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When patients have their varicose veins treated at our clinic, they want to do everything they can to maintain their results and prevent new varicose veins from forming. Will compression stockings help? Exercise? Is there a diet for varicose veins?
Over the next few months, we’re going to address some of the most common questions we get from our patients here on our blog. Today, we’ll take a deep dive into that last question and talk about the impact our diets have on varicose veins.
What Are Varicose Veins?
When superficial veins become twisted and enlarged, they are considered varicose. The twisting impedes circulation, which causes the veins to appear dark purple or blue as blood pools within them. Varicose veins have a bulging, rope-like appearance; this differs from spider veins, which are smaller and closer to the surface of the skin. Although they can form in any part of the body where there are superficial veins, varicose veins are most commonly found in the legs.
About 20% of adults experience varicose veins. In some patients, varicose veins are unsightly, but cause no other physical symptoms. Other patients have a great deal of pain. Symptoms of varicose veins include:
- Aching, cramping and pain; this pain increases after sitting or standing for a long period of time
- A feeling of heaviness in the legs
- Burning or tingling sensations
- Swelling and throbbing
- Tenderness around the veins
Untreated varicose veins may result in more serious complications including inflammation, blood clots, ulcers, and bleeding.
There are many factors that can put a person at risk for varicose veins. The most common reasons we see varicose veins develop are:
- Age – As we age, the valves in our veins become weakened, leading to pooling blood.
- Sex – Women are more likely to have varicose veins than men. We think this is because female hormones relax vein walls.
- Pregnancy – The increase in blood volume during pregnancy can cause veins to become enlarged, while hormonal changes cause vein walls to weaken.
- Genetics – If you have a family history of varicose veins, you’re a higher risk of having them yourself.
- Sedentary lifestyle – Sitting for long periods of time causes blood to pool in the legs.
- Jobs that require long periods of standing – Even if you’re standing instead of sitting, your blood doesn’t flow as well as it does when you’re moving regularly.
- Obesity – Carrying extra weight adds pressure to your veins.
Diet for Varicose Veins
When we talk about a diet for varicose veins, we’re really talking about two things. The first is a diet that allows us to achieve and maintain a healthy weight. The second is a diet with foods that support vein health.
Let’s talk about that first point here. Increased body weight increases the risk of varicose veins. While there are many risk factors we can’t do anything about––age, sex, genetics––we do have control over our lifestyle. If you are obese, you can decrease your likelihood of getting varicose veins by losing weight.
Incorporating exercise into our daily lives, particularly if we have a job that requires us to stand or sit for long periods of time, is the first part of the equation. Next, work with a doctor or nutritionist to determine a healthy weight for your body and change your eating habits to help you achieve it. Our Lifestyle and Fitness Coaches can partner with you to come up with a customized plan that takes into account your personal goals.
Foods That Support Healthy Circulation
Patients who ask us about a diet for varicose veins often want a list of foods to eat that will prevent or reverse the formation of varicose veins. Unfortunately, this doesn’t exist. Instead, we can talk about choosing foods that increase blood flow and improve poor circulation.
Before we get to the foods, there’s one more dietary change you can make to boost your circulation: stay hydrated! Drink plenty of water throughout the day. When you’re properly hydrated, your blood flows through your veins more freely. Blood is more likely to pool in your veins when you’re dehydrated.
An overall balanced diet full of whole grains, healthy fats, and lean proteins is the best thing we can do for our well-being. Whole foods are always a better choice than packaged; homemade is superior to takeout; vibrant and colorful is better than shades of beige and white. When it comes to foods with specific benefits for circulation, try incorporating the following into your daily meals:
Berries were one of the first foods to achieve superfood status thanks to their high antioxidant content. Most berries are also anti-inflammatory, and we know that chronic inflammation can contribute to circulation problems.
Throw a few extra cloves of garlic into your next pot of homemade soup and you might be helping your vein health. Garlic contains allicin, which has been shown to decrease blood pressure and increase blood flow.
Like berries, pomegranates are a fantastic source of antioxidants. Research shows that pomegranate extract, in particular, can boost blood flow and blood vessel diameter during workouts.
Spinach and other leafy greens contain nitrates. Nitrates are converted into nitric oxide by the body, a substance that increases circulation by dilating blood vessels.
Another great source of nitrates to help open up your blood vessels? Beets! Try using both the greens and the root to maximize its health benefits.
Tomato extract has been shown to reduce inflammation and dilate blood vessels to improve circulation.
Like leafy greens, walnuts can boost the body’s production of nitric oxide. Walnuts have a wide range of cardiovascular benefits, from decreasing blood pressure, increasing blood flow, and decreasing inflammation.
Citrus fruits are an excellent source of flavonoids, which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Don’t just drink the juice, though––fiber from the whole fruit is important too.
We all know that salmon and other fatty fish have omega-3 fatty acids; when it comes to circulation, that means an increase in nitric oxide for better blood flow. Omega-3 fats have also been shown to prevent blood from clotting.
Incorporate a wide variety of spices in your diet––it’s not just a boost in the flavor department, it’s also a boost for your circulation! Turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, and cayenne have all been found to dilate blood vessels to improve circulation. These spices are also anti-inflammatory and antioxidant.
These are the foods that can help support vein function, but what foods are bad for your veins? It’s probably not a surprise that salt, sugar, and trans fats are best avoided when it comes to circulatory health. Eat these foods sparingly, if at all.
Proven Treatments for Varicose Veins
Eating a healthy diet and getting regular exercise are two of the best things you can do to prevent varicose veins from forming. Skip the high heels when you’re going to be on your feet for a while and elevate your legs when you can. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so doing what you can to prevent varicose veins from forming is a lot easier than treating them once they’ve formed.
Compression stockings are our first line of defense when varicose veins are beginning to develop. You can purchase these stockings online or at your local pharmacy; we can also write a prescription for you if stronger compression stockings are needed. Compression stockings work by exerting steady pressure on your legs to keep blood moving through the veins.
When varicose veins are more severe, we turn to medical interventions to treat them. This includes sclerotherapy to close problem veins, laser treatment, stripping and ligation to tie veins, ambulatory phlebectomy to remove small varicose veins, and endoscopic vein surgery when varicose veins are severe and other treatments have failed.
Varicose Veins Treatment at CORE Medical & Wellness
At CORE Medical & Wellness, we use laser treatment to close off faulty veins. We’ve chosen to focus on this particular varicose veins treatment because we believe it has the best outcomes with minimal risk to patients. Benefits of laser treatment for varicose veins include:
- Treatment is done in under 2 hours
- It has a high success rate – up to 98%
- Symptoms are relieved immediately
- It’s less painful than vein stripping
- There’s little-to-no downtime after the procedure
- You don’t need general anesthesia
- You’ll have minimal-to-no scarring
Treatment for varicose veins at CORE Medical & Wellness starts with an ultrasound procedure that maps your veins. We use local anesthesia to numb the area, then we insert a thin laser fiber into the vein. This delivers laser energy to seal the vein in question.
Make an Appointment with Our Board-Certified Physician
Are you bothered by your varicose veins? We can help. CORE Medical & Wellness takes a holistic approach to wellness. Dr. Kim will treat your varicose veins and help you make the lifestyle changes you need to prevent them from coming back. Schedule an appointment today to learn more about what makes CORE different.
Dr. Steven Kim received his B.A. in biochemistry from Cornell University, then completed his M.S. from Columbia University and his M.D. from the State University of New York Downstate Medical Center. Dr. Kim specializes in the treatment of varicose veins and vein disease. Read his full bio here.