Dr. Josh Axe is a wellness physician and clinical nutritionist who claims to help people get well using food as medicine. So when we found a Raynaud’s article on DrAxe.com, we were hoping to find some nutritional tips for those with Raynaud’s – a subject much in demand from our members.
The article overall does a good job of explaining Raynaud’s, the two types (primary vs. secondary) and the experience associated with having a Raynaud’s attack (key triggers, pain, color changes, etc.). The author, Christine Ruggeri, a member of the Dr. Axe content team, also covers variations on the duration of attacks (a few minutes to several hours), frequency of attacks (occasional, daily, several times a day), and extreme complications that people with the most severe forms of Raynaud’s may experience (digital ulcers, gangrene, amputations).
They also list a number of primary ailments that are associated with the secondary form of Raynaud’s, including a few often missed (atherosclerosis, Buerger’s disease, hypothyroidism and blood disorders like cryoglobulinemia), plus the role played by occupational factors (Vibration White Finger), trauma or accidental injuries to extremities, exposure to toxins and drugs that restrict blood flow (chemo, beta blockers), and the role played by smoking (alcohol’s impact is mixed). Common medications used to treat Raynaud’s symptoms are also covered (calcium channel blockers, topical nitrates, and one group of drugs not often discussed – prostaglandins). For those not responsive to these drugs, surgical procedures (sympathectomies where nerves are cut or blocked) are used in more severe cases.
We appreciate the fact that the author did a lot of homework for this article, indicated by various footnotes linking to research studies published on the subject. But considering the fact that they quote the incidence of Raynaud’s in several places as 5% of the population, we’re puzzled by their reference to Raynaud’s as a “rare” condition. If you search for the definition of a rare disease, here’s what you’ll find: “In the United States, a rare disease is defined as a condition that affects fewer than 200,000 people in the US.”
A disorder representing 5% of the population affects 16 million people. Our organization quotes sources estimating the incidence of Raynaud’s as 5 to 10% of the population. On the higher end, that’s over 30 million sufferers. In any case, we’re talking millions, not a couple of hundred thousand. It doesn’t help our case for Raynaud’s to be referenced as “rare” – we want more people, the medical community and pharmaceutical companies to pay increased attention to the size of the Raynaud’s population and take it seriously. So the label of “rare” was disappointing given the amount of time and attention given to collecting so much background information. Unfortunately it’s not rare to see Raynaud’s labeled as rare. That’s why we call it out when we see it published.
Finally, the author ends with a heading of 6 Natural Remedies for Raynaud’s Syndrome Symptoms. Our expectation was to find a list of dietary suggestions for people living with Raynaud’s. Instead, the first thing we see is “Avoid Cold Temperatures,” with ideas like bring a sweater if entering an air conditioned area, wear gloves when using the freezer, and windmill your arms to get the circulation back. Other tips include “Reduce Emotional and Physical Stress” and “Stop Smoking.” Not what we expected from a nutritional expert!
Finally, Tips # 4 and #5 offer more non-traditional advice: “Eat an Anti-inflammatory Diet” and “Try Acupuncture.” We’ve published several articles on acupuncture as a treatment for Raynaud’s, and while there’s no accepted clinical evidence for the effectiveness of acupuncture as a treatment for alleviating Raynaud’s symptoms, we do believe finding the right practitioner with a track record in treating Raynaud’s patients can be a positive factor.
Regarding the author’s advice on eating an anti-inflammatory diet, the whole premise is based on Secondary Raynaud’s being largely associated with autoimmune diseases, so their hypothesis is that “working to reverse or relieve the condition” (inflammation?) can also reduce Raynaud’s attacks. Well, since 90% of sufferers have the primary form, that’s not really too helpful for the majority of people living with Raynaud’s. It may be better to reference one of our more popular articles, suggesting a well-balanced diet, exercise and the elimination of toxins such as cigarettes and caffeine, plus adding a few supplements, such as magnesium, Vitamin B and omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil.
Finally, the Raynaud’s article on DrAxe.com offers one final tip: “Avoid Vasoconstrictive Medications,” such as the ones referenced earlier that can trigger attacks, including beta blockers, over-the-counter allergy pills, diet pills, and birth control pills. Others, such as migraine medications, ADHD and cancer treatment drugs can’t always be avoided, as they suggest, so just be aware that these meds can aggravate Raynaud’s symptoms. Discuss the options that are the best trade-off for you with your doctor.
Wish there was more nutritional and alternative medicine advice here, but we’ll keep searching!
Here’s the full Raynaud’s article at DrAxe.com: