Raynaud’s disease is a rare syndrome characterized by a circulatory disorder that results in constriction and spasms of the small arteries in the hands, fingers and toes. The lack of blood flow to the extremities can cause color changes from white, blue to red; numbness; tingling; ulcers; a burning-sensation; and sometimes damage to tissues. In milder cases, Raynaud’s can be best described as hypersensitivity of the extremities due to poor circulation, lack of oxygen, or cold temperatures. In most cases, Raynaud’s causes the fingernails to get brittle, thin and ridged. In time ulcers can form, damaging tissues and resulting in chronic infection around the fingernails. In extreme cases, gangrene may result.
Causes of Raynaud’s may be autoimmune in nature, but may be exacerbated by stress (adrenals), strong emotions, and anxiety. Related autoimmune phenomena such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and/or fibromyalgia are similar conditions and many symptoms may overlap. Other causes may be from exposure to cold temperatures, chemical and toxin exposure, poor diet, lack of exercise, surgery, injury, smoking cigarettes, and certain prescription drug side effects (Beta-blockers, Calcium-channel blockers, and ergot preparations).
In some cases Raynaud’s is triggered by food sensitivities. A diet with a higher percentage of organic, raw foods, avoiding fatty foods, refined carbohydrates, fried foods and aspartame is suggested. Caffeine should be avoided since it can stimulate constriction of the blood vessels.
In general, any foods that can increase an inflammatory response should be minimized. These “inflammatory” foods include dairy products, corn, animal fat, eggs, poultry, refined sugar, certain citrus fruits, and nightshade vegetables (potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, radishes, and peppers). Beneficial foods include flavonoid-rich fruits (blackberries, blueberries, strawberries), sulfur-containing foods (garlic, onions, cabbage), and liver-cleansing foods (beets, carrots, greens, lemons, and watercress).
Food allergies are always a potential problem in any auto-immune related disease. It is best to utilize the Elimination Diet (cut out foods one at a time for a period and note the results) to evaluate food sensitivities or allergies.
- MAGNESIUM, CALCIUM CITRATE and ZINC – these essential minerals help to protect the arteries from stress caused by the disease and sudden blood pressure changes. Magnesium relaxes smooth muscles and helps to ease the pain associated with Raynaud’s. Zinc is useful in promoting healing. Dosage: Calcium; 1,000-1,500 mg daily; Magnesium 400-750 mg daily; Zinc 50 mg daily.
- NIACIN with INOSITOL – Niacin is a B-complex vitamin that enhances blood flow extremities and has been shown to be effective treatment for Raynaud’s Disease. The combination of niacin with inositol hexaniacinate (HexaNiacin) may be a superior compound. A review of the literature reveals numerous positive studies with inositol in Raynaud’s. The mechanism appears to be a more transient vasodilation. Dosage: 1-4 grams daily.
- ESSENTIAL FATTY ACIDS (found in Flaxseed, fish and primrose oils) – these omega 3 and 6 essential fats are effective anti-inflammatory agents and may be helpful in relaxing smooth muscles. The oil made from evening primrose oil (mostly gamma linolenic acid) seems exceptionally effective in relieving the symptoms of Raynaud’s disease. Dosage: of 2-5 grams daily.
- GINKGO BILOBA – this Chinese herb acts as a capillary enhancer, supporting the circulatory system especially in small capillaries of the hands, feet, and fingers. Ginkgo has been extensively researched with most of the focus on the herb’s ability to promote blood flow. Ginkgo, along with other herbs such as CAYENNE , PAU D’ ARCO and BUTCHER’S BROOM when used separately or in combination help to improve circulation and strengthen blood vessels. Dosage: Ginkgo 60-180 mg daily, other herbs as directed on package.
- L-ARGININE – an amino acid protein that aids in dilating blood vessels under cold conditions. Dosage: As directed on package.
- GINGER – Chinese herbalists often recommend this “hot” herb to treat conditions involving cold, including cold fingers caused by Raynaud’s. Dosage: As directed on package.
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Janson, M. Q&A The Doctor is in: Raynaud’s Disease. Nature’s Impact, Dec/Jan 1997/1998. P. 52.
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