Dysautonomia- What your Hands & Feet Reveal About Brain Health
What your hands and feet say about your brain
Although your hands and feet are located the farthest distance from your brain, the health of your feet and hands can give you clues about the health of your brain.
Dysautonomia refers to a disorder of the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) function. The disorder develops when there is an imbalance between the sympathetic or parasympathetic components of the ANS.
Dysautonomia can be seen in the hands and feet as temperature and vascular changes. The vessels that supply the most distal extremities originated embryologically from the same cells that migrate to form the small vessels around the brain.
Blood supply is crucial for delivering oxygen and glucose to all cells in the body. If blood is delivered to the brain adequately, neurons will starve of oxygen and glucose. Over time when these starved neurons are activated, they will die off due to a limited supply of oxygen.
Dysautonomia results from improper control over blood circulation. Your hands and feet can reveal dysautonomia indicating decreased oxygen supply to your brain as well. When blood circulation to your most distal extremities is poor it’s a red flag that blood supply to the brain is compromised as well. Just because you can breathe doesn’t mean your brain is getting enough oxygen.
If your brain is not getting enough oxygen it won’t function well. You may notice brain fog, declining memory, that you tire more easily, and that it is harder to learn new things. Depression is another common symptom. Poor brain oxygen is a serious matter because it accelerates degeneration of your brain—vascular dementia from lack of blood flow to the brain is the second most common type of dementia after Alzheimer’s.
Feet and hand symptoms that could point to problems in your brain
Cold toes and feet are often seen in conditions such as dysautonomia, POTs, RSD, concussion, mTBI, and complex regional pain syndrome. If your feet and toes are colder than your ankles or calves, this means circulation is poor to your feet, and hence to your brain. It’s hard to measure your own skin temperature so have someone else compare the temperature of your calves and ankles with that of your feet and toes. The small vessels that supply blood to your feet and hands which keep them warm and pink are homologous to the vessels that also supply blood to the brain. The same vasoconstriction (blood vessels shrinking) or dilation (expanding) of blood vessels that occurs in your distal extremities is also occurring in your brain. Cold fingers and a cold nose are a problem many people suffer from.
Chronic Fungal Growth in Toenails
Do you have chronic fungal nail infections, or chronic athlete’s foot? When circulation is poor the blood is not able to carry oxygen, immune cells, and nutrients to the feet to keep them healthy. As a result, infections can take root and be difficult to impossible to banish while circulation is poor. General nail health will also be poor. This is a sign circulation in your brain is also compromised.
White Nail Beds; poor capillary refill time
The nail beds of your toes should be a healthy pink color. If they are pale or white this is another symptom of poor circulation. Also, when you press down on a nail bed it turns white, but the pink color should return instantly. If it takes a few seconds for the color to return, this means blood flow to the nails is poor, as is blood flow to the brain.
Sometimes people with poor circulation get foot cramps that seem impossible to relieve. This is because there is not enough blood and oxygen flowing to the muscles in the feet. They may also get cramps in their hands. Again, these are signs that blood flow to the brain may be poor.
Treatment for Dysautonomia Through Brain-based Therapies
It’s important to rule out a health condition that can cause poor blood flow to your feet, such as hypothyroidism, anemia, a heart condition, diabetes, or low blood pressure. Normal blood pressure is considered 120/70. If either number varies 10 points when moving from seated, standing, or lying down this indicates Dysautonomia. These physical findings reveal that blood is not getting pumped into the distant capillaries of the feet and the brain.
People with low blood pressure typically also have low blood sugar (reactive hypoglycemia) and fatigue. It’s important to stabilize blood sugar by avoiding sugars and processed carbohydrates and not skipping meals. Exercise is great for increasing circulation. Short bursts of high-intensity exercise can increase blood circulation throughout the body.
Nutritional compounds can also support blood flow to your feet and your brain. Visit Precision Brain Center to receive treatment for Dysautonomia, POTs, and Vasovagal Syncope.