Circulatory problems can be a sign of underlying and undiagnosed health concerns such as varicose veins, thrombosis and plaque buildup in the arteries. Circulatory issues may be caused by high or low blood pressure, chilblains, Reynaud’s syndrome, or diabetes. Tingling, burning, or ‘pins and needles’ sensations in the hands and toes are also common signs of circulatory issues and should be specifically addressed by your medical herbalist or healthcare provider.
Here are some simple yet effective suggestions for improving circulation and warming up those cold hands and feet during these cold days and nights.
10 Easy Ways for Improving Circulation
- Replace the salt and pepper shaker with cayenne pepper powder. Traditionally, Cayenne is known to improve circulation and improve blood flow throughout the body especially to the peripheral blood vessels.
- Decrease the consumption of tea, coffee and caffeinated drinks. Caffeine constricts blood vessels and decreases peripheral circulation, leading to a rise in blood pressure. A high intake of caffeine promotes the release of stress hormones.
- Add freshly chopped garlic to your diet. Garlic is known both for its immune system boosting properties as well as for its heart health benefits.
- Keep fresh ginger in your pantry and add it to soups, stews, stir fries or even herbal teas for an added spicy flavor. Ginger is known to improve circulation and blood flow to the hands and feet.
- Use herbal teas to support healthy circulation. Herbal teas such as ginger root, hawthorn berries, yarrow flowers, linden leaves, rosemary leaves and ginkgo leaves are rich in flavonoids and strengthen the walls of blood vessels, improving circulation. When used long-term, they may help reduce hypertension.
- Uncross your legs. Frequent leg crossing looks pleasing to the eye, but can hinder circulation, further contributing to broken veins and spider veins.
- Choose Movement! Instead of sitting for long periods of time, take a moment to raise both legs off the floor and flex and point your toes or take a time-out moment and walk.
- Exercise on a regular basis. Increasing the pumping mechanism of the heart is extremely important for cardiovascular health. Exercise enhances blood flow, improves the circulation of blood from the heart to the peripheries, helps reduce obesity and regulates blood pressure.
- Try dry skin brushing to improve circulation. Using a vegetable bristle brush, begin brushing from the feet and work up towards the heart, brushing in a clockwise, circular motion. Avoid brushing over areas of varicose veins, thin skin or open wounds.
- Supplement with Vitamin C and bioflavonoids. Unbeknownst to many, bioflavonoids enhance the absorption of the Vitamin C, increasing its effects in the body. Bioflavonoids are found in peppers, buckwheat, apricots, the white rind inside of the peel of citrus fruits, berries, rosehips, blueberries, grapefruits, watercress, kale, elderberries, paprika, garlic and onions. Bioflavonoids work together with Vitamin C to strengthen the walls of blood vessels and capillaries and to promote circulation.
Other Conditions That Affect Your Foot Health
Another common cause of having constant cold feet is hypothyroidism, which is when your thyroid doesn’t produce enough of certain hormones. Symptoms associated with this common condition include cold hands and feet, hair loss, fatigue and weight gain.
• Female Hormones
The hormone estrogen plays an important role in the function of blood vessels, and the more of this hormone a woman’s body produces, the more sensitive she is to temperature changes. When a chill hits, tiny thermo-receptor cells signal the capillaries to divert blood flow away from your extremities to more important organs. High levels of estrogen can cause the thermo-receptors to shut the blood vessels down even from a minimal amount of cold.
- Smoking and Alcohol
Smoking can reduce the amount of oxygen in the bloodstream and it shrinks blood vessels, which decreases blood circulation. Meanwhile, alcohol can cause vasodilation, which is an opening of the blood vessels. While this is responsible for the happy glow you get while intoxicated, it can also be responsible for chilly feet: The blood in your body is sent elsewhere.
- Raynaud’s Disease
Though it’s one of the least common causes of cold feet, Raynaud’s disease is another cold feet culprit. The condition, named after the French physician Maurice Reynaud, causes certain areas of your body to feel numb and cold in response to cool temperatures and emotional distress.
- Tight or Cramping Muscles
Muscle tightness can create all kinds of pain and problems, one of the least known being icy feet. Stiff muscles don’t allow much blood flow, so try some foot, leg and buttocks stretches to loosen and relax the muscles as well as increase circulation.
• Peripheral Neuropathy or Peripheral Vascular Disease
If you have the feeling that your hands or feet are cold, but they feel warm to the touch, or if you are experiencing numbness, tingling or burning in addition to the cold feeling, you may have peripheral neuropathy, which is a result of damaged nerves, or peripheral vascular disease, which is a result of a build-up of fatty material in the blood vessels. It’s extremely important to see a health care provider if you have these symptoms.