Natural health with Megan Sheppard: Chilblains

Megan Sheppard gives her advice on treating chilblains naturally.

I suffer from chilblains in my feet every year and the itching and pain drives me mad. My toes are so sensitive, even wearing shoes is painful. Is there anything natural to help?

Chilblains are far more common in the colder months due to the fact that the tiny vessels tend to constrict more than usual when the weather turns cold. Since this is recurring issue for you, it makes sense to take steps to improve your circulation as well as treating the chilblains themselves.

Foods that help to improve blood flow include the obvious warming spices such as cayenne pepper, ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, and garlic. Essential fatty acids are also important for circulatory health and the integrity of the blood vessels.

There are also foods that are best avoided when it comes to the wellbeing of your circulatory system. Foods low in dietary fibre are detrimental to our blood vessels — fatty fried food, puddings, cakes and biscuits, sweets, you get the picture. We all know that we should eat less packaged and processed foods if we want glowing good health.

Supplements can be of help alongside your healthy, balanced wholefoods approach. In particular, the B vitamin niacin (vitamin B3) is used where circulation to the minor capillaries is not functioning as well as it could be.

There are two main types of niacin supplements available — flushing and non-flushing. The flushing kind causes a tingling and redness to the skin. It really feels as if a flushing wave of heat is prickling and radiating from your face and scalp to the tip of your fingers and toes.

The flush can last for a good 10 minutes, although it passes much more quickly with some people. Although this is not something to be concerned about, nor is it an allergic reaction, it helps to know what to expect.

The flushing sensation is simply your blood making its way to the tiny capillaries, which is exactly what you need it to do. This remedy is best avoided before family photos, important meetings or hot dates. You always have the option of choosing the non-flushing variation, however, it is the flushing form that is recommended in this instance.

A daily dosage of 100mg is ideal. Solgar makes a 100mg niacin tablet, which is available from health stores where 100 tablets cost €6.55. Exercise is important when it comes to microcirculation — 30 minutes or so each day is recommended. Walking and rebounding are great options for improving the circulation to your hands and feet.

Circulation issues can be a hereditary problem, or it can be due to accident and injury, surgery or prescription medications, varicose vein troubles, or lifestyle choices such as smoking and impractical footwear.

My daughter has an embarrassing problem with very smelly feet. She has just turned 13, and is so much more self-conscious about it than she used to be. Do you know what causes this problem and give any advice on how to manage it?

There are a number of potential reasons for smelly feet, with the type of socks and shoes your daughter wears likely being a contributing factor. Fungal or yeast infections are also a common cause, as is a deficiency in the mineral zinc.

Synthetic footwear can trigger an increase in sweat production, which leads to a proliferation of the bacteria responsible for the pong. Cotton, bamboo, or woollen socks are the best choice, along with leather or canvas shoes. Spending time barefoot when possible is a must.

Washing the feet twice a day is ideal, but a nightly soak in warm water with a cup of vinegar and 2-3 drops of tea tree essential oil will inhibit bacterial growth.

An unusual tip is to place the shoes in a plastic bag and leave them in the freezer overnight to kill off the whiffy bacteria. Baking soda and cornflour with a couple of drops of essential oil sprinkled into the shoes can help to neutralise odours in the shoes if the freezer doesn’t appeal.


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