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What is Raynaud’s Disease?


What is Raynaud's Disease? A picture of a discoloured hand due to Raynaud's

In this blog, you’ll find the answers to questions like “What is Raynaud’s Disease?”, “What causes it?” and how diet and lifestyle can help.

Raynaud’s disease or syndrome affects blood flow to the extremities, most commonly your fingers and toes. Their tiny blood vessels narrow inappropriately, restricting blood flow. The condition can cause pain, tingling, numbness, and discolouration of your skin when you are exposed to cold temperatures or are under stress.

What is Raynaud’s Disease?

When your skin senses a drop in temperature it sends a message to your brain to constrict blood vessels in your extremities. This reduces the amount of heat lost from your body. It’s a great system, but in Raynaud’s, it goes awry and your blood vessels react to even minor temperature changes.

There are two forms of Raynaud’s. Primary Raynaud’s occurs on its own without any other associated medical conditions. Secondary Raynaud’s develops alongside an underlying autoimmune disease such as rheumatoid arthritis.

What Causes Raynaud’s Disease?

Getting to the root cause of disease is central to functional medicine. Medical professionals often describe primary Raynaud’s as idiopathic, meaning there’s no known cause for this excessive restriction of the arteries. However, nothing happens without a reason, and you’ll discover some causes later.

Secondary Raynaud’s is linked to a loss of selectivity of the immune system. Autoimmune conditions occur when your immune system turns on your body. Some of these, like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and scleroderma, are more common in patients with secondary Raynaud’s, highlighting a link.

Is Gut Health Linked to Raynaud’s?

Is gut health associated with Raynaud's Disease? A picture of a human intestine along with microbiome illustration

A healthy immune system depends on good gut health. This is because the bacterial community in your gut dictate the effectiveness of your immune system. They also help to control inflammation. Indeed, elevated ongoing inflammation can trigger or worsen Raynaud’s symptoms. Therefore, nurturing your gut can help control damaging inflammation and support your immune system.

It’s worth investigating whether you might have an infection of the bacterium H pylori in your digestive system. Scientists noticed that eradicating these bacteria reduced the frequency and severity of Raynaud’s attacks 1.

Gut issues often lead to food intolerances, especially if the bacterial community in the intestines is disturbed. Some sufferers notice Raynaud’s attacks are sparked off when problem foods are eaten.

Nutritional Imbalances and Raynaud’s

Certain nutrients are important in Raynaud’s. Scientists found magnesium levels in Raynaud’s sufferers differed from those without the disease 2. Furthermore, blood vessels need magnesium to be able to relax and increase their diameter. It’s plentiful in green leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds, and legumes.

Omega 3 fatty acids, found in oily fish and flax seeds, can help to support healthy blood flow. Researchers found supplements of omega 3 were associated with fewer attacks of Raynaud’s 3.

Vitamin C is useful for supporting blood vessel health, keeping their lining smooth and flexible 4.

On the other hand, smoking, alcohol, and caffeine are known to cause blood vessels to contract and narrow, so are best avoided or reduced 5.

Anti-Inflammatory Diet for Raynaud’s

Foods rich in antioxidants, namely brightly coloured plant foods, can help to reduce inflammation, keep blood vessels healthy and improve circulation.

Therefore, foods which help to control inflammation in the body may be helpful in managing Raynaud’s. An anti-inflammatory diet includes a range of different coloured vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, and oily fish. This type of diet supports your gut health, too.

Does Stress Worsen Raynaud’s?

Does stress worsen raynaud's disease. A picture of a wooden block with the words stress and wellness.

Many people affected by Raynaud’s notice stress triggers their symptoms 6. Your protective fight/flight mechanism plays a part in your body’s reaction to cold. When your body releases stress hormones, blood is naturally diverted away from your extremities and towards the muscles in your heart and legs. This allows you to escape from danger. Stress wreaks havoc on your immune system, too.

Fluctuations in blood sugar can trigger your body’s stress response and spark off an attack. Not only this, but over time, raised blood sugar can damage blood vessel health.

Stress management strategies like meditation, yoga, Tai Chi, deep breathing, and biofeedback techniques can help control your body’s response to stress. Sufficient B vitamins are vital for a healthy stress response.

Regular exercise can help to improve blood circulation and reduce stress.

Herbal Help for Raynaud’s

Gingko Biloba used for raynaud's disease relief.

Gingko biloba can help improve blood flow and circulation and is linked with fewer Raynaud’s attacks 7.

Cayenne pepper or ginger, known as warming herbs, can be helpful. Cayenne contains a substance thought to help blood vessel walls to relax 8.

How to Support Raynaud’s Disease Naturally

While conventional medicine focusses on managing symptoms with medications, functional medicine offers a different approach. It looks at the underlying causes of your symptoms and aims to correct the imbalances causing these symptoms. It treats you as a whole person, considering factors like diet, lifestyle, environment and genetics. Your practitioner is then able to develop an individualised treatment plan to address your needs.

By addressing underlying imbalances in your body, functional medicine can improve blood flow and reduce the frequency and severity of attacks. Using a detailed case history combined with functional testing, your practitioner will unravel the root causes of your health issues, be they poor gut health, food sensitivities, toxicity, elevated inflammation, nutritional deficiencies, blood sugar imbalances or a confused immune system.

If you are suffering from Raynaud’s disease and are looking for a holistic treatment, a functional medicine practitioner can work with you to develop a personalised treatment plan to address your unique needs.

To start your journey contact us here.


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