Q. My son has Raynaud’s phenomenon, which is very painful when it is cold. I heard that eating more bananas and potatoes could help because of the magnesium in them. The mineral is supposed to relax constricted blood vessels. Is there any truth in this? Would magnesium pills as a supplement work just as well?
A. Raynaud’s phenomenon is a condition in which cold temperatures or emotional stress trigger vasoconstriction of the fingers and toes. They turn white or even blue and become painful with exposure to cold.
We have heard from other readers that cinnamon extract or astragalus root can ease the symptoms of Raynaud’s. Swedish researchers have concluded that magnesium plays a significant role in Raynaud’s phenomenon (Clinical Physiology, Sept., 1994). We can imagine that taking a supplement might help. Neither bananas nor potatoes are especially rich in magnesium, however. Whole grains, leafy green vegetables (spinach, chard), nuts and blackstrap molasses are good sources of magnesium.