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

My Toes and Raynaud’s

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.