Dr Libby: How to improve your circulation
The blood circulation in our body is driven by the heart, which provides a constant supply of blood to the body through the blood vessels. This process ensures the transportation of oxygen and nutrients to every cell in your body – it also results in the removal of metabolic waste from the body.
Blood circulation is essential for a healthy body in order to maintain cell-level metabolism, maintain tissue pH levels, osmotic pressure and keep our body temperature stable. It is also critical to feeling energised.
Circulatory issues can occur when blood flow becomes restricted to certain parts of the body. Although it can affect any part of the body, usually people notice it in their extremities – the toes or fingers.
There are several factors that can affect blood circulation, one of which is ageing, which is technically degeneration. Biochemically, the three degenerative processes are oxidation, inflammation and glycation, and the speed at which these occur is essentially how we age.
As rubbish from lifestyle choices accumulates in the walls of the blood vessels, the vessels can start to lose their structure, so they recruit calcium, which is a hardening agent to strengthen their walls. This, however, means that the vessels start to lose elasticity.
The result of this is the heart needs to work harder to move the blood through the arteries, which causes a decrease in blood flow and an increase in blood pressure, and circulation can be affected. Other causes include carrying excess weight, smoking, not moving regularly and a diet low in nutrients.
Here are a number of ways you can support healthy circulation:
Regular movement helps to boost your circulation. It's really important to find activities that you enjoy doing so they become a consistent part of your life. Any type of movement that gets your blood pumping will be beneficial for your circulation. If your circulation is already compromised, start by introducing some gentle exercise like tai chi.
Massage, like moving your body, increases circulation by stimulating blood flow in the area being massaged. By massaging your muscles, you will also help to release muscle tension.
Stretch at work
Don't be embarrassed, it's really important you continue to stretch and move around at work. If you don't want to do it by your desk, go for a walk and stretch your legs.
Jumping on a mini trampoline is a simple aerobic activity that can improve blood and lymphatic flow. Start by bouncing at a leisurely pace for five to 10 minutes each day. Turn on some music you like while you do this for a great mood lift, too.
Eating a diet rich in vitamin-C-containing foods such as capsicums, citrus fruit, broccoli and papaya is important for vascular health, which in turn improves circulation. Alternatively you can supplement with vitamin C.
Vitamin E has been shown to help keep blood thin, which improves blood flow. Eating a diet rich in vitamin-E-containing foods such as almonds, hazelnuts, kale and eggs is also helpful for vascular health.
Herbal medicine offers a number of approaches to support good circulation. Ginkgo biloba is a beautiful herb renowned for its blood-flow-enhancing effects, it can be taken in tablet or liquid form.
Garlic has been used for centuries to support circulatory health, due to its blood-thinning effects. Use it in your cooking or supplement with garlic capsules.
Ginger and turmeric root
Ginger, similar to spicy peppers, can help blood flow, as can turmeric root, which also has anti-inflammatory properties. Turmeric contains curcumin, which is not only a wonderful antioxidant, it also assists blood flow.
Dr Libby is a nutritional biochemist, best-selling author and speaker. She is a regular contributor to Well & Good. Dr Libby has just announced her October NZ tour. Details at drlibby.com