Five Foods to Avoid if You Have Varicose Veins

Five Foods to Avoid if You Have Varicose Veins

If you suffer from painful varicose veins, you may experience relief by eating certain foods and avoiding others. Following a healthy, well-rounded diet is generally recommended for managing varicose veins, and that includes limiting problem foods to help alleviate symptoms. 

Varicose Vein

Below, we provide some basic information about varicose veins. We then cover foods to avoid if you have varicose veins, along with foods to consume more frequently. Finally, we discuss varicose veins treatment options. If you have additional questions, we recommend consulting a vein specialist.

What Are Varicose Veins?

Varicose veins are enlarged, twisted veins that typically create bulges in the skin’s surface. Although they can develop anywhere on the body, these visible veins most often appear on the legs, ankles, and feet. 

Although varicose veins are sometimes thought of as a cosmetic issue only, they are actually a sign of underlying vein disease. This common health condition, also known as chronic venous insufficiency, impacts up to 17% of men and 40% of women. 

Vein disease occurs when tiny, one-way vein valves experience strain and become damaged, causing blood to flow backward or pool in place. This often leads to venous symptoms like leg swelling, cramping, itching, and fatigue. Over time, visible varicose veins, spider veins, and other varicosities can develop. 

Many factors contribute to the development of vein disease, such as genetics, sex, age, and lifestyle. While some of these may be beyond your control, making healthy lifestyle changes can often alleviate venous symptoms, reduce your risk of developing additional varicose veins, and prevent serious health conditions like deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and venous ulcers (open, non-healing wounds). 

Varicose Veins

Common recommendations for managing varicose veins include:

  • Exercising regularly.
  • Maintaining a healthy weight.
  • Quitting smoking.
  • Avoiding long periods of sitting and standing.
  • Eating a healthy diet.
  • Avoiding unhealthy foods (such as those listed below).

Always talk to your doctor before making major lifestyle changes.

What Foods to Avoid if You Have Varicose Veins

If you have varicose veins, your primary diet should consist of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, low-fat dairy products, and healthy fats. Additionally, an awareness of the following foods to avoid for varicose veins will help you manage your symptoms and avoid additional complications.

Foods High in Sodium

If you’ve noticed that your leg swelling gets worse after eating salty foods, you’re onto something. Excess sodium in the body leads to water retention, which causes higher blood volume, elevated blood pressure levels, and inflammation of the veins. While salty foods may taste good, they should be avoided if you have varicose veins. 

Putting away your salt shaker is a good start, but there are many hidden sources of sodium. These include processed foods, canned meats, deli meats, salad dressings, and other condiments. Be sure to read nutritional labels on packaged products and purchase low-sodium varieties when possible. You can also reduce your sodium intake by selecting whole, unprocessed foods and limiting restaurant dining.

Foods (and Drinks) with Added Sugars

People with varicose veins should avoid consuming foods and drinks with added sugars. Too much sugar is problematic for a couple of reasons. First, it can cause weight gain, which often worsens venous symptoms. Second, consuming sugar causes a rise in blood sugar levels, which places additional strain on already fragile vein valves. 

Added sugar

If you crave something sweet, try reaching for fresh fruit instead of sugar-laden items like cakes, cookies, and candies. Consider saving indulgent desserts for special occasions and skipping soda and other sugary drinks entirely.

Foods with Unhealthy Fats

Varicose vein symptoms are often exacerbated by eating unhealthy fats (such as saturated fats and trans fats). Fried foods, like french fries and fried chicken, tend to be high in these fats and are, therefore, foods to avoid. Varicose veins symptoms can also worsen after eating fatty cuts of beef, pork, lamb, and poultry, as well as full-fat dairy products like butter, cheese, and ice cream. Not only can such foods lead to weight gain, but they can also cause further inflammation and damage to your veins. 

Do keep in mind that dietary fat does not need to be cut out entirely. A well-rounded diet can and should include foods rich in heart-healthy fats, like nuts, seeds, avocados, and olive oil.

Foods Low in Fiber

Eating a fiber-rich diet is recommended for individuals with varicose veins. A low-fiber diet can lead to constipation, which places even more pressure on already inflamed veins. 
To avoid constipation, eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, along with fiber-rich whole grains like oats, brown rice, and quinoa. Beans, potatoes, nuts, and many other delicious foods are excellent options as well.

Alcohol and Caffeine

In addition to following our list of foods to avoid, varicose veins symptoms can also be improved by limiting certain drinks. Drinking alcohol and caffeine (e.g., coffee) raises blood pressure, which causes damage to veins over time. Both substances are also diuretics and can lead to dehydration. This condition also strains veins and worsens venous symptoms. 

If you have varicose veins, drink plenty of water and talk to your doctor about safe levels of alcohol and caffeine consumption.

Treatment for Varicose Veins

Avoiding certain foods and eating a healthy, well-rounded diet can alleviate painful venous symptoms, reduce the risk of developing additional varicose veins, and prevent serious health issues. However, it is important to understand that even when you carefully plan which foods to eat and which foods to avoid, varicose veins do not go away on their own. 

If you suffer from painful varicose vein symptoms, you may benefit from minimally invasive, office-based varicose veins treatment. A range of non-surgical options are widely available and can usually be performed in under an hour, with patients returning to most normal activities immediately after treatment. 

For personalized recommendations on varicose veins treatment and managing varicose veins through diet, consult a vein specialist.