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Got poor circulation in feet, legs or hands? There are several root causes. Learn what you can do to improve poor blood circulation.
The sun is shining. It’s a pleasant 72 degrees outside. But while everybody else is walking down the street in shorts and t-shirt, you’re sporting a fleece sweatshirt.
Your legs, feet, and hands feel cold. Your lips and nails have a sickly blue hue.
While everybody else is embracing beach weather, you’re suffering from poor circulation. And, these are just some of the more benign signs of poor circulation in feet, legs, and hands.
More serious symptoms of poor circulation can manifest as difficulty breathing, high blood pressure, elevated resting heart rate, and pale skin color from a weakened liver.
If left untreated, poor circulation in feet, legs, hands, or elsewhere, can lead to several adverse brain-associated abnormalities: memory loss, dizziness, headaches, and depression.
Poor blood circulation can also lead to edema (swelling). If you run cold and have poor circulation in your extremities, it might not be that serious.
But, going years with poor circulation if left unresolved can be potentially fatal. It can cause heart attacks and strokes.
What causes poor circulation in feet, legs, and hands?
Eastern medicine, especially traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), associates poor circulation with “blood stagnation.”
Think of healthy circulation as a free-flowing river of blood circulating to all parts of the body. However, if blood flow is stagnant, the movement of the vessels through which blood flows (veins, arteries, capillaries, organs, etc.) trickles like a swamp.
Blood stagnation can also manifest as menstrual cycle abnormalities such as excessive pain or irregular flows.
You can also get joint pain from blood stagnation. If left untreated, poor circulation can result in ‘blood stasis,’ which means blood isn’t flowing at all.
People with chronic health conditions such as diabetes or neuropathy may have blood stasis present. From a western point of view, poor circulation can be caused by several factors, including poor diet, smoking, and lack of exercise.
Even those who exercise every day can have poor circulation. If you go to the gym for an hour a few days a week but sit for 12 hours or more per day, you may have poor circulation in feet, hands, and legs.
Poor circulation treatment
A couple easy and pleasurable ways to improve poor circulation are by getting regular massages and acupuncture. The problem with these two methods is that it can get pricey with the average cost of a massage or acupuncture running about $65-$85.
But certain massage schools and community acupuncture clinics offer walk-in visits at steep discounts. Even the worst massage therapist can do wonders for your circulation!
Another couple of spa-type treatments that can help poor circulation are sitting in a sauna (but don’t sit for too long, especially if you’re sedentary most of the day) and taking a steam bath.
And you don’t have to visit a 5-star spa to use a sauna and steam room. Many YMCAs and neighborhood gyms have a sauna or steam room, or both.
Exercise is an obvious way to treat poor circulation. Exercise improves blood flow through the circulatory system. It’s going to take more than a gentle walk in the park, though, to improve blood circulation.
Likewise, if you’re taking a gentle or restorative yoga class or gardening, it might not be strenuous enough to improve blood flow to the hands, legs or feet.
What to eat and drink for poor circulation
Certain foods and drinks can also help improve circulation. Try incorporating more coconut oil, cayenne pepper, ginger, garlic, onion, wild salmon, grass-fed beef, and green tea. Last but not least, is nearly everybody’s favorite: chocolate.
But not just any chocolate will help improve circulation. Only extra dark chocolate (at least 70% cacao). Also eat foods very rich in vitamin C.
How to improve poor blood circulation
The above-mentioned ways to improve poor blood circulation, including diet, exercise, quitting smoking, might not be enough. You can do everything right to improve blood circulation, however, sometimes diet alone is not enough. Some people have serious digestive weakness. You might have an underlying medical condition such as an underfunctioning thyroid. Or anemia. Vitamin B12 deficiency can also be the root cause.
That’s why the first step to improve blood circulation is to not self-diagnose and self-treat. Instead, see a medical professional if you have poor circulation. You don’t have to see a regular western physician. You can see an herbalist, acupuncturist, naturopathic doctor, or other professional trained in functional medicine.
Chinese herbs have been used for thousands of years to improve blood circulation. There are several formulas that can help. But since there are several different ways poor circulation can manifest, it’s probably best to have an acupuncturist diagnose you so that he or she can recommend the appropriate herbs or formula for your unique condition.
Poor circulation in fingers
Unless you’re climbing Mt. Everest or sticking your bare hands in snow for several minutes, your fingers should never turn blue. But for many people with poor circulation in fingers, that’s an everyday physiological reality.
From a western perspective, there are several causes of poor circulation in the fingers or fingertips. Raynaud’s Disease, peripheral neuropathy, and Buerger’s Disease (a condition mostly afflicting smokers) are just a few conditions that may result in numb, tingling or blue fingers associated with poor circulation.
If you have poor circulation in the fingers, try doing finger yoga! That’s right, finger yoga. There are several easy exercises that stretch and improve the mobility of the finger joints, resulting in improved circulation. (This website offers some finger yoga exercises.)
Several spices can also help with circulation, not just in the fingers but in the legs and feet as well. Turmeric and cinnamon are just a couple of spices that have been clinically-proven to improve blood flow.
Finally, make sure you’re eating enough. And eating enough of the right foods. Try to eliminate added and processed sugars from your diet.