Raynaud's: My hands and feet are always freezing cold!
Many sufferers of Raynaud’s are unaware that their condition has a name and do not know that there are therapies available to help.
It is not known how many people suffer from Raynaud’s Phemomenon (RP) worldwide, but it is thought that it could be as many as 20% of the population, with women more commoly affected than men.
Raynaud’s is characterised by problems with blood flow to your extremities, causing the following:
- Pain, tingling sensations, numbness or discomfort in your hands and feet and then before blood flow resumes, a feeling of burning.
Although your hands are most commonly affected, it can occur in the toes, ears and nose.
During an ‘attack’, the fingers will turn white as blood supply is interrupted. They may then turn blue before blood flow resumes, accompanied by a feeling of burning. Episodes can be triggered by emotional stress or by temperature changes.
There is currently no documented cure for Raynaud’s. However, studies suggest that some nutritional supplements may be useful in relieving symptoms.
The herb ginkgo has been reported to improve the circulation in small blood vessels and reduce pain in those with Raynaud’s disease and number of attacks when taking the supplement over a 10-week period.
Problems with magnesium metabolism and iron may also factor in Raynaud’s. As seven in 10 of men and women are thought to be deficient in magnesium (which can cause blood vessels to spasm) this is likely to be a contributory factor. Ensuring an optimal intake of this mineral helps blood vessels to ‘relax’ and encourages healthy blood flow. The recommended daily intake of magnesium is 300mg for men and 270mg for women, but many adults in the UK fall short. Increasing intake of green, leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds and pulses can boost magnesium levels significantly. With regards to Iron, even a marginal deficiency may mean that you feel cold more quickly, hence it stands to reason that ensuring adequate iron levels could help.
Essential fatty acids are also reported to be beneficial for those with Raynaud’s. Fish oil has a number of effects that may improve blood circulation as it helps improve blood flow and circulation. One study showed that it delayed the onset of symptoms by 15 minutes, which may be enough to get to you the tube station and back without pain.
Dietary and lifestyle changes can also help to manage this condition. Smoking, which constricts blood vessels, will aggravate Raynaud’s, so giving up the cigarettes should improve symptoms immensely. Relaxation techniques and stress management are also recommended. Other helpful dietary measures include cutting down caffeine and alcohol, and reducing fatty and fried foods.
To find out if your diet may be affecting your symptoms (and if you are likely to be deficient in magnesium and essential fats), it is best to seek the advice of a trained nutritional therapist, who will undertake a dietary evaluation. By analysing your diet, they will be able to work out from your food diary which minerals or vitamins you may be lacking. They may also be able to recommend some biochemical testing, in order to test your magnesium levels, for example.
If you’d like more information on Raynaud’s you can visit the Raynaud’s & Scleroderma Association website which is dedicated to helping those affected by the condition.
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