Varicose Veins

image_varicoseveinsVeins have been considered for decades to be merely passageways for blood to return to the heart. More recent research has shown the remarkable roles that venous blood vessels can perform within the human body. They are capable of dilating and constricting, to provide storage for large volumes of blood in certain areas of the body, and to regulate the amount of blood pumped by the heart (cardiac output). Problems arise when the veins lose their ability to perform these functions efficiently. Most of these problems arise due to a lack of integrity to the walls of these blood vessels. Conditions that can occur include: varicose veins, thrombosis (blood clots in small veins that block circulation), pulmonary embolism (traveling clots that reach the lung), swelling in the ankles, and hemorrhoids.

Over 8 million Americans suffer from disorders of the veins. It usually begins with a breakdown in the integrity of the wall of the vein and progressively deteriorates. The first sign of breakdown is distention or a varicosity. These can be brought on or made worse by excessive standing, oral contraceptives, pregnancy, other hormone changes, and increased abdominal pressure or straining. The next sign of progression can be color changes of the skin and/or dermatitis. Eventually there will be a slowing of the blood that travels through the affected veins and clotting will occur. This leads to blockage of the circulation and swelling “upstream” (i.e. a blockage/varicosity of the calves can lead to edema and swelling of the ankles). Complications can develop if the blood clots break loose and travel to the heart and lungs.

Most therapies for early degeneration of veins include topical medications or injections to cause scarring of the veins. The injections will prevent the veins from further distention but will often leave visible skin changes and render the veins incompetent. Theoretically other veins will carry more blood to offset the veins that are not useless. If more aggressive therapy is necessary surgeons will even remove an incompetent vein. This is known as stripping. Both injections and stripping increase the stress in the remaining veins and increase the likelihood of further venous distentions.

There is much that can be done to improve the integrity and function of the veins of the human body.

  • A diet high in fiber will make the passage of stool easier avoiding chronic abdominal pressure that compromises the function of large veins and can lead to swollen ankles and hemorrhoids.
  • Antioxidants help protect the walls of the veins from damage that will compromise their elasticity.
  • Foods or supplements that break down fibrin in the blood will prevent clotting. “Anti-clotting” foods that improve circulation include no colon onions, garlic, ginger and cayenne.
  • Simple diet changes along with adequate water intake and some nutritional supplements can have dramatic effect on hemorrhoids, varicose veins, spider veins and thrombosis.
  • Regular walking and other exercise helps to improve circulation and helps the veins to return blood to the heart. It also reduces that chances of clot formation.
  • Elevating the feet above the heart can be an excellent way of reversing the pooling of blood in the legs, ankles, and feet due to gravity. Try this 10 minutes two times per day, unless a condition exists that would be made worse by increasing the pressure in your head (retinal detachment, glaucoma, etc.)
  • Avoid long periods of standing or sitting. Try to change the position at least every 30-40 minutes.
  • After bathing massage castor oil onto your problems veins from the bottom up.
  • Walking in cold water will aid constriction of venous blood vessels and will ease pains associated with varicosities.

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