Is there a Raynaud’s treatment diet?
Often, treatment for mild to moderate Raynaud’s syndrome is through lifestyle and dietary interventions: sufferers are advised to keep their house warm, be particularly vigilant about hands and feet in the winter, exercise to improve circulation, quit smoking and eat a healthy balanced diet, avoiding caffeine. Medication can also be prescribed for more severe cases.
Raynaud’s syndrome, also known as Raynaud’s disease and Raynaud’s phenomenon is a very common problem that affects blood circulation. “Raynaud’s syndrome, an often misunderstood condition, occurs when there is an interruption of blood flow to mainly the fingers and toes (also ears and nose),” says Olianna Gourli, naturopath, nutritional therapist and functional medicine practitioner. “It happens when exposed to cold or emotional stress, due to narrowing of the blood vessels.”
Olianna highlights that there isn’t a single test for Raynaud’s, “it is rather a disease of exclusion”. She recommends finding the root cause of the condition and addressing it naturally, “can have more sustainable results.”
So whilst there isn’t an abundance of research into a specific diet for Raynaud’s syndrome, early studies do suggest several foods and food groups can be highly beneficial in improving circulation and dilating blood vessels to aid blood flow.
7 foods to eat for Raynaud’s syndrome
Here we’re going to look at certain foods to include in a Raynaud’s syndrome diet, that are thought to help alleviate painful flare-ups. As always, if you’re planning to change your diet and introduce new food groups it’s always best to do so under the guidance of a nutrition professional. Some of the foods listed below may not be suitable for those on medication, pregnant people and those with other illnesses.
1. Oily fish
Oily fish and plant-based alternatives (nuts and seeds) contain high levels of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids. As we know, Raynaud’s syndrome occurs when there is a disruption of circulation, but omega-3 is highly effective at improving blood flow: it releases nitric oxide which relaxes the blood vessels and improves circulation.
Other sources include:
- flax seeds
- chia seeds
2. Dark chocolate
Dark chocolate is a naturally high source of magnesium, a nutrient that is effective at opening blood vessels, key for the management of Raynaud’s flare-ups.
You don’t need very much to get your fill: two to three (approx 28g) medium squares of dark chocolate daily is approximately 16% of our recommended daily intake. But always make sure you buy dark chocolate that has a 70% or higher cocoa content to reap the full benefits.
Walnuts are not only an excellent plant-based alternative for omega-3s, they also contain ginkgo, a herb native to China. Studies on animals have suggested ginkgo may dilate blood cells, reduce blood viscosity and thus improve circulation.
Herbs and spices like ginger and cayenne pepper (ground) contain antioxidant properties that help prevent the buildup of plaque in arteries. As arteries shrink more than normal and quicker in Raynaud’s, it’s helpful to include these foods as the blood already has a small enough window to travel through. Ground turmeric is also a helpful addition to your herb and spice rack as it’s known for increasing blood flow and is both a powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant spice.
When thinking about artery health, Olianna suggests introducing coconut oil to your diet as this improves artery inflammation.
Blueberries are nutritional powerhouses and are known to be part of the ‘superfood’ group. In the management of Raynaud’s, they can be particularly helpful as they contain high levels of vitamin C, an antioxidant vitamin that keeps the blood vessels healthy.
Antioxidant vitamins like vitamin C help to slow and prevent damage to cells from free radicals in the body, and vitamin A (another antioxidant that blueberries contain small amounts of) helps to improve blood circulation.
6. Unpeeled apples
Aside from containing a host of vitamins and being linked to prebiotics qualities that feed healthy gut bacteria, apples are high in the antioxidant rutin.
Rutin helps the body use vitamin C, and strengthens and increases flexibility in the blood vessels. Other natural sources of rutin include buckwheat products, figs and green tea.
7. Evening primrose oil
OK not technically a food, but we wouldn’t miss it off the list. Research is still in its infancy but an early study into using Evening primrose oil (EPO) to treat symptoms of Raynaud’s found that over the course of 10 weeks, those that took EPO had fewer and less severe flare-ups than those that took a placebo. The results showed symptomatic improvement and it is thought this is due to the fatty acid gamma-linolenic found in EPO, which helps to dilate blood vessels.
It’s important to note that Evening primrose oil can increase risk of bleeding and bruising so always consult your doctor before taking a supplement.
A note on hydration
Olianna recommends keeping an eye on your hydration levels. Dehydration can reduce the amount of blood moving through the blood vessels, exacerbating Raynaud’s symptoms. She says, “Drink herbal teas throughout the day (e.g Yogi or PUKKA teas, or even make your own), with warming spices like cinnamon, cardamom, turmeric, ginger, cocoa and chilli.” Adding these spices can help keep the body warm.
So if you struggle with Raynaud’s syndrome and are looking for dietary support, you can reach out to Olianna Gourli directly from her profile. Alternatively, you use the advanced search to find a therapist in your area or who offers online services.