Saturday, October 22, 2011

Me and Raynaud's -- a primal success story?

I have had Raynaud's for years but I didn't know it. I just thought that when I got cold, particularly when the cold came on suddenly -- like bare feet on cold kitchen tile on a fall/winter morning, or a blast of cold air through an open window, or (and this is classic me) running out to the car in 15-degree weather wearing shorts and a t- shirt because "I'll only be out there a second" -- that my fingers got numb faster than most people's. Then my brother told me a few years back that he had Raynaud's, with symptoms far worse and more easily-triggered than mine, and I thought, "Hey, that's what happens to me!" (albeit to a lesser degree) and then I learned a friend had it so bad that her fingers turn white and sometimes even blister. Yowch.

My symptoms have never been awful, just annoying. Numb, tingling fingers, and an urgent need to warm my core so good circulation returns -- or, better yet, never leaves if I take steps to actually wear warmer clothes before the chill hits. But I am a T-shirt guy. I am perennially underdressed by most people's standards because my core temp runs hot. I could sweat brushing my teeth. So, once the Raynaud's started appearing, it really fucked with my sense of what to wear. Suddenly I was putting on flannel shirts in the *house*, fercryinoutloud.

So I muddled along for a few years, and then, when I went mostly paleo/primal, I saw a marked improvement in symptoms. It didn't happen quite as often. I wondered why, and then heard Robb Wolf (who is getting enough positive mentions on this blog that he is going to need to start paying me soon) say that Raynaud's is "almost always a sign of some degree of hyperinsulinism." OK, so that makes sense; control your body's regulation of insulin levels through proper diet and things that are triggered by hyperinsulinism will begin to go away. Paleo/primal helps regulate insulin, so it should help. And, apparently, according to Wolf, the degree of your Raynaud's symptoms are nearly directly proportional to how poor your insulin regulation is.

But, and this is a huge but and kind of the point of all this blahlahblah, the symptoms never *entirely* went away until I started this 30-day challenge. In an experience akin to Dave H's (from our gym) when he learned that paleo meant no more acid-reflux medicine for him, about seven days into this challenge I realized that I had repeatedly been in situations where normally the Raynaud's would kick in to some degree, and....nothing. Wow. Most prominent was at our post-volleyball pigout on our back deck last weekend. There we were, chowing down on enough sausage to make your cardiologist cry and the sun started to go down and the wind kicked up and I thought, "Holy crap, here it comes....not." Not. At. All.

This quick-chill/no-Raynaud's scenario repeated itself a number of times over this past week. It's fall here and the days are still warm-ish, but it gets chilly as the sun goes down. Last year I would have had to take steps to stave off the chill or else pay the price in Raynaud's symptoms. This year....nothing. I walked out to my car at 6 a.m. today on the way to my kid's volleyball tourney, and spent about 10 minutes outside, cleaning out and loading up the car, clad in a t-shirt when it was 40 degrees (American, not Canadian/restoftheworldian) out, and .... nothing.

So what is the difference? I was already mostly paleo/primal when I started this challenge. The single biggest dietary change for me this month is .... (dammit) no booze.

So what's that mean? Booze fucks with your insulin regulation? Well, duh, yeah I knew that. That I can never drink again?

Hold on a minute. No. Nooooooooooo!

Or at least I hope not. As I told you before, there are two beautiful, shiny liters of duty-free Scotch whisky (Highland Park and Laphroaig, you may recall) stashed away waiting for me to finish this challenge. But I think I have serious thinking to do about when and how I drink. I need to think of a drink as a wallop of sugar water that, particularly if consumed alone, on an empty stomach, sends my pancreas into insulin-pumping overdrive. Insulin-pumping overdrive is not really the state in which to manage (or eliminate) Raynaud's.

So, smart guy, it's time to drink smart. No more just-got-home-from-work-and-think-I'll-have-a-drink drinks. Eat first. No, really EAT first.

And I like to think that is the solution. My Raynaud's was never awful, but I don't want my insulin levels imitating a ride at Six Flags. *That's* the real issue here. Tingly/numb fingers are a bullshit problem. But knowing that I am taking my pancreas on Mr. Toad's Wild Ride is a different story. I don't want to do that. I almost feel fortunate that I have Raynaud's lurking in the background, because its symptoms (or, preferably, the lack thereof) are a great barometer of whether I am properly regulating insulin. Otherwise I wouldn't know what havoc I was potentially wreaking.

What an instructive 14 days this has been so far. As a guy I rarely find myself quoting said, "Once in a while you get shown the light, in the strangest of places if you look at it right."

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


  1. Mine is much better with alcohol free paleo too. Alcohol makes it worse sadly!

  2. That really would be sad if it is where I end up. We will see. When the challenge ends, I am going to dabble in some vaguely "smart" drinking (i.e., making sure to eat along with it) and see if the symptoms reappear.

  3. I have Raynauds in combo with my RA. I have been eating paleo and doing contrast showers for over a year. As the Chicago weather cools down, I can definitely feel a difference already. In years past, my fingers and toes would be so cold I thought I was going to pass out. This year I am still walking around the house (inside and out) barefoot! I am going to start thinking about the wine influence and see what it does to my body.

  4. Cathy, I assume your version of paleo includes the autoimmune protocol that Robb Wolf recommends for RA? When I get off this 30-day challenge andtry a little booze again, if the Raynaud's comes back I am wondering about trying that protocol myself. It is stringent, but, for me, preferable to giving up all alcohol. Time will tell....

  5. This is important stuff. Time for a followup?