Veins are blood vessels that return deoxygenated blood from the outer parts of the body back to the heart and lungs. When veins become abnormally thick, full of twists and turns, or enlarged, they are called varicose vein. This happens most commonly in the veins in the legs and thighs.
- The thickened, twisting or dilated parts of the vein are called varicosities.
- Varicose veins can form anywhere in the body, but they are most often located in the legs.
- Varicose veins tend to be inherited, and become more prominent as a person ages.
These factors increase your risk of developing varicose veins:
- The risk of varicose veins increases with age. Aging causes wear and tear on the valves in your veins that help regulate blood flow. Eventually, that wear causes the valves to allow some blood to flow back into your veins where it collects instead of flowing up to your heart.
- Women are more likely to develop the condition. Hormonal changes during pregnancy, pre-menstruation or menopause may be a factor because female hormones tend to relax vein walls. Taking hormone replacement therapy or birth control pills may increase your risk of varicose veins.
- Family history.If other family members had varicose veins, there’s a greater chance you will too.
- Being overweight puts added pressure on your veins.
- Standing or sitting for long periods of time.Your blood doesn’t flow as well if you’re in the same position for long periods.
The Ayurvedic prospective of vericos veins
Varicose veins are primarily a Vata disorder, caused by an imbalance in Vyana Vata, which creates increased pressure that affects the valves and elasticity of the veins.
Vata is characteristically dry, moving, and rough, and is the mind-body operator (dosha) that governs movement in the body, including the movement of the blood through the arteries and veins.
In fact, Vyana Vata, one of the subdoshas of Vata, is responsible for transporting oxygen-rich blood from the heart to the body’s cells through the arteries. It also governs the flow of oxygen-poor blood from the body’s cells back to the heart through the veins.
To push blood back to the heart, the veins rely mainly on surrounding muscles and a network of one-way valves. As blood flows through a vein, the cuplike valves alternately open to allow blood through, and then close to prevent the blood from flowing backwards.
When Vyana Vata is out of balance, excessive dryness results in hardening and loss of elasticity of the valves and the veins. At the same time, an increase in blood pressure dilates the vein, and the valves no longer seal properly, making it difficult for the muscles to push the blood back to the heart. Instead of flowing from one valve to the next, blood collects in the superficial veins of the legs, which have less muscular support than the deep veins. The result is varicose veins just beneath the surface of the skin.
As a secondary factor, once the blood has accumulated in the veins, an imbalance in Ranjaka Pitta can lead to ulcers in the varicose veins. Pitta dosha is hot and sharp by nature and governs metabolic and hormonal functioning. One of the subdoshas of Pitta, called Ranjaka Pitta, maintains the purity of the blood. Ranjaka Pitta resides in the liver and the spleen and is responsible for blood composition and the distribution of nutrients to cells and tissues through the blood. If Ranjaka Pitta is out of balance, the blood can become impure, or to describe it another way, it becomes mixed with digestive toxins, thick and sluggish, thus contributing to ulcers in varicose veins. Please consult your physician if you notice the appearance of ulcers.
So varicose veins are primarily caused by poor circulation (as governed by Vyana Vata) and its secondary complications such as ulcers are caused by impurities in the blood (as governed by Ranjaka Pitta).
In addition, any condition that puts excessive pressure on the legs or abdomen can cause varicose veins, such as standing for long periods of time, hormonal fluctuations during pregnancy and menopause, obesity, sedentary lifestyle, heavy lifting, chronic constipation, tumors, excessive physical activity that puts pressure on the legs, and aging. Dietary deficiencies or loss of skin elasticity can also contribute to the problem.
Let us understand how we can manage varicose veins with the help of Ayurveda
Q: What causes Vyana Vata and Ranjaka Pitta to go out of balance in the first place?
A: In ayurveda, most disturbances start with faulty digestion. Many factors, such as lifestyle, emotional stress, and eating the wrong foods for your body type or season, can cause the doshas to go out of balance.
Whenever the doshas are out of balance, they soon disturb digestion, with the result that food cannot be properly digested. The undigested food turns into the toxic sticky substance called ama. Ama is the root cause of many diseases.
Q: Are there dietary recommendations for correcting this imbalance?
A: In general, it’s best to follow a Vata-Pitta balancing diet. Especially during the Vata season (winter), you should eat foods that balance the dry, fast-moving, irregular Vata dosha.
To help balance Vata, you’ll want to eat foods that are cooked, warm, and unctuous (meaning that they have a small amount of good fats such as ghee and olive oil). Eat foods that are predominantly sweet, such as whole grains, light dairy products and sweet fruits, as this balances both Vata and Pitta dosha. Also favor moderate amounts of bitter and astringent tastes (which include legumes, greens and most vegetables), as these pacify Pitta dosha. While salty foods are soothing to Vata dosha, you’ll want to moderate your salt intake, because high sodium diets are associated with varicose veins.
One of the signs of imbalanced Vata is constipation, and straining while passing the stool can build up pressure and aggravate varicose veins. So as part of your Vata-Pitta Pacifying Diet, make sure you are getting enough fiber — at least 30 grams a day. Avoid refined carbohydrates and red meat, as these are constipating.
Eat whole grains such as millet and buckwheat, legumes, fruits and vegetables, which are high in fiber and rich in vitamins which can restore health to your veins. Here are some examples:
- Blackberries and cherries help heal varicose veins.
- Vitamin A, which speeds varicose ulcer healing, is found in cantaloupe, carrots, pumpkins, sweet potato, winter squash and leafy greens such as collards.
- B vitamins, which help maintain strong blood vessels, are found in all seasonal fruits, lassi (yogurt drink), whole grains, lentils, pulses (legumes) and dhals.
- Vitamin C and bioflavonoids, which aid circulation, promote healing of sores and strengthen vein walls to prevent dilation, are found in melons, grapes, pomegranate, lemon, lime and other citrus fruits.
- Rutin, one of the bioflavonoids used routinely to treat varicose veins, is present in citrus fruits (especially if you nibble on the white area inside the rind), apricots, blueberries, blackberries, cherries, rose hips and buckwheat.
- Vitamin E, which helps to improve circulation, reduce susceptibility to varicose veins and relieve pain, is found in almonds and almond oil.
- Lecithin, which helps to emulsify fats and improve circulation, is found in tofu and garlic.
- Zinc, which assists with healing and collagen formation, is found in pumpkin seeds and sweet, fresh fruits.
Q: And what about lifestyle changes?
A: The irregular Vata dosha is brought into balance by keeping a regular schedule. Plan your meals at the same time every day, as then your digestive system will be more efficient and stronger. To improve circulation in all seasons, do a daily oil massage using help the skin, muscles and veins to regain their elasticity. A daily oil massage is an important way to balance Vyana Vata, purify toxins, and improve digestion.
Daily exercise is a must for improving circulation and reducing varicose veins. Inverted yoga poses can be especially helpful in restoring the normal flow of blood from the legs to the heart. Elevate your legs when sitting for long periods, and take frequent breaks to restore circulation. Do not stand or sit for long periods of time. If you must stand for a long time, shift your weight from one leg to the other every few minutes. If you must sit for long periods of time, stand up and move around or take a short walk every 30 minutes. Do not cross your legs when sitting to prevent blood from pooling. Avoid tight clothing that constricts your waist, groin, or legs.
Q: Are there any herbal supplements to help with varicose veins?
Xtrong HB and
Are Ayurvedic herbal supplements that help improve circulation and help avoid the build-up of impurities in the veins. These formulas help revitalize the organs and tissues, the deterioration of which causes premature aging and can be a factor in varicose veins.