What are varicose veins?

Varicose veins are dilated and twisted veins under the skin. They result from damage to the tiny valves in the veins, weakness of the venous walls, or increased intraluminal pressure; resulting in an inability to stop blood pooling in the veins.

Varicose veins can form anywhere in the body, but they are most often located in the legs. They occur in 10-20% of the population and may appear at any age, but the peak incidence is between 50 and 60 years of age.

Primary varicose veins are often asymptomatic, causing only cosmetic concerns. Secondary varicose veins can cause aching pain when standing and walking, often worse at night which may be relieved by elevation. The skin over the vein may become dry, itchy and thin and may discolor as a result of waste build up.

What Causes & Triggers varicose veins to occur?

  • Genetics
  • Gender – three times more common in women
  • Pregnancy
  • Occupations requiring prolonged standing
  • Weight gain & obesity
  • Constipation & straining
  • Proximal obstructing lesions (e.g. tumor)
  • Conditions predisposing to deep venous thrombosis – such as trauma, surgery, immobilization 

What Lifestyle factors should you address?

  • Avoidance of prolonged sitting, standing, or walking, also avoid crossing the legs as this impedes circulation.
  • Weight management.
  • Exercise – essential to keep blood pumping through the legs and improve circulation.
  • Periodic elevation of the legs to drain the blood away. yoga pose – legs up against a wall for 15 mins each day.
  • Avoid chemicals & reduce toxicity – some chemicals such as BPA have estrogenic effects and high estrogen has been linked to spider veins.

What can we do nutritionally to help?

  • Increase foods rich in Vitamin C & E – required for connective tissue strength (collagen & elastin)
    • Vitamin E – sunflower seeds, almonds, avocado, spinach
    • Vitamin C – papaya, capsicum, broccoli, citrus fruits
  • Include foods rich in bioflavonoids to strengthen the veins, such as berries, dark leafy greens, rosehip tea and the pith of citrus fruits.
  • Eat foods that stimulate circulation, such as chilli, ginger, garlic and onions.
  • Beetroot – known to significantly reduce levels of homocysteine, a naturally occurring amino acid that can damage blood vessels. Also, assist nitric oxide production which boosts circulation.
  • Increase fibre to reduce constipation and straining.
  • Drink more water.

What supplements do you recommend?

  • Vitamin C – strengthen the capillary walls and may assist in reversing increased capillary fragility.
  • Omega 3 – fish oil may prevent vascular thickening and improve vascular elasticity.
  • Turmeric – anti-inflammatory and antioxidant actions to reduce inflammation and platelet activation, to reduce thrombotic risk.

Other treatment options:

  • Body brushing to stimulate lymphatic flow and venous return.
  • Acupuncture may be helpful in improving the overall circulatory system and reducing venous congestion.
  • Massage may be beneficial in alleviating venous congestion and mechanically stimulating circulation.
  • Compression socks.