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Varicose veins are swollen and twisted veins that appear as raised blue and purple cords on the skin, especially in the legs. Older age, a family history of the condition and being overweight can put you at risk of developing varicose veins. Pregnant women and those with constipation also tend to get varicose veins. Additionally, water retention in the body can lead to varicose veins: increased water puts extra pressure on the veins to push blood, making you prone to varicose veins.

Some people with varicose veins experience pain and cramps in the affected area, which can be debilitating in extreme cases. However, varicose veins can be controlled with the help of some dietary and lifestyle modifications along with some simple home remedies. But before beginning with the remedies, it is important to know what exactly causes varicose veins.

Varicose veins appear due to the backflow of blood inside your veins. Veins are blood vessels that carry deoxygenated blood from tissues back to the heart. To ensure that blood flows towards the heart, veins have a single valve in them. However, problems in these valves can cause the blood to flow backwards, making the veins swell and show up as blue and purple cords on the skin.

More commonly seen in legs since gravity pulls blood down (opposite direction to the heart), varicose veins can also be seen in the other parts of the body. For example, haemorrhoids and varicocele are also a type of varicose veins that occur in the rectum and scrotum, respectively. Spider veins, a milder form of varicose veins, don't usually cause pain and may appear on the thighs, belly or elsewhere in the body.

Read on for natural remedies - including good foods, exercise and massage - for all these types of varicose veins.

  1. Home remedies for varicose veins
  2. Lose weight to manage varicose veins
  3. Other ways to manage varicose veins

Most home remedies for varicose veins aim to improve blood circulation and reduce pain and swelling. If you are overweight, it is important to lose weight fast and safely since obesity and being overweight is one of the risk factors for varicose veins. Here are some remedies that may help you manage varicose veins:

Low-impact exercises for varicose veins

It is common knowledge that exercise improves blood circulation. It helps the pooled blood move along in the blood vessel and towards the heart. Generally, low and moderate-intensity exercises such as cycling, walking, swimming and yoga are said to be good for improving varicose veins symptoms. 

And while exercise may seem like a logical option for improving circulation, there aren’t many studies to prove the efficiency of this method.

In a case study done in India, a woman with varicose veins reportedly got symptomatic relief with one and a half months of yoga therapy combined with some loosening and flexing exercises like ankle rotation, backward leg raises and side lunges. The woman practised yoga for an hour, six days a week, for six weeks.

Diet for varicose veins

Dietary changes for the management of varicose veins depend on the cause of the condition. Having said that, there are some healthy habits that all people living with varicose veins can adopt:

  • Cut salt and add potassium: If your varicose veins are caused due to water retention or have lead to oedema, you should reduce your salt intake as salt promotes water retention in tissues. Additionally, a diet rich in potassium will help balance electrolytes in your body and would promote the resolution of oedema. Some potassium-rich foods include raisins, bananas, apricots, potatoes, and kidney beans.
  • Eat flavonoid-rich foods: Flavonoids are a group of plant chemicals that are known for their benefits for cardiovascular health. Clinical studies show that flavonoids can reduce oedema in legs, and improve blood circulation. They also reduce heaviness in legs, which a lot of varicose veins patients experience.
    Flavonoids are found in most vegetables and fruits. Some of the flavonoid-rich foods include coffee, tea, chocolate, wine, grapes, apples, onions, hot peppers, soybean and legumes.
  • Consume more fibre: Fiber comprises complex carbs that improve our digestion and absorption of food in the intestines. Also, fibre-rich food softens stools so they can easily pass through the gut. So, if constipation is the underlying cause of varicose veins, adding more fibre to your diet will help you get symptomatic relief.
    However, make sure you don't go overboard with fibre: the recommended dietary intake is 25 grams of fibre per day.
    Don’t forget to drink ample water (eight to 10 glasses a day) along with a fibre-rich diet. Water helps the fibre to soften and makes it easy to pass out of the body.
    Some fibre-rich foods include whole grains, fruits like apple, banana, orange, figs, nuts and seeds like peanuts and almonds, most vegetables including potatoes, carrots, beetroot and broccoli.

Massage for varicose veins

Regular massage therapy is one of the components of the ayurvedic treatment of varicose veins. It is suggested that the massage should be done in upward motions and direct pressure should never be applied to the affected areas as it might worsen the condition. 

There isn’t much scientific evidence to prove the efficiency of massage for varicose veins. However, a 2017 study suggested that friction massage is beneficial in increasing venous blood flow in legs. In friction massage, pressure is applied to the joint area with the fingertips to improve circulation in the area.

Some of the oils that are used for massaging varicose vein patients are olive oil, castor oil and mustard oil.

If you have varicose veins, talk to your doctor about the right way to massage your limbs and how beneficial it is for your condition.

Compression stockings for varicose veins

Compression stockings are one of the most common methods to manage varicose veins. These are hosiery stockings that compress the superficial veins and send most of the blood to the deeper veins in the legs, thus relieving varicose veins symptoms. Compression stockings are available in various lengths, ranging from knee to thigh length. The external pressure is not equal at all points. It is much higher in the ankles than at the thigh or calf. This further causes the blood to flow quickly through the legs.

A randomised double-blind placebo trial done in 2018 indicated that compression stockings can help reduce leg pain and swelling in varicose vein patients.

A systematic review published in the peer-reviewed medical journal Phelobology indicated that compression stockings are highly beneficial in the treatment of venous diseases and the evidence is supported by multiple studies, though more studies are needed to find out if these stockings are beneficial for varicose veins.

These stockings are contraindicated for patients who have severe congestive heart failure. Also, it is best to check with a doctor to know what size of stockings will suit you well.

Natural remedies for varicose veins

A number of natural remedies are known to be good for varicose veins.  These include:

  • Gotu kola: Gotu kola is a herb belonging to the parsley family which is known for its therapeutic benefits. Commonly known as Indian pennywort, mandukparni or Jalbrahmi, Gotu kola is used for treating blood pressure problems and for improving longevity. It also helps improve venous insufficiency (inability of veins to send blood up from legs to the heart) as in case of varicose veins. It is said that Gotu kola acts on the connective tissue and strengthens veins, enabling them to perform their function efficiently. 
  • Apple cider vinegar (ACV): Apple cider vinegar is scientifically proven to be effective for varicose veins. However, you don’t have to drink it, rather massage it on your legs twice a day and then leave it covered with a cloth for about 30 minutes.
    This method was found to be effective in a clinical study done in 2016 where more than 100 patients with varicose veins reported relief from the oedema, pain, irritation and fatigue associated with the condition. However, all of the patients in this study took ACV as a supplement to conventional treatment and not as a stand-alone therapy.  
  • Grape seed extract: Grape seed extract supplements are also used to treat venous insufficiency. In a randomised double-blind placebo trial, grape seed extract was found to be efficient in reducing leg swelling in women that occurs due to sitting for long hours.
  • Aromatics and citrus fruits: Garlic, amla, ginger, onion and citrus fruits are considered to be helpful for the management of varicose veins. Though most of these do contain anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds, there aren’t any scientific studies to prove the safety and efficiency of any of these remedies in varicose veins.

Obesity is one of the major risk factors for varicose veins. Clinical studies suggest that obese people have higher intra-abdominal pressure. Hence, they are more prone to backflow of blood in the veins of the legs. They also have a larger venous diameter, making it easier for the blood to reflux (flow in the wrong direction). 

Hence, if you are obese or overweight and are suffering from the pain and distress associated with varicose veins, it is best that you make some dietary and lifestyle changes and manage your weight. This includes taking a more balanced diet, complete with fruits, vegetables, grains and legumes and regular exercise.

To know if you are in the overweight category, you can check your body mass index (BMI). BMI can be calculated by dividing your weight in kilograms with the square of your height in meters.

BMI = Your weight in Kg/ (Your height in meters)2

People with a BMI of 30 or above are considered obese.

Read more: 15 tried and tested tips to lose weight

Apart from the above-mentioned remedies, you can try the following to help you manage varicose veins:

  • Avoid wearing high heels: High heels put pressure on your legs and keep the veins in your legs from functioning properly.
  • Don’t sit in one place for prolonged periods: Keep changing positions to allow proper blood flow in your legs.
  • Elevate your legs twice a day: Raise them to the level of your heart or higher for a while (about 15-20 minutes, at least twice a day). This may help the blood in your legs to flow towards the heart and provide temporary relief from the condition.
  • Avoid wearing tight clothes: Tight clothes may restrict blood circulation.

References

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  9. Kumar Mahesh. Review article: Scope of ayurvedic drugs and leech therapy in management of varicose vein of lower limb. Journal of Biological and Scientific Opinion. 2014; 2(1): 121-123.
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  12. National Clinical Guideline Centre (UK). Varicose Veins in the Legs: The Diagnosis and Management of Varicose Veins. London: National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (UK); 2013 Jul. (NICE Clinical Guidelines, No. 168.) 8, Conservative Management. Available
  13. Kakkos Stavros K., et al. Acute Effects of Graduated Elastic Compression Stockings in Patients with Symptomatic Varicose Veins: A Randomised Double Blind Placebo Controlled Trial. European Journal of Vascular and Endovascular Surgery. 2018 Jan; 55(1): 118-125.
  14. Rabe Eberhard, et al. Indications for medical compression stockings in venous and lymphatic disorders: An evidence-based consensus statement. Phlebology. 2018 Apr; 33(3): 163–184. PMID: 28549402.
  15. Gohil Kashmira J., Patel Jagruti A., and Gajjar Anuradha K. Pharmacological Review on Centella asiatica: A Potential Herbal Cure-all. Indian J Pharm Sci. 2010 Sep-Oct; 72(5): 546–556. PMID: 21694984.
  16. Chong Nyuk Jet and Aziz Zoriah. A Systematic Review of the Efficacy of Centella asiatica for Improvement of the Signs and Symptoms of Chronic Venous Insufficiency. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2013; 2013: 627182. PMID: 23533507.
  17. Atik Derya, Atik Cem, Karatepe Celalettin. The Effect of External Apple Vinegar Application on Varicosity Symptoms, Pain, and Social Appearance Anxiety: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2016; 2016: 6473678. PMID: 26881006.
  18. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health [Internet]. Bethesda (MD): U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Grape Seed Extract
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  20. van Rij AM, De Alwis CS, Jiang P, et al. Obesity and impaired venous function. Eur J Vasc Endovasc Surg. 2008;35(6):739–744. PMID: 18313335
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