Venous Insufficiency and Varicose Veins: Nutritional Considerations
Chronic venous insufficiency and varicose veins appear to be related
to an obesity–promoting Western lifestyle that is low in dietary
fiber and physical activity. Evidence suggests that avoidance of
these risk factors may reduce the incidence of venous disorders.
In observational studies, the following factors are associated with
reduced risk of venous disorders:
- High–fiber diets: Studies of large populations
support a relationship between low dietary fiber intake and the
prevalence of varicose veins. The presence of varicose veins in
some developing areas is associated with increases in refined (fiber–poor)
carbohydrates. However, additional studies are needed to investigate
whether a high–fiber diet will prevent varicose veins.
- Maintenance of a healthy weight: Many
studies have shown that overweight and obese women are more likely
to develop varicose veins. Women who are moderately overweight
(BMI = 25.0–29.9
kg/m2) have a 50 percent increased risk, compared with nonoverweight
women. Women with a BMI > 30 have three times the risk
- Moderate physical activity: Regular physical
activity is associated with lower risk for chronic venous insufficiency
and varicose veins. Occupations that require prolonged standing
are associated with a greater risk.
- Herbal treatments: Certain herbal treatments
have been effective for treating chronic venous insufficiency
and varicose veins. Although controversial, the following preparations
have been shown in clinical trials to be effective:
- Horse chestnut seed: Systematic reviews
have concluded that extracts of horse chestnut
seed (Aesculus Hippocastanum, 50 milligrams twice
daily) reduce leg pain, leg volume, edema, and itching.
- Diosmin–hesperidin combination: (Daflon
500 milligrams, given twice daily). Long–term
controlled clinical trials have revealed that this combination
of flavonoids increases venous tone, improves lymphatic drainage,
and reduces capillary leakage. These improvements resulted
in significant decreases in ankle and calf swelling, discomfort,
nighttime cramps, and laboratory measurements.
A recent meta–analysis of controlled clinical trials indicated
that adding Daflon to conventional medical therapy increased
the likelihood of healing of leg ulcers, compared with conventional
- Butcher’s broom: Extracts of Ruscus
Aculaetus (150 milligrams, two to three times daily)
improve venous insufficiency. Benefits include redd the likelihood
of healing venous leg ulcers by 32 percent, comuction of
pain, leg cramps, leg heaviness, and swelling. It is particularly
effective when combined with another flavonoid (e.g., hesperidin)
and vitamin C.