The Menopausal Years

Varicose Veins

By Donna Easto, H.C., C.H., M.H., Certified Herbal Educator

Varicose veins affect about one out of every four women.  The condition develops because of normal hormonal changes that act to relax vein walls during pregnancy, the menstrual cycle, and in menopause. Hormone treatments, such as birth control pills, may also increase your risk of 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. 

While there’s no way to completely prevent varicose veins, improving your circulation and muscle tone may reduce your risk of getting them or getting more varicose veins. Muscle contractions in the legs are the primary driver to push blood upwards toward the heart. 

If you do suffer from varicose veins there are tools to help you avoid some of the serious but fortunately rare, risks such as ulcers, blood clots or bleeding:  

  • Exercising, walk, swim, pedal, skip rope – get your calf and thigh muscles working to get your blood flowing normally;
  • Watching your weight, eat a high fiber, low salt diet – too much salt increases water retention contributing to swelling and heaviness in the legs, and constipation is a major causal factor;
  • Avoiding overly tight clothing on your legs or around your waist or groin.  Avoid shoes with very high heels.

A few simple things to improve circulation: 

  • Avoid crossing your legs; change your sitting or standing position regularly;
  • Massage your legs using upward strokes (toward the heart);
  • Avoid smoking and alcohol;
  • Alternating hot and cold footbaths help improve circulation and ease the pain of troublesome veins.  Long stays in the hot tub, sauna or steam bath are not good for your veins – they lose their tone through excessive heat.  Finish off your shower with a few seconds of cold water.  

Supplements and Foods:

  • Horse chestnut is the main botanical used to treat varicose veins.  Its anti-inflammatory nature helps relieve leg swelling and strengthens capillary walls, tightening the elastic fibers in vein walls which helps improve the flow of blood.  It is commonly used in extract form and as a topical gel.  
  • To help maintain elasticity in the veins and capillaries, eat foods high in vitamin C and bioflavonoids, such as buckwheat, nettles, rose hips, oranges, lemons, grapefruit, peppers, whole grains, hibiscus flowers and garlic, onions, chives and leeks.
  • A good combination supplement which includes bioflavonoids, vitamin C and Horse Chestnut, among others is Veinoblend by Vitanica.