By Joe Fleming
Managing Raynaud’s Phenomenon and preventing attacks always seems to be about what you put on the outside of your body, right? Gloves, scarves, socks, hats . . . the list goes on.
As the weather cools off and the crisp Autumn winds roll in, however, colder temperatures might suggest thinking about what you could put inside your body to support warmth and blood circulation.
Warming foods, or foods which induce chemical reactions in the body to create a warming sensation, may help boost circulation which could potentially aid some Raynaud’s symptoms. These include:
The rhizome (root) of the “Zingiber officinale,” or the flowering ginger plant, has been used for thousands of years as a natural remedy for everything from joint inflammation to indigestion. Early mentions of ginger being used as a tonic or aid date back to Greek literature from 200 B.C. and to this day it remains one of the most highly cultivated spices in the world.
When it comes to Raynaud’s, it’s the bioactive compounds, gingerol and shogaol, that bear the greatest anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties to support improved blood flow. Ginger’s thermogenic properties stem from its unique ability to dilate blood vessels and enhance the circulation of blood – as the diameters of blood vessels widen and more blood can flow through, the body temperature naturally raises, even if by only a little. For people with Raynaud’s who experience blood vessel constriction with sudden temperature changes, ginger consumption might be worth considering.
Ginger root can be prepared as tea, grated fresh and mixed into a potent shot with lemon juice and cayenne. Or it can be dried and crushed into a powder for use as a food additive. Additional preparations include pickled, crystallized, candied, preserved, and more.
As shared in the Raynaud’s Association’s May 2017 blog post, some interesting research on the effects of Vitamin C from citrus fruits like oranges has been shown to aid cold sufferers (note it was not specifically Raynaud’s sufferers in the experiment shared).
Orange trees are one of the most highly cultivated fruit trees in the world. Oranges originally come from China and were even mentioned in Chinese literature as far back as 314 B.C. Most people in the U.S. may attribute Florida as the great purveyor of oranges, and luckily, they can be found in most grocery stores year round.
The critical component in oranges which plays a role in increasing blood flow is derived from its own antioxidants. A group of natural plant compounds called polyphenols can be found in oranges, and those polyphenols are comprised of various bioflavonoids, including one called hesperidin. In addition to its antiinflammatory and antioxidant properties, hesperidin can act as a vasodilator with the ability to stimulate blood vessel expansion. Opening up the blood vessels can potentially support increased blood flow, which is good news for people with Raynaud’s who may suffer pain, tingling, numbness, and throbbing when blood vessels go into spasm with drastic temperature changes.
The highest concentration of beneficial flavonoids will be found in the peel of the orange (which is edible!), so go ahead and grate some into your teas, salad dressings, yogurt, cakes, vegetables, you name it!
As a food, cayenne intuitively feels like a “hot” spice with the ability to light a fire in your belly, but its biological makeup offers an even more revealing superpower. Named for the French Guinea city of Cayenne, cayenne pepper is in the Capsicum annuum genus which falls under the Nightshade family with other foods like jalapenos and paprika.
Cayenne’s natural thermogenic properties stem from its capsaicin content, a compound found in all chili peppers, most readily in the white pith holding the seeds. Research studying hypertensive rats revealed that long-term dietary consumption of capsaicin could actually help blood vessels relax. On a molecular level it is believed that a special channel found in the lining of blood vessels (called the transient receptor potential vanilloid 1 (TRPV1) channel) increases nitric oxide production when activated. Gaseous nitric oxide molecules help to protect blood vessels from damage and inflammation. One of the keys to activating this channel? You guessed it, capsaicin. (Keep in mind that the jury is still out on how these results will apply to humans, but the animal research is promising.)
Cayenne can be found as an herbal supplement, as well as in whole and powdered forms to be added to food, sauces, beverages, etc. Cayenne is a natural irritant to mammals and may burn your skin at point of contact, so be careful when handling and consuming it.
While there is currently no clinically-proven link between the foods listed above and alleviation of Raynaud’s symptoms, it’s important to note the potential natural aids may provide in helping boost blood circulation. Increased blood flow may help mitigate Raynaud’s symptoms, especially as colder weather is just around the corner. Tracking your temperature with a digital ear thermometer before and after you consume thermogenic foods might be an interesting experiment to gauge whether your core temperature actually rises. If you try it, please share the results!
Joe Fleming is the President at ViveHealth.com. Interested in all things related to living a healthy lifestyle, he enjoys sharing and expressing his passion through writing. Working to motivate others and defeat aging stereotypes, Joe uses his writing to help all people overcome the obstacles of life. Covering topics that range from physical health, wellness, and aging all the way to social, news, and inspirational pieces…the goal is help others “rebel against age”.