got cold feet? | by Andrea Nakayama, Functional Nutrition and Lifestyle Practitioner at Holistic Nutrition Lab

got cold feet?

Do you have cold feet?

I’m not talking about the cold feet that come with apprehension on your wedding day or before a job interview.

I’m talking about a piercing feeling—almost like frostbite—that just won’t go away, even when tucked under two layers of wool and down blankets. It’s a chill that can be felt in the feet, the hands and fingers, or even the nose and ears.

The frigid sensation also comes with discoloration, turning those extremities white or blue and sometimes making it challenging to walk or type, as I am now.

I used to suffer cold feet like this.

It’s called Raynaud’s disease. And I’m not alone.

Approximately 3-5% of the population endures such a chill. That percentage increases significantly if you narrow the demographic to women between the ages of 15 and 40. It’s likely that you’ll see someone with Raynaud’s disease in your practice.

What is Raynaud’s?

My familiarity with Raynaud’s manifested mostly as cold feet. Yes, my hands and nose were cold, but oh my aching feet. It would hurt to walk during these winter months and well into spring, and I’d sometimes wake up in the night just because one foot touched the other in my sleep.

The throbbing pain was so excruciating that it startled me awake. Ouch!

Raynaud’s disease is an exaggerated physiological response where the small blood vessels (arterioles) in the body’s extremities constrict and spasm, limiting blood flow, heat and oxygen to those areas. It’s often thought of as a circulatory disorder.

It’s triggered by exposure to cold temperatures, but also by emotional stressors.

There are two different types of Raynaud’s phenomenon and it’s important to distinguish between the two.

Primary Raynaud’s: Often called Raynaud’s disease; cause unknown; more mild; more common

Secondary Raynaud’s: Typically triggered by other health concerns including carpal tunnel syndrome, lupus, connective tissue disorders or scleroderma; can also be provoked by certain medications that affect circulation such as chemotherapy, beta-blockers or even some OTC cold medications.

What you can do to relieve those cold feet

You’ll notice that I spoke about my Raynaud’s (which was of the primary sort), in the past tense. That’s because there is indeed something you can do to get relief for your aching feet and help bring some relief to your clients and patients who suffer from this condition!

In general terms, with regards to diet and primary Raynaud’s disease, be sure to address any underlying food allergies or sensitivities. These can put the body under extra stress and become a hidden cause of many health issues and immune responses. (Think elimination diet. Get specific to the individual with what needs to be removed.)

Nutrition & lifestyle recommendations for Raynaud’s Disease

  • add coconut oil therapeutically—its medium-chain fatty acids support thermogenesis (or heat production)
  • consume plenty of fish and/or a high-quality fish oil supplement to support anti-inflammatory efforts
  • add magnesium-rich foods and supplementation to aid the relaxation of those blood vessels
  • anti-oxidants (eating the rainbow) are key here to address the oxidative stress that can be a contributing factor (and topical Nitric Oxide along with Nitric Oxide boosting practices such as exercise and consuming vegetables higher in naturally occurring nitrates can help with the removal of free radicals)
  • consider the dietary or supplemental intake of the complex of B vitamins, especially B12, as different forms of anemia can impact blood quality and flow and induce cold feelings in the extremities
  • introduce gingko to further support blood flow
  • warm up and keep moving!
  • consider acupuncture to help with blood flow and liver support

Basically, find a way to encourage both chilling out and warming up, all at the same time.

So curling up by the fire and reading a good book may be just what the doctor (scratch that) nutritionist ordered if you’ve got cold feet!


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Functional nutritionist and educator Andrea Nakayama (FNLP, MSN, CNC, CNE, CHHC) is leading patients and practitioners around the world in a revolution to reclaim ownership over our own health. Her passion for food as personalized medicine was born from the loss of her young husband to a brain tumor in 2002. She’s now regularly consulted as the nutrition expert for the toughest clinical cases in the practices of many world-renowned doctors, and trains a thousand practitioners online each year in her methodologies at Functional Nutrition Lab. Learn more about Andrea here.

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Michael BogdenPat AndersonDeanna Rawlynette mayoKristin Jackson Recent comment authors
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Kristin Jackson

I used to have cold hands and feet all winter long. So much so that my husband use to tease me that I looked peeved or scared because I was always crossing my arms across my chest to tuck my hands under my arms. I found relief with Clinical Somatics. I believe it was due to constantly contracted muscles that limited my blood flow. With Somatic movements, called pandiculations, I tapped into my brain and nervous system to release the tension. The brain controls everything we do, and the nervous system plays an intricate dance with the endocrine system. Folks… Read more »

lynette mayo

This is perfect. I was frantically trying to locate my one pair of wool socks last night. I only get cold feet when the weather starts to get colder at night, it is more the right foot than the left.

Deanna Raw
Deanna Raw

I have Secondary Raynaud’s with dx CREST scleroderma, RA, and hypothyroid. I am 54 and symptoms started in my early 30s. I have done everything you mentioned plus all back it up work. with an anti-inflammatory diet. Used high-grade oils coconut and MCT oil etc. Had food sensitivity testing and had a sensitivity to coconut, eggs, all the superfood seeds, most nuts, green tea, ginger, dairy (the only dairy I have is grass-fed butter or ghee) and spinach. The only grain was quinoa and millet showed up ( I have been wheat free for 25 years). I have reversed and… Read more »

Pat Anderson
Pat Anderson

I have experienced what I believe to be Reynaud’s since my late 20’s immediately following an exposure to severe cold temps while shoveling snow. I experience this in my hands both with cold and with emotional situations. Fortunately, I have more numbness than pain, so it is more of an annoyance.

Michael Bogden

Hey Andrea, really great post. My wife is a functional sports dietitian (You can check her out at and although we have always eaten extremely clean, I never saw a difference in my Raynauds. When I ran into some other gut issues and she had me do LEAP food sensitivity testing I was shocked to see that not only did my gut issues nearly resolve, but my Raynauds dramatically improved. I really wasn’t expecting this effect since it was not what we were trying to treat. Thanks for sharing this post and about your journey!