Pump It Up—A boost to circulation will provide multiple benefits

December 2016 View more

Poor blood circulation can really slow you down, making you feel sluggish and worn out; it can also lead to chronic health problems. Simple changes to your diet and daily activities can improve your circulation and bring your energy level up a few notches.


Circulation moves nutrients to cells and helps stabilize body temperature. Problems begin when blood flow is restricted to certain parts of the body. “Blood carries oxygen and nutrients to keep the organs of the body alive. Insufficient blood flow causes organs to become starved of oxygen, a condition known as ischemia. If not treated promptly, ischemia can result in permanent organ damage,” said Sujith J. Kalathiveetil, MD, FACC, a cardiologist with DuPage Medical Group in Naperville.

If you can boost your blood circulation, you can lower your chances of suffering from a number of problematic conditions such as cold hands and feet, muscle cramps, vertigo, numbness, boils, blood clots, varicose veins, hemorrhoids and cardiovascular disease. Improved circulation also leads to a more efficient lymphatic circulatory system. “The lymphatic system is a part of the circulatory system that works in tandem with the immune system. The lymphatic system filters out fluid from blood known as lymph. Lymph contains bacteria, waste products and white blood cells. White blood cells fight infections and cancer,” said Kalathiveetil.

Edible solutions

Staying hydrated is a great place to start. Drink at least eight glasses of water a day to increase blood flow throughout your body. Healthy eating goes without saying. “A diet rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, fiber, vitamins and minerals,” said Kalathiveetil, “contribute to healthy blood flow and the removal of wastes.”

Give your diet a tweak so it includes superfoods like cayenne pepper, sunflower seeds, ginger, watermelon, salmon, oranges, dark chocolate, avocadoes, and goji berries. Garlic is a blood cleanser that can reduce your cholesterol and boost your circulatory system. And a high-fiber diet aids this by increasing propionic acid in the intestines—this acid stops cholesterol build up. In turn, lower cholesterol levels reduce plaque in the arteries. Vitamin C also is a great addition to your diet to help with arterial flexibility so plaque won’t accumulate in the blood. Finally add fresh lemon juice to your morning tea or water—the citrate will naturally improve blood circulation.

Active answers

In addition to dietary changes, a few simple changes to your normal activities can help. Exercise is a must for increasing circulation.

“Blood flow is improved through all forms of movement. When you walk, your foot and leg muscles are contracting and relaxing and acting like a ‘second heart’ to continually pump blood back up your legs to the heart,” said Kalathiveetil. Massage therapy can increase blood circulation, since massage relaxes your muscles and blood travels more freely towards your heart.

When showering, alternate hot and cold water. The cold blast causes the lymph vessels to contract. During the hot blast, those vessels dilate. This all increases blood flow and helps circulation. Additional heat treatments like sauna visits, heating pads and hot packs help to remove toxins from cells and increase blood flow.

Stress reduction

Anything you can do to relax is helpful to overall circulation. This includes meditation, stretching, and getting enough sleep. Kalathiveetil explained, “Good circulation is essential for a healthy body. Every cell in the body needs oxygen and nutrients to survive. Poor circulation to various organs can cause a large array of symptoms including: chest pain, shortness of breath, fatigue, strokes, skin ulcers, varicose veins, swelling of the legs and feet, numbness, and poor wound healing.”