Diet and Raynaud’s: Some New Input

Raynaud’s sufferers would like to believe that just by changing their diet, they could better control their Raynaud’s attacks – unfortunately, it’s not always that easy.

Korean Red GinsengThis past year, I’ve been trying a number of combinations of Asian herbs provided by my acupuncture specialist:  some were in pill form, some in powders, others were raw herbs that required boiling for up to an hour, straining, and storing the broth over a few days as you use it up.  My husband couldn’t tolerate the kitchen smell of the herbs, and I needed a few spoonfuls of honey to tolerate the taste.

All of the above would have been worth it if they worked.  Unfortunately the herbs in all forms (particularly the raw herb broth) ripped up my stomach to the point I just couldn’t keep it up.  I never experienced a real benefit, and finally gave up on the herb treatments.

But recently I’ve come across two accounts of dietary approaches that sound promising.  The first is a report on the results of a clinical trial using Korean red ginseng.  It wasn’t specifically tested for Raynaud’s – the trial is described as examining results on “cold hypersensitivity in the hands and feet.”  Here’s the hypothesis behind the study:  “In Korean medicine, the steamed root of Panax ginseng C.A. Meyer, known as Korean red ginseng (KRG), is used to invigorate the body, enhance qi, and improve blood flow. It is a potential treatment for cold hypersensitivity in the hands and feet, a common complaint among Asians, especially women.”

This was a controlled clinical trial where participants took six capsules of 500-mg Korean red ginseng powder or a placebo twice a day for 8 weeks.  Changes in skin temperature in the hands and feet were measured over a four-week period, and while the specific results are written in doctorspeak, in general, they were positive, warranting further research.

In searching Korean red ginseng on the web, it appears to be used for dozens of ailments, including ED in men.  Given the successful research results of ED drugs applied to Raynaud’s sufferers, it makes sense that this supplement might have potential for us Frosties.  I also found warnings that many products labeled as Panax ginseng are not what they claim – some may contain little or no amount of the product.  It can also interact with prescription drugs, so please consult your doctor before taking the supplement.  There are also potential side effects, and using the supplement long-term can have hormone-like effects.  For those with secondary Raynaud’s, it’s not recommended, as several autoimmune ailments can be made worse over time.  Again, please consult your doctor.

SushiThe second dietary information we found is a blog post titled A dietary cure for Raynauds? Can you bring your fingers back to life with Sushi?  (You can see how it got my attention – I love Sushi!).   The post, written by Simon Whyatt, talks about his conversion to a Paleo diet (a diet based on the types of foods presumed to have been eaten by cavemen).

While Simon experienced several physical benefits from the diet (e.g., more energy, better digestion and disease resistance), he reports:  “One strange thing did happen however, in that I started to find that when it got cold, my fingers, and sometimes even my toes would get extremely cold and turn completely white.”  In essence, he discovered after some time on the Paleo diet, he experienced Raynaud’s attacks.

Over time, he expanded his dietary choices to include a few foods he really loved, including some carbs and raw dairy products, and found that these inclusions helped stop his Raynaud’s attacks.  After some research on the subject, Simon learned that Raynaud’s (AKA “Dead Finger Syndrome”) is quite common among Paleo dieters (including two of his friends).  More research led him to discover that Raynaud’s could have a number of dietary causes, all of which could be encountered by someone following a strict Paleo diet.  Based on his research (confirmed by his personal experience), here are his suggestions for Paleo dieters:

  • Add safe starches (e.g., sweet potatoes, white potatoes, rice)
  • Add iodine rich foods (Sushi combines both seafood, seaweed and rice)
  • Add gut-healthy, fermented foods (fermented vegetables and raw dairy, bone broths – avoid wheat and excessive sugar)
  • Stop overtraining/reduce stress (stress being a trigger for Raynaud’s attacks)

Hope the above information is helpful.  I think the moral here is too much of anything can be harmful – whether it’s elongated use of an herbal supplment or an extreme diet.  But it’s good to hear some useful solutions.  Please share your discoveries with us, too!

 

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