During the winter, numerous people are bothered by swelling, redness, crippling or even painful toes and fingers. If you are some of them, you could be one of the 200,000 Americans with Raynaud’s syndrome.
This little-known disease is shockingly common, though most people have never heard of it.
What is Raynaud’s syndrome?
Raynaud’s syndrome, also known as Raynaud’s disease occurs when small arteries temporarily cramp up, leading to a reduction in the supply of blood to the posterior tissues. This occurs especially within the small blood vessels located in body parts such as fingers and sometimes even toes. The cramps of the arteries do not take long but can hurt very much.
Causes of Raynaud’s syndrome
There are numerous possible factors that cause blood vessels to cramp. In the first place, it is possible that the normal vascular response to cold is locally disturbed. This may also be due to a genetic predisposition for developing Raynaud’s syndrome.
Other possibilities are that the blood vessels are narrowed, by arteriosclerosis or because an inflammation, making the blood vessel susceptible to this syndrome, or when the blood becomes more viscous, changing the blood circulation.
Moreover, this could be caused by smoking since cigarettes contain poisonous carbon monoxide, which damages the insides of your blood vessels and the first to be damaged are the vessels in your fingers and toes.
Symptoms of Raynaud’s syndrome
The most common symptoms of Raynaud’s syndrome are numbness or discoloration in the extremities of the vascular system, emotional stress, and long, brittle nails. The discoloration is a result of the reduced blood flow towards the affected body parts. When your body cuts off blood flow, it also automatically shuts off your sense of touch in those areas, which makes you feel numb.
When the body will start to warm up and circulation improves again, the color flushes back to red, often accompanied by swelling and more pain as the tissues and cells regain their functionality.
An attack of Raynaud’s syndrome can be very brief, lasting only a few minutes, but can sometimes also occur for several hours.
Primary and secondary Raynaud’s syndrome
The primary form of Raynaud’s syndrome is most common and it is usually provoked by a cold environment or touching a cold object. In the primary form, the vascular cramps and discoloration usually occur simultaneously with both hands, except for the thumbs. Sometimes there are also complaints on the toes or nose tip.
The secondary form of Raynaud’s syndrome may be due to a disease with vessel wall abnormalities. These include, for example, autoimmune diseases such as scleroderma, rheumatoid arthritis or Sjögren syndrome. Moreover, certain drugs, such as beta-blockers, can sometimes cause this secondary form.
Natural remedies for Raynaud’s syndrome
There are many ways to prevent Raynaud’s syndrome. Avoiding exposure to cold and striving for a warm, and especially non-humid environment, is the easiest to do. When avoiding cold, except gloves, you should also consider wearing a hat, since 30 percent of the body heat escapes the body through the head.
Smoking also should be avoided as much as possible since nicotine has very strong vasoconstrictive effects on the arteries. Moreover, exercise has positive effects on the blood flow, and muscle mass helps to increase the body temperature.
There are also natural treatments that can offer some benefits.
1. Ginkgo biloba
Ginkgo biloba has been one of the most trusted natural remedies for a massive range of health conditions. Ginkgo biloba has long been known as a vasodilator and a stimulant for the circulatory system.
In one study, Ginkgo biloba has been proven to reduce Raynaud’s disease symptoms by approximately 50 percent and has been used for other circulatory issues for hundreds, if not thousands, of years.
Ginger has long been suggested for people coping with circulation issues. It is also considered a “warm” food, that provides the body with additional warmth in cold conditions. Therefore, ginger tackle both issues of Raynaud’s disease, both issues from cold and from blood constriction. Ginger has dozens of other health effects as well!
Potassium is an essential mineral that controls both the fluid balance in the body and the dilation of the blood vessels and arteries. Since Raynaud’s reduces the flow of blood and oxygen to the extremities, food like bananas and other potassium-packed foods are very important to prevent episodes from striking.
Research has shown that there is a defect in the metabolism of nitric oxide in people suffering from Raynaud’s syndrome. L-Arginine is a substrate for nitric oxide synthesis, playing a key role in the vascular response to local stimuli. It has been suggested that supplementation with L-arginine improves the nitric oxide metabolism, thereby improving the vasodilatation.
5. Essential oils
Essential oils that can assist in the blood circulation and improve oxygenation to the body’s cells can be effective for Raynaud’s syndrome. These oils can be applied topically, via compresses, by inhaling, with a diffuser, or via detoxifying baths. Recommended oils include Nutmeg, Mace, Clove, Black Pepper, Geranium, Palmarosa, Lavender, Fennel, and Rosemary.
6. Coenzyme Q10
Co-enzyme Q10 is best-known for its antioxidant effects and improving the skin. Co-enzyme Q10 works by controlling the flow of oxygen within the cells, thereby assisting cardiovascular functioning and absorption of nutrients into the cells.
7. Relaxation techniques
Much of the research about Raynaud’s points to mental health as a major trigger for the disease. It is also one of the major symptoms – additional emotional stress. For this reason, most alternative treatments should be coupled with relaxation techniques of some kind, which have been shown to relax tension in the body, thereby increasing circulation and positive endorphins. Yoga, pilates, and meditation are all known to help reduce the occurrence of Raynaud’s episodes.