How Hard Stools and Varicose Vein Treatment Are Linked
If you ask a vein doctor who performs varicose vein treatment on a regular basis, “What are the most common causes for varicose veins” they’ll likely say, “Genetics #1, the number of pregnancies #2, what you weigh #3, age #4, and if you have to stand or sit a lot for your work #5.” However, there are other important risk factors for varicose veins to consider, even if they don’t make the top five list. Constipation or hard stools is one of these other other important factors that can and does cause the need for varicose vein treatment, especially when coupled with one or more of the top five causes for varicose veins.
When you are constipated, you are naturally inclined to strain. Face it, no one wants to sit on the toilet all day, no matter how good the magazines are in your bathroom! We are also a society that is always rushed. If you’re on your lunch break with only five minutes to go, you’ll probably strain.
When you strain to go to the bathroom, this puts a great deal of pressure on your veins because your venous pressure increases tremendously. This is especially true for your veins in the pelvic region and your upper thighs. Straining, in fact, is a common cause of hemorrhoids, which are just fancy name for varicose veins of the anus. Keep this in mind too. The greater saphenous vein attaches to the femoral vein in the sapheno-femoral junction of the pelvic region. Varicose veins are very often associated with the saphenous venous system.
Every time you strain, pelvic and leg veins are engorged with blood, putting an abnormal amount of blood pressure on the walls of your veins. More importantly, this engorgement of blood puts a great deal of strain on the vein valves that are the only defense against gravity as the blood is moved back to the heart for reoxygenation. If this happens all the time, these vein valves will be damaged causing venus reflux, the abnormal backward flow of blood in the veins. This is what causes the blood to pool in your legs if you have varicose veins and causes these veins to stretch out of shape and damage the vein wall.
This is how straining directly causes varicose veins. If you happen to have genetically weak vein walls, fewer than normal vein valves from birth, or weak vein valves due to genetics, then this added blood volume due to straining will have an even faster and more pronounced effect. So, it can actually be a combination of straining due to constipation and other high risk factors for varicose veins that cause your need for varicose vein treatment.
For those people who are chronically constipated, i.e. where straining becomes an almost every day event, there can certainly be a correlation between the need for varicose vein treatment and straining. In fact, Dr. Denis Burkitt published research on this in the 1970s and 1980s. In countries were the diet is mostly processed foods with little fiber, the rates of varicose veins and hemorrhoids are much higher than in countries that still eat a diet high in fiber. The difference is hard compacted stools where straining is common versus soft bulky stools where straining isn’t necessary.
In an old 1972 paper by Dr. Burkitt, he describes in clear detail the correlation between low fiber diets and varicose veins, deep vein thrombosis (dangerous blood clots in the deep veins), and hemorrhoids. In this paper, he compared Africans who ate a naturally high fiber diet to vegetarians in the UK. He also compared the Africans to people in the UK who ate a more refined modern diet. The average intestinal transit time for the Africans versus the UK vegetarians was much faster, thirty-five hours versus forty-nine hours. Further, the average intestinal transit time for the UK people who ate a refined diet was seventy seven hours, i.e more than DOUBLE that of the Africans eating the natural high fiber diet!
Would you like to guess which group of people had the highest incidence of varicose veins? Yes, we know you guessed right because it’s common sense when you really start thinking about it. The UK people on a refined diet had the highest incidence. The UK vegetarians fared a little better than their UK refined diet counterparts but their rates of needing varicose vein treatment would still be higher than that of the Africans on a more natural higher fiber diet.
Here’s an interesting side note. The minority of Africans that ate a more refined diet developed varicose veins, deep vein thrombosis, and hemorrhoids just like people in the UK. Therefore, genetics due to ethnicity had nothing to do with it.
The modern diet, unfortunately, includes a lot of processed foods which tend to be low on fiber or contain no fiber at all. Therefore, if you start eating whole foods again, like fresh vegetables, nuts, mushrooms, and whole grains, you’ll soften up your stool and you’ll strain less. Adding more water to your daily routine is another way to loosen up your hard stools. Buy yourself a reusable water bottle you really like and carry it with you everywhere to help solve this problem. The perfect lunch on the go would be a healthy salad and a bottle of good clean water.
If you’re already subject to a higher risk of getting varicose veins through genetics or pregnancy, it becomes even more important to reduce other risk factors like constipation and being overweight. You’ll also need to be tested with duplex ultrasound to determine what’s going on with your veins. Don’t be fooled by the lack of visible varicose veins at the surface of your skin. You can easily have problems far below the skin too.
For a free evaluation of your veins, call Metro Vein Centers. They will fit you in at a time that is convenient for you. Metro Vein Centers is one of the leading varicose vein treatment clinics in the country.