5 Ways to Keep Your Veins Healthy Over the Holidays—and Beyond

Honey baked ham. Loaded mashed potatoes with gravy. Stuffing. Macaroni and cheese. Is your mouth watering yet? Ours sure are. The holidays are a time of indulgence. And let's be honest: Weeks after Thanksgiving and Christmas have passed, do you not find yourself recreating meal after meal and stretching recipe after recipe with the boundless leftovers that, after a while, seem like they are coming from a bottomless pit in your refrigerator?

When you consider this, it's no wonder many of us pack on the dreaded "holiday 10". But if you are someone suffering from varicose veins, you could be setting yourself up for more than weight gain and stomach aches, you could find yourself battling several symptomatic nights — including aching, tender, heavy or sore legs — and, even worse, you could be exacerbating your venous disease beyond that period. So here are five things to keep in mind before you ladle on the gravy.

1. Limit your calorie intake

It's no secret that foods filled with calories can lead to weight gain. But just how do those extra pounds affect you? Excess body weight puts a strain on your veins, making it harder for them to send blood back to your heart. As a result, pressure increases in the valves, which can make them more susceptible to leakage. A leaking valve can cause blood to pool in the veins, thus leading to the unsightly bulge many have come to know with varicose veins.

2. Make vitamin C your friend

Vitamin C is essential for making collagen and elastin, two vital connective tissues that work to keep your veins strong and toned--think of them as the exercise routine you need for your veins. In between your holiday meals be sure to snack on oranges, bell peppers, kale, broccoli, papaya, strawberries, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, pineapple, kiwi, mango and guava. These all contain vitamin C and will improve your circulation. For an added punch, pair plenty of vitamin C-rich foods with vitamin E-rich foods like shellfish, avocados, sunflower seeds, nuts, spinach, tofu, fish, olive oil and squash.

3. Consume lots of fiber

All of that ham and stuffing can throw your digestive system out of whack and make it sluggish. When constipation occurs, your stool is hard and pellet-like. To release the contents from your bowels, you must enforce a lot of physical effort. These demands cause the abdominal muscles to contract, and a deep breath used to create force applies pressure on your diaphragm. As a consequence, pressures build in your abdomen. Valves in your leg veins run up to your groin and can become damaged by the straining generated by all this muscular activity, making it difficult for them to send blood back to your heart. Fiber-rich foods like oats, flaxseed, peas, beans, apples, carrots, barley and berries can soften your stool, make it bulkier (in a good way) and keep you regular.

4. Drink lots of water

It is important to drink lots of water, especially if you are taking in a lot of fiber. Without enough water, fiber can have the opposite effect. Instead of making you more regular, it can bind you and cause constipation, which in turn can intensify pressure in your veins. To keep from having the water you take in depleted, minimize your intake of coffee, alcohol, caffeinated teas and soda.

5. Eat fruits and veggies with vibrant colors

Colorful fruits and vegetables contain a group of compounds known as bioflavonoids. Not only do these compounds give them their rich color and protect them from microbes and insects, they can help improve the appearance of your varicose veins. Some studies have found that this is made possible because bioflavonoids have the ability to strengthen blood vessel walls and obstruct free radical stress inside the vessels. Rutin, a type of bioflavonoid, may actually do more like reduce swelling, relieve aching and minimize pain. So try buckwheat, figs, asparagus, unfermented rooibos tea, elderflower tea and amaranth leaves—all contain rutin.

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