If you have varicose veins, you may be wondering what you can do to improve your vein health. One potential way to make your situation better is to commit to a healthy diet. While eating the right foods goes a long way in improving vein health, avoiding other types of food can be just as beneficial.
Keep in mind that even the best food for varicose veins will not make them disappear. However, good nutrition for healthy veins is key to managing symptoms and can help keep things from getting worse.
Below, we cover the basics of vein disease and discuss how what you eat can impact your overall vein health. We also provide some helpful varicose vein diet tips. Beyond that, we want you to know that when healthy eating isn’t enough, we can help.
At USA Vein Clinics, we offer minimally-invasive, outpatient vein treatment that can relieve your painful and uncomfortable symptoms. Here’s what you need to know.
Varicose and spider veins are signs of underlying vein disease, or venous insufficiency. Vein disease develops when your veins are placed under strain, causing damage to tiny vein valves. When vein valves malfunction, they are unable to efficiently circulate blood back to your heart. This can cause blood to pool in different regions of the body.
Most often, venous insufficiency impacts the lower extremities –– that is, the legs, ankles, and feet. For some people, the ability to stand up or comfortably move around can be affected, leading to a diminished quality of life. Others may feel self-conscious about the unsightly appearance of visible veins. Because of this, they may avoid wearing shorts or skirts.
It is important to note that vein disease is usually progressive, so symptoms tend to worsen over time. We also want you to know that early intervention helps bring about the best possible outcomes.
If you have vein disease, you may experience mild, moderate, or severe pain and discomfort in affected areas. Symptoms of vein disease can vary and include:
- Swelling in the legs and ankles
- Itchy, dry skin
- Numbness or tingling sensation
- Difficulty standing for long periods
- Burning in the calf or thigh
- Non-healing wounds on your legs
Along with causing painful and uncomfortable symptoms, vein disease sometimes gives rise to dangerous health conditions.
One potentially dangerous outcome of vein disease is the development of blood clots. The most common type involved is known as Superficial Thrombophlebitis. Superficial Thrombophlebitis symptoms are similar to those of venous insufficiency, but can be more serious and severe. Be sure to contact your doctor as soon as possible if you notice:
- Red, inflamed skin along the affected vein
- Warmness in the surrounding tissue
- Tenderness and pain, similar to a bruise
- Pain in limbs
- Darkened skin in the area
- Hardening of the vein
A serious type of blood clot called Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) can also occur. This is considered a medical emergency. Please seek immediate care if you experience:
- Leg pain
- Redness or skin discoloration
- Cramping in the calf
Blood clots in the deep veins can potentially break off and travel to the lungs. This is called a Pulmonary Embolism (PE) and it is a life-threatening situation. Act quickly and go to the nearest emergency room if you notice any PE symptoms, which include:
- Rapid heart rate
- Difficulty breathing
- Feeling faint
- Chest pain or discomfort made worse by deep breaths or coughs
Another potentially dangerous condition related to vein disease is the formation of venous ulcers. These are open, non-healing wounds that develop near varicose veins. Venous ulcers are often mistaken for unrelated skin issues. If you have venous insufficiency, be on the lookout for:
- Cracked or dry skin that may open up
- Hardened skin around the ulcer
- Itchy, dry skin on the legs
- Brown, red, or purple color on the skin
If you notice any of the above symptoms, contact your doctor or a vein specialist as soon as possible. Untreated venous ulcers can lead to serious skin or blood infections.
Risk Factors for Developing Vein Disease
You may be wondering who is most at risk for developing vein disease. You are considered at increased risk if you:
- Have a family history of varicose veins
- Are obese or overweight
- Are inactive
- Are female
- Are over age 50
- Are pregnant
- Have other underlying health conditions, such as high blood pressure or diabetes
- Spend long periods of your day standing or sitting
Unfortunately, you cannot control all of your risk factors. However, you may be able to mitigate some of them to avoid potentially dangerous situations. Regular medical monitoring by a doctor or vein specialist can also be beneficial.
For many patients, a good start towards improved vein health is to exercise daily, avoid prolonged periods of standing or sitting, and lose excess weight. Beyond that, eating (and avoiding!) certain foods can be helpful.
How Diet Can Impact Vein Health
Eating well can potentially improve your vein health in several ways. First of all, it can help you maintain a healthy Body Mass Index (BMI). This can reduce undue strain on your veins. Healthy eating can also boost your energy so that you remain active. Physical activity can help improve symptoms like leg swelling and cramping. Finally, following the right diet can improve your overall blood circulation. This can help stave off venous insufficiency.
Foods for Varicose Veins
Now that you understand vein disease and why healthy eating is important, you are probably wondering how to strengthen veins with food. Let’s start by asking, what foods are good for varicose veins? We have plenty of recommendations.
Your diet for venous insufficiency should include:
Fresh, Colorful Fruits and Vegetables
We suggest that you eat a variety of colors, along with a mixture of raw and cooked fruits and vegetables. Along with promoting better blood circulation, fruits and vegetables are anti-inflammatory. They can help reduce symptomatic swelling due to varicose veins.
Some of our favorites include:
- Broccoli, kale, and spinach: Leafy greens pack a nutritional punch and are high in fiber.
- Brussels sprouts: Try roasting them with a touch of olive oil.
- Hot, sweet, and red bell peppers: These colorful items make great snacks.
- Red and yellow onions: You can eat them raw in sandwiches and salads, or cooked into entrees.
- Garlic: Saute some in olive oil, because who doesn’t love that savory aroma?
- Citrus fruits: Vitamin C improves blood flow and helps build collagen stores so that veins retain elasticity.
- Strawberries: These delicious, low-calorie treats make a tasty and healthy dessert.
- Tropical fruits: Why not envision an island getaway while also benefiting your veins with mangoes and papaya?
If you are prone to heartburn issues, you may have some concerns about some of the above food groups. To avoid potential discomfort, you can:
- Eat smaller, more frequent meals and snacks
- Don’t eat within three hours of bedtime (or lying down)
- Sleep with your head raised 6-8 inches
- Wear loose, non-constrictive clothing, especially around your abdomen
- Lose excess weight
- Don’t smoke
Eating foods rich in fiber can help digestion, which can benefit your vein health. Constipation places pressure on veins and leads to vein valve damage.
Fiber-rich foods are also part of a balanced diet to manage blood pressure and cholesterol levels, which also affect vein health. Unfortunately, the average American adult eats only 10-15 grams of fiber per day. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends the following quantities:
- Women: 25 grams (up to age 50), 21 grams (over age 50)
- Men: 38 grams (up to age 50), 30 grams (over age 50)
Good sources of fiber include:
- Fruits and vegetables: Eat up when it comes to leafy greens, avocado, apples, and sweet potatoes. Of course, many other types of fruits and vegetables also contain fiber.
- Whole grains: These staples include whole wheat, oatmeal, barley, and brown rice. If you’re looking for a crunchy, fiber-rich snack, try air-popped popcorn.
- Nuts, seeds, and legumes: Chia seeds, lentils, and walnuts are all excellent fiber sources.
Foods rich in Vitamin E
Did you know that Vitamin E can help promote proper blood flow? It may also prevent Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT). You can find this powerhouse nutrient in these delicious foods:
- Nuts: Look for Vitamin E in almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, and brazil nuts.
- Seeds: Sunflower and pumpkin seeds can help your blood circulation.
- Avocados: Try mashing half an avocado on whole wheat toast for a delicious, healthy start to the day.
- Olive oil: A good source of healthy fat, olive oil is also rich in Vitamin E.
- Pumpkin: For your convenience, you can buy non-perishable cans of this fall favorite to use all year round.
- Mangos: Enjoy a tropical experience as you reduce potentially dangerous venous insufficiency.
- Dark leafy greens: Reach for spinach, kale, arugula, swiss chard, bok choy, or collard greens to add this important nutrient to your diet.
- Fish: Reduce or eliminate your meat and poultry intake by eating fish like salmon and trout.
Foods with Omega-3
Omega-3 fatty acids are known for stimulating blood flow. They can also help break down potentially dangerous blood clots. Look for it in the following foods:
- Fatty fish: Salmon, mackerel, tuna, sardines
- Nuts and seeds: Flax seeds, chia seeds, walnuts
- Plant-based oils: Canola, soybean, flaxseed
- Fortified foods: Eggs, yogurt, juice, milk, soy beverages
Other Foods and Drinks
- Tea: Reach for green or herbal varieties. Along with its healing properties, tea consumption can help keep you properly hydrated.
- Chocolate: Most people are happy to learn that chocolate is good for vein health. Just be sure to eat it in moderation and choose dark chocolate, which has less sugar.
Foods to Avoid for Varicose Veins
Along with the importance of eating the above foods, we want you to know it’s crucial to avoid others. Unfortunately, ingesting the wrong foods and substances can cause additional damage to your veins and make matters worse.
Food to avoid for healthy veins include the following:
Although sodium is an important nutrient, ingesting too much sodium can cause vein damage. This is because excess sodium tends to result in fluid retention. Fluid retention increases pressure in veins.
To avoid this issue, it is generally recommended to remain under 2,300mg of sodium per day. That is the equivalent of one teaspoon of salt. For comparison, most Americans eat about 3,400mg each day.
A low sodium diet restricts your sodium intake to under 1,500mg a day. Eating a low-sodium diet can help you avoid fluid retention and maintain healthy blood pressure levels. Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is another known risk factor for vein disease.
You should be aware that sodium resides in more places than just your salt shaker. In fact, it can be hidden in surprising sources. Be sure to read the nutritional labels on bread, pizza, lunch meats, soup, highly processed foods, and snack foods. This will help ensure that you are not inadvertently eating more than you should.
According to the American Heart Association (AHA), Americans eat around 77 grams of sugar per day. However, AHA recommendations are to eat less than 36 grams per day for men and less than 25 grams for women.
As with many other health conditions, eating too much sugar is asking for trouble when it comes to your veins. Sugar and sugary foods contribute to weight gain, which places stress on veins. Also, eating excess sugar can raise blood sugar levels and lead to diabetes, another known risk factor for vein disease.
Like sodium, it is easy to eat more sugar than you should. You’ll find it in all the obvious places like sodas, candy, and cookies. However, there are also many hidden sources. Before buying packaged products, check the labels on items like pasta sauces, salad dressings, and even flour tortillas. You may be surprised by just how much sugar you are eating in your daily diet.
If you are craving something sweet, skip items with added sugar and instead enjoy a serving of fresh fruit.
While healthy fats like olive oil, canola oil, salmon, nuts, or avocado are fine, watch out for unhealthy ones. These include animal-based saturated fats like those in red meat, poultry, and full-fat dairy products. You should also avoid trans fats, or those that are partially hydrogenated.
Still not sure which fats are okay to eat? Here’s a helpful tip: most saturated and trans fats are solid at room temperature, like butter, coconut oil, and shortening. Healthy ones, such as olive and canola oil, remain in liquid form.
Drinking alcohol can affect your veins by causing your heart to pump faster. Unlike with an increased heart rate due to exercise, this situation does not promote better blood circulation. Instead, it places strain on your veins which can worsen venous insufficiency.
Alcohol consumption also affects liver function, which can thicken your blood. It can also cause dehydration. All of these factors are known to worsen vein symptoms like leg pain, swelling, and cramping.
If you love your morning cup of coffee, we have bad news. You may need to eliminate or at least reduce your caffeine intake for the sake of your veins. Large doses of caffeine can negatively impact your vein health. Ask your doctor about the benefits of limiting caffeine consumption and safe amounts for you.
Along with increasing other health risks, smoking is bad for your veins. This dangerous habit causes blood vessels to narrow, affects overall blood circulation, and can ultimately lead to painful vein symptoms.
Fried foods are generally prepared in large amounts of unhealthy oils, making them off limits for those with vein disease. They can contribute to weight gain and constipation and place unnecessary stress on your veins.
Fast Food, Pizza
Fast food is high in sodium, sugar, and unhealthy fats, making it a triple whammy for your veins. It is also chock full of calories, making it difficult to maintain a healthy BMI. For similar reasons, pizza is also off-limits for those with vein disease. If you need to order drive-thru or delivery, choose a salad topped with lean protein –– and skip the fries and shake!
Canned Goods, Frozen Meals, and Processed Meats
Highly processed foods are often packed with sodium and sugar. Fortunately, nutrition labels make it easy to spot the worst offenders. Be sure to do your research when stocking your pantry and adhere to dietary guidelines on these potentially harmful substances. Look for low sodium and low sugar varieties. Your veins will thank you!
Like fast food establishments, many restaurants are overly generous with sodium, sugar, and unhealthy fats. In addition, restaurant portions tend to be large and can contribute to weight gain. If you decide to eat out, choose grilled menu items, pile on the veggies, and pass on alcoholic drinks and decadent desserts.
Foods That Cause Constipation
If you struggle with digestive issues, you may want to avoid certain foods like dairy products and red meat. These items are known to worsen constipation, which can lead to malfunctioning veins.
5 Quick Questions to Evaluate Your Vein Health
Hydration for Healthy Veins
Along with eating the right foods for vein health, proper hydration is essential. Drinking enough water helps to thin the blood and keep it moving efficiently throughout your body. Water also fends off constipation. Dehydration, on the other hand, can cause your blood to thicken and lead to potentially dangerous blood clots.
The exact amount of water your body requires is determined by your age, weight, activity level, whether you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, and other factors. Note that increasing your fiber intake, as recommended for better vein health, can require an increase in hydration, too.
Many health experts recommend drinking eight 8-ounce glasses of water (64 ounces) each day. This is likely a good goal, but you may want to ask your doctor what amount is best for you.
Do you have trouble drinking enough water? Try some of the following tips:
- Fill a couple of 32-ounce water bottles each morning to drink throughout the day
- Start your day with a glass of water
- Drink water with every meal
- Rehydrate during and after exercise
- Try sparkling water or herbal tea for variety
- Add fruit slices for fun, natural flavoring
Other Ways to Improve Your Vein Health
Eating the right food for healthy veins is important, but there are additional things you can do to improve your vein health. If you are at risk for vein disease, we recommend that you:
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Exercise daily
- Avoid prolonged standing or sitting
- Manage other health conditions
- Ask your doctor about wearing compression socks
- Consider available vein treatment options
Minimally-Invasive Vein Treatment at USA Vein Clinics
Although vein disease is never good news, now you know what food makes your veins stronger. However, it is also important to understand that sometimes eating a healthy diet just isn’t enough.
If you are suffering from the effects of varicose veins, we want you to know that there’s help available. Our vein treatment specialists offer a range of effective, minimally-invasive vein treatments. Vein treatment is performed as an outpatient procedure and allows you to return to most normal activities immediately afterward.
Your vein specialist will work one-on-one with you to address your symptoms and develop an individualized treatment plan. No matter which exact treatment is recommended, they all have a similar goal. This goal is to close off diseased veins and divert their blood flow to healthy, surrounding ones instead.
Our state-of-the-art treatments include:
- Endovenous Laser Therapy (EVLT)
- Varithena Foam Treatment
Contact USA Vein Clinics
At USA Vein Clinics, we are here to support your diet plan for varicose veins. We are also available to help you explore your vein treatment options. If you have any questions related to your vein health, our experts are happy to meet with you and answer them.
You can schedule an initial consultation online or call us at 888.768.3467. For your safety and convenience, we also offer telemedicine appointments. Wherever we meet up, we look forward to helping you discover a better quality of life!