Believe it or not, there is a natural ingredient from Europe that can help change the way your legs feel and the way you feel about the circulation in your legs. Whether we realize it or not, the circulation in our legs can have a huge influence on how we feel and what we do everyday and perhaps even more so every evening. The comfort level of our legs, or better said, their discomfort level at the end of the day can adversely affect our social life and fitness activities – not to mention adversely affecting our sleep. If our legs felt better perhaps we would find it easier to do the things we'd love to do, but find it so difficult to muster the motivation. As if the way our legs can feel at the end of day isn't challenging enough, the changes in the circulation in our legs as we age can seem even more hopeless and discouraging. Now add to that the seeming conspiracy among fashion designers to have us exposing even larger portions of our aging legs and we have a problem that over 80 million Americans with varicose veins understand all too well. (1).
Unfortunately, about half of all American women will develop varicose or spider veins at some point in their lives (2). Not only are they unsightly, these leg problems can also cause significant discomfort. Typically, varicose veins are characterized by bulging, blue, sometimes painful and inflamed veins that appear primarily in the calves and thighs. Spider veins, on the other hand, show up as a web of fine lines that can make your legs look like a road map.
While age and heredity play a role in the development of varicose and spider veins, weight gain, pregnancy, menopause and the use of hormone replacement therapy can also trigger these vein problems. Making matters worse, chronic inactivity, standing for long periods of time or habitually crossing your legs can make you more prone to injured veins (2).
Conventional treatments include surgical stripping, injecting the veins with a chemical irritant or zapping them with lasers. While these approaches can remove existing varicose or spider veins, they will not prevent new ones from developing, since these high-tech treatments do not address the underlying problem of poor circulation. Worse yet, these procedures can also cause infection, scarring, nerve damage and pain (26). If these radical treatments are not an option for you, you'll be happy to hear that there is a natural approach that not only improves the appearance of these ropy, bulging veins, it also fosters leg health to prevent future problems.
To understand how varicose veins develop, you need to know a little bit about how blood moves through the body. Essentially, there are two types of major circulatory vessels in the body: the arteries, which channel blood from the heart to the extremities, and the veins, which bring blood from the extremities back to the heart. Of all the veins in your body, leg veins work the hardest to carry blood back to the heart. To accomplish this difficult task, your legs are equipped with specially designed one-way valves that keep the blood moving in the right direction. As efficiently as these valves work, your legs still fight a constant battle against the natural pull of gravity. If the veins can't move the blood efficiently or the one-way valves that prevent the blood from backwashing fail to close properly, blood collects in the legs. This pooling of blood then stretches the vein, causing swelling and injury to the vein's walls (3).
Depending on the extent of the enlargement, these veins can show up as either spider or varicose veins. Spider veins are broken capillaries and small veins that appear as jagged red, blue or purple lines on the surface of the skin. While they aren't painful, they can be extremely unattractive. Varicose veins, on the other hand, are thick veins that run deeper beneath the skin. They are far larger and much less attractive than spider veins – and they can make your legs feel fatigued, heavy, achy or even itchy. Varicose veins can also cause burning, throbbing, cramping and restlessness.
While these conditions aren't usually dangerous, severe cases can lead to chronic venous insufficiency – a persistent inability of the leg veins to adequately return blood back to the heart (4). Varicose veins are also associated with the development of skin ulcers or a chronic inflammation of a vein – a condition known as phlebitis. Phlebitis is often accompanied by formation of a blood clot, a dangerous situation since the clot can move from the leg vein and travel to the lungs (2).
Get a Leg Up with Diosmin
Your strategy for battling vein problems naturally is twofold: improving circulation and strengthening the vein walls. The first and simplest measure to improve blood flow is to counteract gravity. Standing or sitting all day makes it harder for blood to move up from the legs and back to the heart. But taking a few minutes to rest with your legs higher than your heart each day allows gravity to help return blood to the heart.
Getting in shape can also help relieve varicose and spider veins – and it can even prevent new ones from forming. As we age we lose muscle tone, which adversely affects the health of our legs. Yet adopting a consistent exercise program promotes good circulation and can help to keep our leg muscles, and the blood vessels in our legs, toned. Walking, weight training, low-impact aerobics and swimming strengthen the legs and circulatory system, and help to reduce the throbbing and aching often associated with varicose veins.
What you eat can also ease unsightly veins. A low-fat diet filled with fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes and whole grains add key nutrients and fiber to your diet. Eating a fiber-rich diet reduces the chances of constipation which can contribute to varicose veins. Constipation restricts the blood as it returns to the torso through the deep veins in the legs. Straining to have a bowel movement closes off the deep veins in the legs and restricts the flow of blood as it returns to the torso. As the blood backs up, it takes another course through superficial veins, thus the blue streaks in the legs. Eating a fiber-rich diet alleviates and prevents constipation, helping to avoid the damage to the vascular system that can result. In addition to fiber, a diet high in fruits and vegetables also ensures adequate intake of nutrients and phytonutrients, which also help tonify the blood vessels. As a bonus, a healthy diet and exercise program can also jump-start weight loss – an important consideration since carrying too much weight creates extra pressure on your heart and blood vessels, interfering with healthy circulation (2).
To strengthen the veins themselves, take a tip from the Europeans. From Austria to France to Italy, women and their doctors have relied on Diosmin for more than 30 years to treat circulatory problems affecting the legs – and with good reason. Diosmin is a unique bioflavonoid derived from citrus fruits and is closely related to other citrus bioflavonoids such as hesperiden, quercetin, and rutin (5). Clinical trials have shown that Diosmin is highly effective in boosting circulation and strengthening the veins in the legs (5). Not only does this improve existing varicose and spider veins, it can also reduce the likelihood of future problems.
What makes Diosmin so amazing is its power to specifically target the blood vessels in the legs. Diosmin improves both blood vessel elasticity and microcirculation while relieving pain and inflammation by inhibiting pro-inflammatory prostaglandins and thromboxanes (21,24). Because of its direct action on the integrity of vein walls, Diosmin also reduces the amount of fluid that leaks out of them (21,22). Diosmin's protective benefits do not stop there. Because it is a potent anti-oxidant, Diosmin decreases lipid peroxidation and reduces free radical damage that can undermine vein health (23, 27).
In one clinical trial, people who suffered from pain and swelling due to varicose veins experienced significant improvement in their symptoms after taking Diosmin for a few months (6). A review of studies also found that, among more than 5,000 patients with vein disorders, the vast majority not only saw a reduction in their discomfort, they actually saw the swelling in their calves and ankles disappear (7). Across the board, research shows that a daily dose of 500 to 1,000 mg of Diosmin improves the health of leg veins and brings tremendous relief from pain, night cramps and leg heaviness (8,9,10,11). Both short- and long-term use of this highly effective natural ingredient comes without any side effects. It is also so safe that you need not worry about adverse interactions of Diosmin with drugs, foods, lab tests or interactions with diseases or conditions. (5).
Help for Hemorrhoids
Because Diosmin reduces swelling and bolsters vein health, it can also help people suffering with hemorrhoids – those uncomfortable varicose veins that form in the lower rectum and anus. Along with making it painful to sit, hemorrhoids can itch, bleed or protrude – and almost half of all Americans suffer from them by the time they turn 50 (12). Extensive research conclusively shows that Diosmin can safely alleviate the pain, inflammation and bleeding of hemorrhoids (13,14,15). Best of all, it offers quick relief, often working its magic within a week or two (16). Plus, Diosmin reduces the risk of a relapse (17).
Diosmin for Cancer?
While no one questions Diosmin's efficacy for treating varicose and spider veins or hemorrhoids, scientists have begun exploring other ways this potent flavonoid may boost health. Their main focus – cancer prevention – especially oral and skin cancers.
Researchers haven't conclusively identified the cancer-fighting component in Diosmin, but preliminary experiments show that this flavonoid inhibits the proliferation of cancer cells (18). In two studies pitting Diosmin against other flavonoids like rutin, grapeseed extract and red wine, Spanish investigators found that Diosmin was considerably more effective at reducing the number of metastatic melanoma cells (a potentially deadly type of skin cancer cells that spread through the body) than any of the other flavonoids tested (19,20). Other studies have found that Diosmin puts the brakes on the spread of cancer cells in the mouth (25).
Although it could be years before science conclusively proves Diosmin's cancer benefit, this nutrient can't be beat for supporting vein health. Along with taking supplemental Diosmin, there are several simple strategies you can employ to encourage healthy circulation. Eating a high-fiber, anti-oxidant rich diet and getting plenty of exercise can help keep veins in top form. And remember to take a break and put your feet up every now and again.
1. American Society for Dermatoloic Surgery.
2. National Women's Health Information Center. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.
3. American College of Phlebology.
4. Society for Vascular Surgery.
5. Diosmin Monograph. Alternative Medicine Review. 2004;9(3):308-311.
6. Ting AC, et al. Clinical and hemodynamic outcomes in patients with chronic venous insufficiency after oral micronized flavonoids therapy. Vascular Surgery. 2001;35(6):443-447.
7. Ramelet AA. Daflon 500 mg: symptoms and edema clinical update. Angiology. 2005;56 Suppl 1:S25-S32.
8. Bergan JJ. Chronic venous insufficiency and the therapeutic effects of Daflon 500 mg. Angiology. 2005; 56 Suppl 1:S21-S24.
9. Nicolaides AN. From symptoms to leg edema: efficacy of Daflon 500 mg. Angiology. 2003;54 Suppl 1:S33-S44.
10. Smith PC. Daflon 500 mg and venous leg ulcer: new results from a meta-analysis. Angiology. 2005; 56 Suppl 1:S33-S39.
11. Jantet G. Chronic venous insufficiency: worldwide results of the RELIEF study. Reflux assessment and quality of life improvement with micronized Flavonoids. Angiology. 2002;533:245-256.
12. National Institutes of Health.
13. Lyseng-Williamson KA, et al. Micronised purified flavonoids fraction: a review of its use in chronic venous insufficiency, venous ulcers and haemorrhoids. Drugs. 2003;63(1):71-100.
14. Meshikhes AW. Daflon for haemorrhoids: a prospective, multi-centre observational study. Surgeon. 2004;2(6):335-338.
15. Kecmanovic D, et al. PHLEBODIA (diosmine): a role in the management of bleeding nonprolapsed hemorrhoids). Acta Chirurgica Iugoslavica. 2005;52(1):115-116.
16. Diana G, et al. Activity of purified diosmin in the treatment of hemorrhoids. La Clinica Terapeutica. 2000;151(5):341-344.
17. Misra MC, et al. Randomized clinical trial of micronized flavonoids in the early control of bleeding from acute internal haemorrhoids. British Journal of Surgery. 2000;87(12):1732-1733.
18. Browning AM, et al. Flavonoid glycosides inhibit oral cancer cell proliferation – role of cellular uptake and hydrolysis to the aglycones. Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology. 2005;57(8):1037-1042.
19. Martinez C, et al. Treatment of metastatic melanoma B16F10 by the flavonoids tangeretin, rutin, and diosmin. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 2005;53(17):6791-6797.
20. Martinez C, et al. The effect of the flavonoids dioxmin, grapeseed extract and red wine on the pulmonary metastatic B16F10 melanoma. Histology and Histopathology. 2005;20(4):1121-1129.
21. Ramelet AA. Clinical benefits of Daflon 500 mg in the most severe stages of chronic venous insufficiency. Angiology. 2001;52 Suppl 1:S49-56.
22. Cyrino FZ, et al. Micronization enhances the protective effect of purified flavonoidsfraction against postischaemic microvascular injury in the hamster cheek pouch. Clinical and Experimental Pharmacology & Physiology. 2004;31(3):159-162.
23. Bergan JJ, et al. Therapeutic approach to chronic venous insufficiency and its complications: place of Daflon 500 mg. Angiology. 2001;52 Suppl 1:S43-7.
24. Katsenis K. Micronized purified flavonoids fraction (MPFF): a review of its pharmacological effects, therapeutic efficacy and benefits in the management of chronic venous insufficiency. Current Vascular Pharamcology. 2005;3(1):1-9.
25. Browning AM, et al. Flavonoid glycosides inhibit oral cancer cell proliferation – role of cellular uptake and hydrolysis to the aglycones. Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology. 2005;57(8):1037-1042.
26. National Women's Health Information Center. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women's Health.
27. Villa P, et al. Protective effect of diosmetin on in vitro cell membrane damage and oxidative stress in cultured rat hepatocytes. Toxicology. 1992;73:179-189.