Is anyone else familiar with this?
I am not a doctor, neither am I a nutritionist so I urge you to take this post as one that is written by a layman. I did, however, suffer from Raynaud’s phenomenon for 14 years and now I no longer suffer from it.
Phenomenon – there is no known cause or cure.
Before I go into more information, let me tell you a story.
(if you want to skip the story, scroll down to REMEDIES)
I was 18 years old and walking along Brighton beach front with my friends on a freezing January day during 2000. Looking down, I saw that the index finger on my left hand was white from the top section up. We all laughed and named it the ‘Buddha Finger‘ after one of our favourite garage tracks by Reservoir Dogs. (Imagine a spotty teenage me bopping along to that track – total lol!)
Within months, each finger followed suit and changed to a yellowish white when I got cold, except now it wasn’t just at the top, but from the base of each finger all the way up. Within 1 year, it started happening in my feet as well. There were times where I was unable to drive because of the excruciating pain in my hands. From the time it took me to walk from the front door to the car, my hands were so restricted of blood that it would leave me sitting in the car for 15 minutes waiting for the heaters to warm my hands up to grip the steering wheel.
There was even a time where my fingertip went blackish purple because it was starved of oxygen for so long.
If you do not suffer from this condition, what you should understand is that it is not only painful when there is no blood in the fingers and toes, but it is even worse when the blood supply comes back. It. Was. So. Painful! It would feel as though my fingertips were going to explode and sometimes reduced me to tears.
My mum trotted me to the doctors and they readily supplied me with a number of medicines to help reduce the symptoms. One of them was an anti-depressant that was said to have side effects of reducing the symptoms of Raynaud’s. Let’s bear in mind I am 18 years old and of perfect mental and physical health (apart from the Raynaud’s) and I was given anti-depressants!? They didn’t work and so I was prescribed something else; a blood thinner I think.
It didn’t sit well with me and I soon made the decision to treat the condition naturally. As a result, I ended up with a pair of battery operated heated gloves. It was like the orthopaedic shoes of the glove world. The wires would travel up my arms and across my back and I’d have this bulky pack strapped to my waist. Far from cool. But more than being uncool, they didn’t work.
That’s where I began to research the condition.
It seemed that the symptoms didn’t necessarily occur when my hands (and feet) got cold but when my body temperature dropped. I worked in Greece for a number of years in my early 20’s and even getting out of the pool on a hot 30-degree day would leave my hands with ‘Buddha finger’ if the wind blew slightly. I began thinking it was nothing to do with my hands and circulation but another system in my body.
Many people think that Raynaud’s is a circulatory disorder. I do not believe this is the case. I believe it is connected to the nervous system (remember, I’m no doctor), which trips out when the body temperature drops. The body goes into protect mode and cuts off circulation to the extremities, even though it doesn’t need to. It seemed my body had lost its ability to regulate.
After some research, I discovered it was the smooth muscle in my arteries that were contracting when I got ‘cold’ or when my body temperature dropped. I read that cinnamon was good for stimulating smooth muscle so thought I would start there. I added a ⅛ teaspoon of cinnamon to my morning porridge every day and didn’t think much more of it.
Along the way, I also began adding a small amount of powdered ginger to my porridge (not much though as it tastes really strong) as well as drinking fresh ginger tea.
After about 6 months I noticed a significant improvement in my symptoms. Cue experiment number 1. I decided to cut them both out. Within just a few weeks, my symptoms returned. There must be something in that right?
After introducing both cinnamon and ginger into my diet again, I was able to take part in summer obstacle races without the debilitating pain from the Raynaud’s. Now all I had to do was find a solution for the winter races which were the ones I enjoyed the most.
If you do not like cinnamon or ginger, capsule forms are available however I think fresh is always the best option. I’m going to be tough in this instance and say “suck it up buttercup.” Horrible yellow hands or a bit of bad taste for a few minutes?
Ice Baths (You’ll have to trust me on this)
After reading The 4 Hour Body by Tim Ferris, I started doing weekly ice baths to 1) reduce my body fat and make me a faster runner 2) to improve my immune system and 3) to help improve recovery and prevent injury.
Once a week, I’d fill the bath with cold water and then add 2 bags of ice. It was torture! I did this for about 1 year and hadn’t realised it had a positive effect on my hands and feet.
Over time, it seemed that my body was getting used to the extreme cold, leading to a significant reduction in symptoms.
Watch a video here – cringe!
So many people seem to be suffering from Raynaud’s in this modern world. I really believe that the central heated, air-conditioned, unnatural world we live in has caused this. Our bodies are forgetting how to cope with the cold. (Recommended reading here).
There is a short piece about ice baths and Raynaud’s in this article about halfway down. Look for the question from Rodney dated 4th February 2014. I am surprised there is not more about this on the internet but I suppose it’s an uncomfortable and rather drastic approach.
In 2014 I ran 52 obstacle races in one year. I’m kind of embarrassed to admit this after reading this article only today, but I knew no better and loved it so much.
Exercise increases circulation throughout the body so I can only see that it would have a positive effect on Raynaud’s. I am absolutely not recommending running this number of events in a year, but it could be that there are some readers that do not do any exercise at all that might reconsider doing a little after reading this.
I am now 34 years old and no longer suffer from Raynaud’s at all. I frequently have cold hands and feet but they never constrict and lose colour. I believe it is a result of cinnamon, ginger, ice baths and exercise.
I also believe that because I stopped worrying about it, it allowed my body to heal itself. You know how it is? “We become what we think about most of the time….” Quote by Earl Nightingale.
(Read about me curing another disease I had in this post).
If you are an obstacle course racer, take part in water sports or winter sports and suffer from Raynaud’s, I recommend neoprene gloves and socks. If you have a slightly larger budget, invest in an NRS HydroSkin top. You may need to get sent from the USA but this is one of the BEST things I have EVER purchased and worth every penny – watch this video.
It comes in 0.5, 1.0 and 1.5mm, has a ThermalPlush™ lining (posh I know) and a titanium laminate layer which reflects body heat. I cannot recommend this enough! I have the leggings too. I ran 4 laps of Winter Nuts, one of the coldest UK obstacle races, and had to strip off at the finish line because I was so hot!
The neoprene solution won’t get rid of the cause of Raynaud’s but it will certainly make you more comfortable during your events.
As I mentioned above, I am not a doctor, nor qualified to give advice. I am however outlining what I did to heal myself of Raynaud’s. I would always recommend seeing your doctor and following the necessary tests they suggest to determine if it is Secondary Raynaud’s and linked to another health condition.
I read that one guy got rid of his symptoms by seeing a chiropractor. It was caused by a trapped nerve under his scapula.
The thing that scares me about the doctor approach is taking medicine which has a side effect of reducing the symptoms of Raynaud’s. Surely that would put the body out of balance?
There is so much I could write about this. The key is to be patient with the methods I’ve suggested above and believe you can heal yourself via the actions and positive thought. People think I am nuts when I say this but it doesn’t cost anything and is far more effective than people give it credit for. I call it positive thought. The medical world calls it the placebo effect. Mine is not proven. Theirs is. Go figure!
I hope you enjoyed this post and found it helpful.
Thank you so much for reading.
If you have any questions about this post or have results with what I have suggested, I’d love to hear from you. Tweet me!
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Happy Healing xxxx