Foods That Could Make Varicose Veins Worse
Varicose veins affect half of Americans over the age of 50. While varicose veins generally don't cause serious health problems, they can be painful and unsightly. They are difficult to prevent, but can be managed with a healthy diet and lifestyle. Staying away from certain foods can reduce the formation of varicose veins and prevent existing varicose veins from worsening.
How Varicose Veins Form
To understand what causes varicose vein formation, it's important to first understand a little bit of the physiology behind blood circulation. The circulatory system is composed of the heart and the arteries, veins, and capillaries which circulate blood throughout the body. Arteries carry blood away from the heart and out to tissues, while veins bring blood from the tissues back to the heart. Veins tend to have a harder job than arteries since they are much less muscular. They prevent the back flow of blood with one-way valves but also rely on muscle contractions to keep blood moving toward the heart. Sometimes these valves can become weakened, especially in the legs where veins must work against gravity to move blood up to the heart. Weakened valves allow blood to flow backwards, where it pools and pushes on the inside of veins. These veins eventually become stretched out, resulting in varicose veins.
Blood Volume and Varicose Veins
An average adult has approximately 5 liters of blood, but this volume can fluctuate depending on the foods we eat. The body's cells must maintain a certain concentration of minerals (like sodium and potassium) in order to function correctly. When a person ingests an excess amount of sodium, the body responds by retaining more water in order to maintain the proper concentration. The opposite happens when we eat a lot of potassium, which exists in the fluid outside of cells. Potassium causes cells to release water that is then excreted in the urine.
Water Retention is Bad News for Varicose Veins
When the body retains water in response to excess sodium or deficient potassium consumption, the volume of blood circulating in the body temporarily increases. This increase creates excess pressure on veins and their valves, contributing to their weakness. A high salt or low potassium diet over the course of a lifetime increases a person's chances for developing varicose veins due to constant water retention.
Foods That Cause Water Retention
Anything with a high salt content causes water retention. This includes most canned soups, chili, TV dinners, pizza, hot dogs, and ham. Other foods that are usually high in sodium include salad dressings, many cheeses, macaroni and cheese, soy sauce (essentially liquid-salt), and pickles. Sugar and simple carbohydrates can also cause water retention.
Foods with a lot of sugar or simple carbohydrates cause the release of massive amounts of insulin. Insulin impairs your body's ability to excrete sodium, resulting water retention. Stay away from alcohol and fruit juices that are high in sugar to keep varicose veins from growing. If you're developing varicose veins, be sure to eat plenty of foods that are high in fiber and potassium and low in sugar and salt. Not only will it help the exacerbation of varicose veins, but it's also important for avoiding other common health problems.