You may have heard of spider veins, but what actually are they and what does salt have to do with it? Spider veins are a cluster of minuscule blood vessels which appear near to the surface of the skin and resemble a spider web or tree branch like appearance. They are usually red or blue, and can become visible on several parts of the body, but tend to be most common on the legs and face. There are many reasons why you might develop spider veins, with risk factors of being overweight, poor diet and digestive health. Women face a higher risk of developing spider veins, and this could be due to the fluctuations in hormones.
One way in which you can help support your microcirculation is by reducing your salt intake. This might sound like a very small factor, however, by making some mindful choices and retraining your taste buds you can not only help your spider veins but also your overall health.
We all know that too much salt is bad for us, and it is recommended that adults should eat no more than 6 grams of salt per day — which is just over a teaspoon. However, many of us eat a diet much higher in salt, as it is often sneakily hidden in processed food without us even realising.
But what does this have to do with spider veins? It’s like a domino effect: too much salt in the diet raises the amount of sodium in the bloodstream, which can, therefore, lead to a rise in blood pressure. When sodium levels are higher, the kidneys hold onto fluid to maintain the delicate balance of minerals in our blood, such as sodium and potassium.
Whenever we eat a diet high in salt, we tend to retain more water. With water retention and swelling (oedema), we are once again putting too much pressure on our capillary network and if our blood vessels walls are already weakened through compromised collagen production, this will lead to leaky blood vessel walls3.
Having an awareness of our salt intake can certainly help us to reduce our risk of developing spider veins.
When you read food labels, remember that an adult should be consuming no more than 6g of salt per day – which is different from the sodium content. To calculate salt content from sodium, you’ll need to multiply by2,5. So if a food shows that it has 1g of sodium, it actually contains 2.5g of salt.
Start by reading food labels and avoiding where possible packaged and processed foods. Some of the biggest offenders of hidden salt are breakfast cereals, tinned soup, pizza, pickled and smoked foods, processed meats such as ham and sausages, take aways and any junk food in general. Aim to eat a more natural diet based on whole foods such as whole grains, legumes, fruit and vegetables rather than packaged sauces and ready made meals. This will dramatically help to reduce the amount of salt in your diet.
It might not be possible for all of us to cook from scratch every day, but it’s nearly as easy to open a can of tomatoes to make your bolognese sauce, as it is to open a ready made jar. Why not try adding some herbs or powdered spices for flavour?
If possible you should also look to increase the amount of potassium rich foods in your diet, which helps to balance out the effects of too much sodium. Most fruit and vegetables are rich in potassium, but in particular broccoli, spinach, kale, sprouts, bananas, avocados and beans are great choices.
Do also moderate your intake of sugary foods and white, refined carbohydrates such as biscuits, cakes, white bread and pastries. Not only do these often contain a lot of salt, they will also contribute to weight gain, which raises your risk of developing spider veins.
The importance of your diet, and in particular salt cannot be underestimated. But with just a few simple changes you can ensure that your diet is healthy, varied, and great for your microcirculatory health. To find out more about spider veins and nutrition explore our website or chat to one of our Nutrition Advisors.
1. Devi AS & Aathi MK (2014) Prevention of Varicose Veins, International Journal of Advances in Nursing Management 2 (1): January – March.
2. Hussein M Atta (2012) Varicose Veins: Role of Mechanotransduction of Venous Hypertension, Int J Vasc Med. 538627.
3. Filis KA et al., (2000) Therapeutic efficacy of flavonoids in oedema following reperfusion on acutely ischaemic legs, International angiology 18 (4): 327 – 30.
4. Luther JM et al., (2014) Dietary Sodium Restriction Decreases Insulin Secretion Without Affecting Insulin Sensitivity in Humans, J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 99(10): E1895–E1902.
Catherine Jeans is a highly qualified and experienced Nutritional Therapist. She is regularly called upon by the media to comment and provide expert opinion on nutrition topics, as well as providing workshops online and around the UK for corporations, schools, charities and individuals who want to eat better and live better. Catherine is passionate about the link between what we eat and our health, and educates her clients on simple ways to transform your diet and in turn your wellbeing.