How your diet can help with preventing and managing varicose veins

Varicose veins are rarely seen in parts of the world where people eat a high fibre, real food diet. Low fibre diets can result in straining during bowel movements, and this is known to affect the flow of blood through the legs as well as causing hemorrhoids (swollen veins in the bum)

Tip 1:Eat high fibre foods and avoid constipation

Constipation is a form of congestion and puts the body, especially the liver, under pressure. Oats, Wholegrains, Fruits, Vegetables, Beans, Lentils, Nuts, Seeds are good sources of fibre. Fibrous foods absorb water in the gut therefore it is important to hydrate well with fibre foods.

Tip 2: Stay well hydrated

Blood cells travelling through the veins are suspended in plasma which is mostly water therefore water plays an important role in maintaining pressure flow. If you allow yourself to become dehydrated, the blood becomes thicker and finds it more difficult to circulate.

Tip 3: Eat good quality Protein foods at every meal

Veins return de-oxygenated blood back to the heart and many of us can see these veins in our lower limbs. Veins have thinner walls than arteries and are less elastic. They are made up of collagen and elastin fibres. Protein is the food substance that makes collagen and elastin.

Protein food sources include egg, whey protein powder, lean meats, fish, poultry, soya beans. All wholegrains, beans, nuts, seeds, yogurt/milk have some protein and vegetables have a small amount also. You need to eat 0.8g protein per kg of body weight for daily maintenance of your body keeping in mind that you are a structure in a constant state of repair and maintenance.

Tip 4: Ensure your daily diet is rich in fresh fruit, especially berries and vegetables

Vitamin C is the most important nutrient for veins as it helps to build the chain that links the proteins together. When a person is low in vitamin C, they will bruise easily, haemorrhaging due to weakened blood vessels. Fruit & Veg are your best food source.

Bioflavonoids are plant nutrients, usually found in black, blue or red plants and they help vitamin C to form the protein chain i.e. strengthen the vein wall. Nowadays supplements usually combine Vitamin C and bioflavonoids as they work best together. The best known bioflavonoids for the treatment of varicose veins are:

  • Rutin & Quercetin (buckwheat, apple skin, red onion, asparagus, elderflower, figs, cranberries)
  • Pycnogenol (French maritime pine bark extract in supplement form) naturally present in all berries. Berries are also rich in Vitamin C so are really an ideal food for vein health
  • Hesperidin and Diosmin (oranges, tangerines, lemons, grapefruits, orange marmalade and unfiltered orange juice) are 2 flavonoids, especially high in the membrane and outer peel. Eat the white part of the orange.

Berries are the king but also include oranges, apples with skin on and grapefruits. Use lemons and limes liberally in your cooking and drinks. Buy organic fruit and eat the peel. Use the zest (peel) of oranges and lemons in your recipes such as stirfries, baked goods, sauces. Be inventive – lemon or orange zest can be added to streamed veggies when served. Buy unwaxed fruit if you use the zest. Add buckwheat to oats and make your own granola.

Alternatively, pharmacies are now selling these nutrients in supplemental form, as are health shops. You could trial a dose for 3 months and see if you experience any benefits.

There is a drug called Daflon which is a Diosmin–Hesperidin combination: (Daflon 500 milligrams) Long–term controlled clinical trials have revealed that this combination of flavonoids increases venous tone, improves lymphatic drainage, and reduces capillary leakage. These improvements resulted in significant decreases in ankle and calf swelling, discomfort, nighttime cramps, and laboratory measurements.

Herbs: I have no experience of these herbs. Seek a herbalists advice.

Horse chestnut seed: Systematic reviews have concluded that extracts of horse chestnut seed (Aesculus Hippocastanum, 50 milligrams twice daily) reduce leg pain, leg volume, edema, and itching.

Butcher’s broom: Extracts of Ruscus Aculaetus (150 milligrams, two to three times daily) improve venous insufficiency. It is particularly effective when combined with another flavonoid and vitamin C.

Tip 5: Monitor standing, sitting postures and weight

VEINS are elastic enough to adapt to variations in the volume and pressure of blood passing through them but they are not designed to withstand high pressure. Calf muscles and the muscles in the feet need to contract with each step to squeeze the veins and push the blood upward. The following put veins under pressure:

  • Excess body weight, including when pregnant so mind yourself during pregnancy
  • Standing too much on your feet daily. If a job involves standing, have a high stool close-by that you can temporarily rest
  • Avoid crossing your legs when sitting or tucking them underneath you on the couch. When sitting at home or at your desk, elevate your legs to encourage up-flow.
  • Inactivity as a result of mechanical failure  ( e.g. leg break etc)  can lead to weak muscles
  • Keep the skin around veins well moisturised to reduce tightening.

Tip 6: Exercise and build a strong structure

 Build strong leg muscles, especially calf muscles. Hill climbing is excellent activity for the backs of legs and calves. Resistance bands can be used to build leg muscles. There are specific machines in the gym to help build calf muscles.

Elastic stockings and garments have been used successfully for 50 years for the treatment of venous insufficiency. In recent years, compression garments have become increasingly popular amongst athletes boasting that they improve muscular power, strength, endurance, proprioreception and injury management.

Research has shown that compression garments may promote blood lactate removal and therefore enhance recovery (Berry and McMurray 1987; Chatard, Atlaoui et al. 2004). However the garment must provide the correct pressure to enhance venous blood return to the heart. A medic or pharmacist will advise you on the best fit. A poor fitting stocking or garment can actually make your condition worse by blocking blood flow in the area where they have bunched up.

I encourage my clients to eat a high-fibre 20g to 30g per day and include fresh vegetables ( 5 to 8 servings) and low sugar fruit, especially berries. If you would like help losing weight using real food, get in touch 

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