My Toes and Raynaud’s

Standing in the hot desert sun in beautiful southern Utah, USA.

This past winter I experienced extreme swelling in my toes, especially on my left foot. The painful symptoms lasted for multiple days and made it difficult to walk. My toes felt tingling in the mornings when I went from my warm bed, into the shower, and when I walked outside. So I made an appointment with a podiatrist.

While the Doctor examined my feet, I told him how in December 2014 my toes had turned blue. A the time I lived on a floating house in Portland, Oregon and I walked everywhere in tennis shoes, which was inadequate foot ware for winter. Wearing thicker socks and boots resolved the issue, I thought was temporary. However never before this past year had I experienced such severe swelling in my toes.

The podiatrist diagnosed me with Raynaud’s syndrome / phenomenon. He explained it’s difficult to pinpoint the why, but that the blood vessels in my toes constrict when it’s cold. He urged me to pay close attention to my feet, as lack of blood supply can cause gangrene. The course of treatment included Ibuprofen and a heating pad for the pain when my feet swelled, heavier duty socks and vitamin B.

What’s strange is I haven’t had a Raynaud’s flare up in months. I never expected it to occur in the summer. Since it’s hot outside, I’ve been drinking a lot of ice cold water. Last week while briefly holding a cold glass of ice water my fingers went completely numb for over an hour. The next day after getting a relaxing massage while drinking ice cold water to flush out the toxins, I accidentally spilled some cold water on my feet. Almost immediately my lower leg and feet began to swell, go numb and when feeling returned it painfully tingled. The feeling itself is indescribably strange.

My sweet Mom let me borrow the health reference book The Doctors Book of Home Remedies: Thousands of Tips and Techniques Anyone Can Use to Heal Everyday Health Problems. It includes an entire chapter on Raynaud’s Syndrome. The author’s suggestions to prevent blood vessel constriction include wearing layers and mix-fabric socks, eating more iron rich foods, exercising, reducing stress, avoiding caffeine and alcohol and eating foods rich in omega 3 fatty acids.

Many foods higher in both iron and omega 3 fatty acids tend to also be higher in nickel. Foods high in nickel, iron and omega 3 fatty acids include shellfish, beans, lentils, leafy greens, nuts, seeds, peas, oats and soy. Salmon is also high in omega 3 fatty acids and is known to be higher in nickel, but my body doesn’t seem to react when I eat salmon once or twice a month.

I could always exercise more and work to reduce stress. Nonetheless, I firmly believe there is more of a correlation between my body being deficient in iron and/or omega 3 fatty acids when I experience Raynaud’s episodes. Foods I can eat that aren’t high in nickel, but are higher in iron and omega 3 fatty acids include red meat, poultry, salmon, tuna, eggs, yogurt, cottage cheese, butter, olive and canola oils, raisins, prune juice, and fortified-iron cereal (I eat Rice Chex, which is fortified with 50% of the daily recommended iron intake).

Also ingesting foods high in vitamin C, like drinking orange juice or eating an orange with my meals will help my body absorb the iron I eat, while also reducing any nickel absorption.
Balance or more like a balancing act is what eating the low-nickel diet feels like when my body becomes deficient in one or more nutrients as a result of my avoiding foods higher in nickel.

If you’ve been diagnosed with Raynaud’s or if you know of other foods higher in iron and/or omega 3 fatty acids, I’d love to hear about your experience in the comment section below.

  1. I was diagnosed with Raynaud’s syndrome/phenomenon in 1990 and given a medical discharge from the Military because I became unable to deploy worldwide. Both my hands and feet go solid white and numb, and I find myself consistently cold in most places with A/C. In 2013 I was given the nickel allergy diagnoses, felt my world fall apart that day. the list is long as to what I cannot eat, chocolate hurt the worst because I am half Dutch and we need chocolate to live. Hardest part for me is having to buy either fresh or frozen food, nothing in a can, plus having to look at all of the ingredients on packages because soy is a major component in 90% of packaged foods (soy lecithin is the greatest amount found in most foods. Funny part I thought if I could gain weight (get fat) that it might ease the problem. No, I still get cold and frozen in 60 degree weather, but now in order to lose the weight my diet has the no nickel clause and I can no longer eat carbs or most starches anymore and I feel like I have drank the Pacific Ocean twice with all the water I am supposed to drink. I take 325mg of iron with half vitamin C pill everyday to help with allergy, something I recently read said that even though they are not high in nickel what they do is exasperate the symptoms and that is tomatoes, salmon and a few others, avocados’ too we can still eat them but very sparingly.

    1. Thanks for sharing your own story about your Raynaud’s and nickel allergy. I relate with you that it’s time consuming to constantly read packaged food ingredients. Personally, I try to avoid supplements, but each foods high in both iron and vitamin c often. Yes, I’ve also read that tomatoes, salmon and avocados aren’t necessarily high in nickel but can aggravate nickel allergies, especially those of us that are sensitive.
      Warm regards,

  2. I am slowly trying to get nickel out of diet. I am so far avoiding chocolate, nuts, soy and whole grain. The last two I just started yesterday…my question is, I’ve seen on lists where I could eat white bread. Every package includes niacin. I love making my own but all the bread flours contain it as well. Do u have a suggestion? Thank you!!

    1. Hi Caroleanne,
      Thanks for your comment. Niacin is vitamin B3 and I am not aware of B3 being high in nickel. I will occasionally take a vitamin B complex supplement, with niacin, and I haven’t had any issues with it. Natural forms of niacin aren’t only found in flour, but also in meats, fish, milk and eggs, all of which tend to be lower in nickel. Were you told to avoid niacin?
      Warm regards,

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