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Topic summary contributed by volunteer(s): Allen and Linda

Non-dietary factors can play a role in the onset of varicose veins (e.g., age, sex, pregnancy, and family history). But several diet-related factors can cause and/or exacerbate the condition.

Varicose Veins and Obesity

Obesity can put excess pressure on the veins of the legs, thus causing the larger leg veins to bulge and the blood to pool there. A plant-based diet may assist with weight loss and maintaining a healthy weight.

Varicose Veins and Constipation

Chronic constipation, the most common gastrointestinal complaint in the United States, can play a role in causing or worsening varicose veins.  Compared to rural African populations eating traditional plant-based diets, Americans have 25 times the rates of varicose veins. 

Consuming a Standard American Diet (SAD) has been shown to result in small hard stools. When we have to strain for bowel movements, the pressure may push blood flow back into the legs, causing valves in the veins of our legs to fail and resulting in varicose veins. The pressure may also cause out-pouchings from our colon, which may result in diverticulosis, hemorrhoids, and hiatal hernia.

Another factor increasing strain during bowel movements is the modern toilet. There is an almost 90-degree kink at the end of the rectum that is straightened when one squats, which had been the norm among humans for hundreds of thousands of years. This kink is only slightly straightened when one uses a modern toilet. 

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