedies, can induce Raynaud’s.
Exposure to certain substances: Smoking narrows blood vessels and is a potential cause of Raynaud’s.
Injuries: Raynaud’s may develop following injuries like frostbite, a broken wrist, or local surgery.
Raynaud’s is more common in females than males, and primary Raynaud’s typically begins between the ages of 15 and 25 years, while secondary Raynaud’s typically develops between the ages of 35 and 40 years. The condition appears to run in families, with individuals having a first-degree relative with Raynaud’s being more likely to develop it[i][ii].
The management of Raynaud's phenomenon typically requires avoiding triggers that can trigger episodes, like cold temperatures or stress, and ensuring the affected areas stay warm. This may involve using warm clothing, gloves, or socks, as well as hand warmers. Furthermore, avoiding caffeine and tobacco can also be beneficial. In certain cases, medications might be prescribed to enhance blood flow and prevent future episodes.
Nutrition can play a role in managing Raynaud's phenomenon. Foods that may help improve circulation include those rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as fatty fish, flaxseeds, and chia seeds. Other foods that may help include ginger, garlic, and foods high in vitamin C, such as citrus fruits and bell peppers[iii].
On the other hand, foods that can trigger Raynaud's symptoms include caffeine, alcohol, and foods high in sodium. A balanced and healthy diet, along with proper hydration, can also support overall vascular health and improve Raynaud's symptoms[iv].
Omega-3: Omega-3 fatty acids have been researched for their potential benefits in managing Raynaud's by enhancing blood flow and reducing inflammation. Various studies indicate that omega-3 supplementation decreases the frequency and severity of Raynaud's attacks, improves blood flow, and mitigates inflammation[v][vi]. Try: Scandinavian Rainbow Trout Oil (90 Softgels).
Ginkgo biloba: Ginkgo biloba extract has been studied for its potential benefits in managing Raynaud's phenomenon, as it may improve blood flow, reduce inflammation, and protect against oxidative stress[vii]. Clinical studies have shown that Ginkgo biloba extract can reduce the frequency and severity of Raynaud's attacks in patients with primary and secondary Raynaud's phenomenon, while a review of several studies found that it can also improve blood flow and reduce inflammation in patients with Raynaud's phenomenon[viii]. Try: A Vogel Ginkgo Biloba Drops.
Metabolomix Plus / Metabolomix Plus Advanced: Metabolomix testing is a type of advanced diagnostic test that analyzes a person's blood or urine to identify and measure small molecules or metabolites in the body. While there is currently no specific Metabolomix test for Raynaud's phenomenon, studies have suggested that Metabolomix testing may be helpful in identifying biomarkers or metabolic pathways associated with the condition. One study published in the Journal of Translational Medicine found that Metabolomix testing was able to identify several metabolites and pathways that were associated with the severity of Raynaud's phenomenon and may be useful in developing targeted therapies. However, further research is needed to fully understand the potential role of Metabolomix testing in the diagnosis and management of Raynaud's phenomenon.
NutrEval: NutrEval testing is another type of advanced diagnostic test that analyses a person's blood or urine to assess their nutritional status and identify any deficiencies or imbalances in their nutrient levels. Studies have suggested that nutritional deficiencies or imbalances may play a role in the development or exacerbation of the condition. People with Raynaud's phenomenon had lower levels of certain vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin D and magnesium, compared to healthy controls. Also, supplementation with certain nutrients, such as omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin B12, were seen to improve symptoms in patients with Raynaud's phenomenon[ix][x]. While NutrEval testing may not be a definitive diagnostic tool for Raynaud's phenomenon, it may be helpful in identifying nutritional imbalances that can be addressed through dietary changes or targeted supplementation.
Dress in layers, wear warm socks and gloves, and use heating pads or hot water bottles to keep warm and prevent cold temperatures from triggering Raynaud's attacks.
Avoid or reduce triggers like stress, smoking, and certain medications to help manage Raynaud's symptoms.
Regular physical activity can improve blood circulation and reduce the frequency and severity of Raynaud's attacks but avoid exercising in extremely cold temperatures.
Quit smoking to prevent constriction of blood vessels and worsening of Raynaud's symptoms.
Practice stress management techniques, such as relaxation or exercise, to help prevent stress-induced Raynaud's attacks.
Consult with a doctor about medication options for managing Raynaud's symptoms.
[i] Mayo Clinic. (2021). Raynaud’s disease: Symptoms & Causes. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/raynauds-disease/symptoms-causes/syc-20363571
[ii] Temprano KK. A Review of Raynaud's Disease. Mo Med. 2016 Mar-Apr;113(2):123-6. PMID: 27311222; PMCID: PMC6139949.
[iii] Thompson, M. (2019). Raynaud's phenomenon: What you need to know. Harvard Health Publishing. Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/raynauds-phenomenon-what-you-need-to-know
[iv] Suter, P. M., Schaller, M. D., Gutzwiller, F., & Arnet, B. (1995). Caffeine intake, circulation, and cold-induced pain. Nutrition, 11(4), 348-352.
DiGiacomo RA, Kremer JM, Shah DM. Fish-oil dietary supplementation in patients with Raynaud's phenomenon: a double-blind, controlled, prospective study. J Rheumatol. 1990 Mar;17(3):329-33.
[vi] Wigley FM, Flavahan NA. Raynaud's Phenomenon. N Engl J Med. 2016 Nov 3;375(18):556-565.
[vii] Dattilo G, Giovannini L, Grassi D, et al. Effect of Ginkgo biloba extract on the microcirculation in patients with Raynaud's phenomenon. A multicenter, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Clin Hemorheol Microcirc. 2003;29(3-4):189-95.
[viii] Muir AH, Robb R, McLaren M, Daly F, Belch JJ. The use of Ginkgo biloba in Raynaud's disease: a double-blind placebo-controlled trial. J Cardiovasc Pharmacol. 2002 Jan;39(1):9-15.
[ix] Lambova SN, Müller-Ladner U. Nutritional interventions in Raynaud's phenomenon: A systematic review. Semin Arthritis Rheum. 2018;48(3):464-472.
[x] Pieretti S, Di Giuseppe D, Falcone D, et al. Vitamin D and Raynaud's phenomenon: a review of the literature. Autoimmun Rev. 2018;17(4):344-355. doi: 10.1016/j.autrev.2017.12.006
Please note that the information contained within this website does not and should not replace medical advice, and is not intended to treat or diagnose. We always recommend you consult with your doctor. Our Nutritional Therapy team is highly trained and we offer one to one Nutritional Therapy Consultations, which are designed to be complementary to any medical treatment from a functional medicine approach, as well as offering a preventative & optimal health focus.