Updated: Sep 9, 2019
Raynaud's (known as Raynaud's Disease, Raynaud's Syndrome or Raynaud's Phenomenon) is diagnosed by chronically cold extremities which are usually accompanied with color changes.
Often, the tips of the fingers (or toes) turn white, then blue, then bright red, before returning to normal.
For some, their fingers only change to white and then back to their normal color. This condition can be painful and can fluctuate in frequency throughout a persons lifetime.
When your extremities become cold and change color it is due to small blood vessels within your hands excessively constricting, this limits blood flow to the tissue.
The Limited Range of Conventional Treatment
Conventional treatment can be very limited or non-existent for this condition. My wife was diagnosed with Raynaud's syndrome when she was nine.
The first doctor she saw suggested surgery to 'open up' the veins in her hands, another doctor said that it meant she was going to get an autoimmune disease, another suggested that she never take off her gloves.
Many patients have had similar experiences, the reality is that conventional medicine can do very little for an idiopathic ('without known case') autoimmune symptom.
Fortunately, functional medicine has long term solutions for Raynaud's based on what actually causes this vascular reaction.
What Causes Raynaud’s?
Raynaud's can appear seemingly without cause, in cases like this, testing often uncovers biochemical stressors like blood sugar dysregulation, autonomic dysregulation or heavy metal toxicity.
Raynaud's can also be a secondary reaction to another condition like lupus or rheumatoid arthritis.
Other factors can cause blood vessel spasms, things like cold weather, emotional trauma, stress, and grief.
There are usually multiple factors that contribute to Raynaud's. Thorough diagnostics and personalized testing can zero in on the potential causes in order to limit, and possibly remove symptoms altogether.
Here are some common causes of Raynaud's that I frequently see in my patients.
1. Blood Sugar Regulation
The relationship between blood sugar regulation and Raynaud's is a complicated one. There are those, like my wife, whose Raynaud's will completely resolve when glucose levels are stabilized throughout the day.
Many have found relief by implementing a 'paleo diet', this can later be transitioned into a more inclusive whole foods based, Mediterranean-like diet with no refined sugar.
For others, a food allergen may be causing inflammation and blood sugar imbalances that may exacerbate Raynaud's symptoms.
In this case, identifying food allergens and removing them from your diet is a critical first step.
Testing will need to be done to assess if an underlying blood sugar dysregulation issue is responsible for your Raynaud's symptoms.
2. Nervous System Dysregulation
Many factors can cause your nervous system to be stuck in a sympathetic state. This can cause certain nerves to impair adequate circulation in response to cold.
Normally, the body's internal neurological circuitry should be able to adapt rapidly to cold temperatures but those with Raynaud's can have an impaired ability.
This nervous system imbalance can be due to chronic stress, blood sugar issues, or be an early indicator of some autoimmunity.
Comprehensive bloodwork can assess for antibodies, glucose levels and adrenal function to assess these factors.
3. Liver Toxicity
Every day we are bombarded with chemicals that are deemed unsafe for humans. Due to this constant exposure through food, water, cooking utensils, furniture, paint, housing materials and air pollution - our detoxification organs can become overwhelmed and sluggish.
All blood must go through the liver before it gets to the heart - if the liver becomes sluggish, it will impair circulation. This circulation impairment can lay the foundation for Raynaud’s.
This liver connection is why Raynaud’s has been found to proceed almost every rheumatological disease including - lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, connective tissue disease, and Sjogren’s.
Read more about Toxicity