Walking, running, jumping… or even stamping, how lovely it is when your legs feel light and full of energy! And then the heat arrives and that's it. For 1 woman in 2 and 1 man in 4, heaviness, fatigue and even swelling appear, ruining not only your mood but also your summer holidays, especially as the sun and long car or plane journeys aggravate the problem.
And yet there are simple remedies that can offer some people long-term relief. It's achieved through a routine of healthy lifestyle, a multi-coloured diet with plenty of vitamins and low in salt… and with the help of specialist plants promoting vein vitality, combined with active ingredients that hunt down free radicals.
Venous circulation: when it's weighed down by gravity
Particularly important in the lower limbs, the venous system must rise to a major challenge: the fight against gravity. Several "mechanisms" assist the upward flow of blood towards the heart, called "venous return": the venous pump in the arch of the foot and contractions of the calf muscles and, higher up, in the diaphragm muscle.
Veins are also fitted with some specialist equipment, a type of non-return valve which only opens in one direction.
3 questions often asked about venous return disorders
1 • What are the signs of a sluggish venous return?
The first sign is the feeling of heaviness and tiredness in the legs, accentuated during hot weather and at the end of the day. Tingling, night time cramps, swollen legs and/or feet, unsightly veins (distended venules which look like a "paintbrush" on the legs) or even varicose veins are also signs of vein weakness.
2 • What are the predisposing factors?
Heredity: with 2 parents also having varicose veins the risk rises to 90%.
Age: veins are like all ageing organs and tissue!
Women are much more affected than men; due to feminine hormones and also their variations during pregnancy, due to the menopause, and when taking medication...
Excess weight overloading the legs.
Constipation through abdominal venous compression.
Lack of exercise, smoking, which weakens vascular tone, heat, compressions (tight clothing...), standing for long periods, etc.
3 • With simple everyday actions, how can you prevent and/or improve heavy legs?
Move! Muscular and vascular tone go hand in hand. Walk, cycle, swim, a gentle workout…at least twice a week.
Raise your legs during the day, as necessary.
Finish off your shower, bath, sauna... with a jet of cold water. Tingling and well-being guaranteed!
Enjoy a gentle leg massage each day, with the gel of your choice. Ensure the oil penetrates the soles of the feet and then massage the ankles, working upwards towards the knees.
Sitting (especially cross-legged!) or standing for long periods, tight clothing.
Sources of heat: exposure to the sun, hot showers, underfloor heating, saunas...
High-impact sports - tennis, squash, volleyball and basketball...
Nutrition for heavy legs
So yes, the good health of the veinous system also starts at the table. Your diet will help "nourish" all the participants in venous return: veins, support tissue and capillaries - all at the same time.
Please note: veins have a different "architecture" to arteries. Thin, rigid walls, an inner layer made up of endothelial cells and support tissue (collagen and elastin fibres) which "instruct" the muscle cells of the middle layer to contract, an outer layer with cells that produce collagen and elastin, vital for vein suppleness and elasticity and therefore their ability to create pressure.
The valves are folds on the inner layer reinforced by collagen and elastin fibres.
Nutrients that protect against free radicals, the main enemies of cell walls: vitamin C (red fruits, citrus fruit, kiwi fruit, peppers, cabbage...), carotenoids (carrots, apricots, sweet potato...), polyphenols (blue, violet and red fruit and vegetables, herbs and spices...), vitamin E (oil seeds, avocado...), trace elements such as selenium (walnuts and Brazil nuts..., manganese (mussels, hazelnuts, cereals...).
So eat colours and add fruit, vegetables, mild spices and aromatic herbs to the menu! Mix and vary colours: the wider the range of colours in the meal, the wider the range of antioxidants, an important factor as they act in synergy and promote the neutralisation of all types of free radicals.
To nourish support tissue: vitamin C and tannins
Suppleness and elasticity of blood vessels are linked to the presence of specific compounds, collagen and elastin. Vitamin C plays a vital part in the formation of these elements whereas tannins, present in high quantities in grape seeds (in cocoa, tea, soya, blueberry, raspberry...), oligoproanthocyanides or OPCs, stabilise collagen.
When preparing meals for "heavy legs" use salt sparingly as it encourages water retention, generous portions of fibre and water to guarantee good transit.
And don't forget to drink plenty of water, especially in the heat of summer. A lack of water thickens the blood, slowing down blood flow, harmful to the venous circulation. Omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids also affect blood fluidity. So consume small oily fish, first cold press oils such as rapeseed, walnut, hempseed and linseed; sprinkle your summer salads with seeds/linseed, hempseed, walnuts…
The "heavy legs" plant kit
Horse chestnut, inedible kernel unlike sweet chestnut (which is a fruit, in correct botanical terms) and Sweet clover, the "honey flower", much sought after by bees: traditionally used to reduce the sensation of heavy legs, to maintain a normal venous and capillary circulation, to boost venous circulation.
Red vine, now a familiar sight in our landscape, whose red leaves contain a number of polyphenols, known to aid circulation and relieve heavy legs.
And finally, Witch hazel from North America, and a bit closer to home schisandra, for their action on small blood vessels.