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
Preliminary Steps for Addressing Raynaud's
1. Get Testing to Identify Potential Causes
Treatment for Raynaud's will be heavily dependent on results of diagnostic testing. The functional medicine testing I run is very different from the testing you would usually get at your annual checkup.
Results are often over 10 pages long and evaluate things like inflammation, gut health, protein absorption, autoimmune markers and a complete thyroid panel.
Many people diagnose themselves online and treat themselves accordingly, only to find out years later that they have been ignoring their primary condition. Raynaud's is often misdiagnosed by doctors, and few look into contributing factors.
The functional medicine testing that my clinic offers is run through insurance, is thousands of dollars cheaper than having the same testing run through a hospital, and can go beyond diagnostics to measure the functionality of organs and systems.
2. Support the Nervous System
Through soft tissue chiropractic treatment we can help the nervous system come back into balance.
By stimulating specific myotactic nerve reflexes, we can induce a balance between your parasympathetic and sympathetic states.
By clearing nervous system blockages in this way, we can often stop the symptoms of Raynaud's.
We can assess nervous system function by testing adrenal gland status.
Read more about my soft tissue treatment
3. Support the Liver
Depending on an individual's test results, nutritional supplements will be given to reverse deficiencies and compensate for genetic predispositions.
If heavy metal or chemical toxicity is found, then supervised chelation (removal) of those compounds will be initiated.
Depending on the function of the liver, support can be given to enhance the liver's function so it can filter blood more efficiently, which will facilitate circulation.
Total toxicity load will also be evaluated to see if high levels of toxins are impairing your body's natural levels of detoxification.
In cases of impaired circulation it is also useful to assess fatty acid metabolism as well as nutrient status.
How Functional Medicine Can Help Raynaud's
Often, Raynaud's results from a combination of factors that can be evaluated in a functional medicine appointment.
A 'new patient' functional medicine appointment is an hour long at my clinic. I also offer online consultation for those out of state or out of the country.
I take an extensive patient history including a complete symptom list, patient history, family history and current medications and supplements.
Based on our findings we can determine how cost-effective diet and lifestyle changes can be utilized for you to achieve symptom relief. Depending on your symptoms we may rule out other conditions and test for infections, toxicity or autoimmunity.
If you would like to speak to me to ask questions about functional medicine, chronic illness or how I can help you, please schedule a Free 15 Minute Consultation or call or text my office at 913-728-5291.