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Varicose Veins

  • By The Practical Physician

Varicose Veins

What is Vein Health?

Veins are fairly frail structures. Defects in the wall of a vein lead to dilation of the vein and damage to the valves. Normally these valves prevent blood from backing up, but when the valves become damaged, blood pools and causes the bulging veins known as varicose veins. Varicose veins may be without symptoms or may be associated with fatigue, aching discomfort, feelings of heaviness, or pain in the legs. They may also be associated with fluid retention (edema), discoloration, and ulceration of the skin may develop.

What affects Vein Health?

The following factors can lead to poor vein health or varicose veins: genetic weakness of the vein walls or their valves; excessive pressure within the vein due to a low-fiber-induced increase in straining during defecation; long periods of standing and/or heavy lifting; damage to the veins or venous valves resulting from inflammation; and weakness of the vein walls.

What dietary factors are important in Vein Health?

A high-fiber diet is the most important component in the treatment and prevention of varicose veins (and hemorrhoids). A diet rich in vegetables, fruits, legumes, and grains promotes peristalsis; many fiber components attract water and form a gelatinous mass that keeps the feces soft, bulky, and easy to pass. Individuals who consume a low-fiber diet tend to strain more during bowel movements since their smaller and harder stools are more difficult to pass. This straining increases the pressure in the abdomen, which obstructs the flow of blood up the legs. The increased pressure may, over a period of time, significantly weaken the vein wall, leading to the formation of varicose veins or hemorrhoids.

Flavonoid-rich berries, such as cherries, blueberries, and blackberries, are beneficial in the prevention and treatment of varicose veins. These berries are very rich sources of flavonoids that improve the integrity of support structures of the veins and entire vascular system. Extracts of several of these berries are used widely in Europe as medications for various circulatory conditions, including varicose veins. Grape seed extract and pine bark extracts are the most popular and possibly the most effective. The recommended daily dosage for these extracts is 150 to 300 mg daily.

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