Redwood Naturopathic Medicine
How to Improve Circulation
Why Circulation Matters
The circulatory system is an essential feature of our bodies as it transports vital nutrients and oxygen to cells and essential organs. Proper blood circulation allows organs to function optimally; when there is a lack of good circulation, the function of many bodily systems becomes impaired. Poor blood circulation can indicate underlying health issues like obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure. Circulation is also needed to heal injured or infected parts of the body and eliminating toxins. The circulatory system will flush the area of concern with fresh nutrients and oxygen and then leave with the toxins. Circulation even plays a role in the brain and nervous system health, lack of circulation can cause dizziness, brain fog, headaches, and decreased cognitive function. The circulatory system also manages fluid balance within the body by aiding the movement of lymphatic fluid. Lymphatic fluid carries immune fighting cells to areas of the body with infection.
Signs of Poor Blood Circulation
Cold hands and feet all year round
Numbness and tingling sensation in limbs with no apparent reason
Lightheadedness, dizziness, lack of concentration
Brittle hair and nails
How to Improve Circulation:
1. Consume more iron-rich foods
Iron is required for the production of hemoglobin, the oxygen-binding component of red blood cells which transports oxygen across the body. Increase your iron consumption by eating iron-rich foods like red meat, organ meats, dark and leafy vegetables, fish, eggs, kelp, and molasses.
2. Move Your Body
Exercise causes the heart to pump more vigorously, circulating more blood through the body. Exercise kick starts the circulation, especially if you have been stagnant for some time. If exercise is not a large part of your routine, start with ten to twenty minutes per day. Walking, yoga, dancing, swimming, biking, stretching, etc., are great options to get the blood flowing.
3. Refrain from crossing legs
If you are someone who sits most of the day and often notices your feet or legs going numb, it might be the way you aåre sitting. Though a comfortable position, crossing the legs can negatively impact the circulatory system. Crossing the legs limits circulation throughout the lower half and can lead to varicose veins. If you often find yourself crossing your legs, try to get up and stretch/move around every once in a while to promote blood flow.
Water is a highly vital part of maintaining good circulation as blood is 70% water. With a lack of water consumption, the blood and other bodily fluids will not flow freely, leading to poor circulation. Increasing your water intake will be beneficial to not only the circulatory system but every single system within the body. About half your body weight in ounces is a great place to start, the more, the better!
5. Anti-inflammatory diet
Inflammation aggravates numerous conditions within the body, and poor circulation is one of them. Diet is a direct way to reduce the amount of inflammation the body encounters. Food choices such as whole fruits and vegetables, gluten-free grains, high-quality meats, high-quality fats, and spices are all incorporated in an anti-inflammatory diet.
Botanically a vegetable, garlic has terrific benefits for the cardiovascular system by reducing blood pressure, high cholesterol, and other lipids. Garlic also works to prevent hardening of the arteries and blood clots. Garlic's medicinal properties are most potent when used fresh and consumed raw.
Beets are high in nitrates, which convert to nitric oxide in the body. Nitric oxide works to relax blood vessels which allow for improved blood flow. Beets are an excellent asset for poor circulation and athletes by improving oxygen flow to muscles, promoting blood flow, and increasing nitric oxide levels.
Leafy greens are also high in nitrates, which again converts to nitric oxide within the body. Working to create an environment within the body that promotes healthy blood flow and relaxed blood vessels.
Traditional Chinese Medicine has been used for thousands of years to treat and get to the root cause of conditions like circulation disorders. Acupuncture stimulates the release of nitric oxide in the body because of the needles used: the more nitric oxide, the greater the blood flow. Acupuncture can release antihistamines and leukotrienes, which are compounds that can dilate blood vessels and reduce inflammation. Acupuncture also is a powerful way to reduce stress, which is essential because there is a direct correlation between increased stress and increased inflammation.
Herbs can be powerful tools to help increase circulation throughout the body.
Gingko Biloba acts as a circulatory stimulant, significantly enhancing blood flow to the brain, which is commonly known for its cognitive and memory support. Ginkgo increases the levels of nitric oxide, which must be present for blood vessels to dilate.
Ginger is traditionally known for its pain-relieving properties and has potent anti-inflammatory, anti-clotting, blood flow stimulating effects—a helpful herb to incorporate daily for those with poor circulation, digestive issues, and arthritis.
Cayenne is a warmth-promoting herb, which is why we often experience running nose and watery eyes after consuming something with a lot of cayenne. The active phytochemicals, capsaicin, is the reason for the blood flow promoting aspects. Capsaicin promotes the release of nitric oxide, which is a vasodilator (relaxing the blood vessels so blood can flow easier).
A turmeric latte is a delicious way to consume turmeric, cayenne, black pepper, cinnamon, and ginger, which all contain anti-inflammatory and circulation promoting properties.
Hydrotherapy is the alternation between cold and hot temperatures. This can be done in the shower by alternating between cold and hot water every three minutes about 5-6 times. When under hot water, blood rushes to the skin oxygenating the tissues it flows through. Then switching to cold water redirects the blood back into the body, taking toxins and waste products. The temperatures do not need to be extreme to achieve the desired effects. This can also work by going from a sauna to a cold water plunge.