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Health Protocols

Raynaud's Phenomenon

What is Raynaud’s Phenomenon?

Raynaud’s phenomenon is a disorder in which blood vessels overreact to cold temperature or stress. Generally, blood vessels in fingers or toes are most affected. The blood vessels constrict, causing reduced blood flow to the affected extremity. Primary Raynaud’s phenomenon has no identified underlying cause and is generally not permanently damaging. Secondary Raynaud’s phenomenon, however, is related to an underlying cause and may be more damaging to the affected tissue.

With primary Raynaud’s phenomenon, minor lifestyle changes may be enough to reduce symptoms. However, with secondary Raynaud’s phenomenon, medical treatment is likely necessary to address the underlying cause.

Natural integrative therapies such as magnesium and N-acetylcysteine may help manage symptoms of Raynaud’s phenomenon.

What are the Risk Factors for Raynaud’s Phenomenon?

  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Smoking
  • Underlying medical conditions such as systemic sclerosis, scleroderma, and hypothyroidism
  • Certain medications, including beta-blockers and some chemotherapy drugs

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Raynaud’s Phenomenon?

  • “Triphasic” skin color change—the affected limb or digit generally turns white (decreased blood flow, sometimes accompanied by numbness or tingling), then blue (poor oxygenation), then red (blood flow is restored, sometimes accompanied with feeling warmth and pain).
  • In severe cases of secondary Raynaud’s phenomenon, ulcers and gangrene may occur in the affected extremity.

What are Conventional Treatments for Raynaud’s Phenomenon?

Note: Most cases of primary Raynaud’s phenomenon can be treated with moderate lifestyle changes. Secondary Raynaud’s phenomenon requires managing the underlying condition, as well as lifestyle changes.

  • Lifestyle changes include:
    • Dressing warmly
      • Keeping extremities warm (eg, gloves and socks)
    • Avoiding touching anything that vibrates
    • Quitting smoking
    • Avoiding caffeine
    • Avoiding emotional stress
  • Medications used to treat (usually secondary) Raynaud’s phenomenon and associated complications:
    • Calcium channel blockers (eg, nifedipine)
    • Phosphodiesterase-5 inhibitors (eg, sildenafil)
    • Serotonin reuptake inhibitors (eg, fluoxetine)
    • Other drugs such as statins, prostacyclin, and angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors

What are Emerging Therapies for Raynaud’s Phenomenon?

  • Topical nitrate therapy
  • Botulinum toxin (Botox)
  • Endothelin receptor A inhibitors

What Natural Interventions May Be Beneficial for Raynaud’s Phenomenon?

  • Magnesium. Low magnesium levels can increase contractility in blood vessels, and constriction of blood vessels is an important contributor to Raynaud’s phenomenon.
  • N-acetylcysteine. N-acetylcysteine (NAC) supports production of glutathione, which in turn prevents damage to blood vessel lining. Several studies indicate that NAC infusions reduced the severity and frequency of attacks.
  • Yohimbine. Yohimbine, an indole alkaloid derived from the bark of the yohimbe tree, can block alpha-2 receptors involved in vasoconstriction.
  • Vitamin C. Vitamin C promoted vasodilation and improved blood flow in people with coronary artery atherosclerosis, a condition that shares some risk factors with secondary Raynaud’s phenomenon.
  • Essential fatty acids. Fatty acids such as eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) have blood thinning effects and may help relieve symptoms of Raynaud’s phenomenon.
  • L-arginine. The amino acid L-arginine is important for synthesizing nitric oxide, a vasodilator.
  • Ginkgo biloba. Ginkgo biloba extract may decrease vasoconstriction. A study showed that treatment with the extract reduced the number of attacks of Raynaud’s phenomenon.
  • Other natural interventions such as vitamin D,vitamin E,niacin and inositol hexanicotinate, and selenium may help to improve the symptoms of Raynaud’s phenomenon.