For more than a decade now I've worked in jobs that involved extended periods of standing - as a server, baker, barista etc - and about six years ago I started to get spider veins on my calves. In the last two years or so they started to get really bad. They moved up to my thighs, got bigger, spread and got more "clustered", and I started to get pain in my calves after standing for too long.
I talked to my doctor about them, who said they are "genetic" and suggested laser surgery or wearing compression stocking. I tried the stockings for a few months but they didn't do much, and they're very expensive. I asked my mom if she'd ever had spider veins, as she's been a nurse for twenty years, and has had four children, and she doesn't have them, but she said my paternal grandmother used to have an awful case of them, so I figured they were my genetic lot.
My spider veins are embarrassing, ugly, and painful. I'm still fairly young (29) and my legs have always been my best physical feature, but I started covering them up and just accepting the fact that I'm getting older and shorts/skirts aren't for me anymore.
I checked the veins a few weeks ago (I tend to hate even looking at them) after a particularly long day on my feet, and some particularly bad cheating with cheesecake (sometimes it's hard being a baker and eating paleo!), and they were awful - swollen, tangled, and spreading down my calves. At that point, since I had eaten so much sugar (but no grains) that day, I wondered if the sugar had anything to do with them.
So...for two weeks now I've been very strict about no sugar/grains (I've been 70% paleo for a three months with too much cheating). And guess what are disappearing? The spider veins!
Last night, after a long day of standing, and even lots of walking in high heels, and NO SUGAR, I checked them out. The main, really prominent ones are still there, but they are much lighter, and the "spreading" ones were completely gone!
I can't even describe how thrilled I am about this, and how mad it makes me that I thought I was doomed to an ugly deformity on my legs because of "genetics", when such a simple thing as sugar is obviously (to me, now) linked to this phenomenon.
After that long and thrilling story, I ask, has anyone else had experience with spider veins, and noticed anything similar? Or noticed anything different? Does anyone know of any science that has been done on this, or any science that could explain how spider veins are affected by sugar? I know that sugar can destroy capillaries, but I always thought this applied to people with diabetes, but it makes intuitive sense to me that sugar could destroy healthy blood vessels as well, and leave them less able to shunt blood in and out effectively.
As I typed this I remembered some smaller spider veins I had on my lower chest (so random!) and just checked, and they're gone too!
Update Dec 18th: I've been quite consistently checking my legs every night before bed and the veins stayed small - the main ones are still there but lighter, and no new spreading.
This last week I went on a bit of a sugar binge (stupid Christmas candies!) and I checked them out and there they were - the bigger, darker ones spreading up to my knee. The ones on my chest that had completely disappeared were back and spread to a wider area. A couple on my face that had disappeared were back as well.
My activity levels have stayed almost perfectly consistent and I'm strictly no grains - the only change is in the amount of extra sugar I've been consuming.
Thanks to everyone who has posted with ideas and comments.
asked byRuby (1783)
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on October 31, 2010
at 12:13 PM
Stretchable blood vessels, like veins, can temporarily enlarge after a blood sugar spike. But, increased osmotic pressure on vein walls causes this, not biochemical signaling. So, cutting carbs can flatten out one's veins. But, this doesn't treat the underlying problem of a loss of venous elasticity. Rather, it just hides it.
Many things can cause veins to lose elasticity- the proximal cause of spider veins (telangiectasia). Elevated glucose levels can lead to arterial hardening. But, for a venous problem, I would first consider elevated blood pressure that standing all day exacerbated. Do you have high blood pressure?
on October 31, 2010
at 03:33 AM
Totally - its called Telangiectasia I think and its more common on the face - linked to high insulin levels - I read about it a while back - trying to find some studies for you but when I google it it mainly comes up with Ataxia Telangiectasia ( Same but in the brain ) thats well known to come from High insulin levels too but has more factors - not really relevant to most of us. But anyway look it up its interesting.
on October 30, 2010
at 06:59 PM
collagen damage caused by too much sugar/starch. tissue is unable to repair properly. i am the only one in my family who got them and also the only one who spent years in vegetarian hell.
on March 24, 2013
at 01:48 AM
I had a similar experience.
Ric Clin Lab. 1978 Oct-Dec;8(4):273-85.
Collagen, elastin and sugar content in primary varicose veins.
Andreotti L, Cammelli D, Banchi G, Guarnieri M, Serantoni C. Abstract
The collagen, elastin and total sugar content was evaluated in 32 samples of saphenous varicose veins and in 34 controls. A significantly lower collagen and elastin content was found in the varicose samples. In addition, the total sugars and the soluble non-scleroproteins were found to be increased in varicose samples.
I found this article years ago when I was in college. I used to think "a calorie is a calorie," and I tried an experimental diet consisting of maple syrup, chocolate syrup, and anything else sweet I could get my hands on. After a few weeks of this abuse, blue veins once invisible began to appear on my finger joints. I scoured the internet for a sugar-varicose connection, and voila, this came up. I have also read about an experiment in which the vein of a living dog was ruined by a continuous trickle of IV insulin. I'm not sure what the exact mechanism is, but I know there is a connection in there somewhere.
Chris Masterjohn indicates (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LDJjqY4H3Cc 29:30-30min) that both glucose and acetone from fat metabolism can create methylglyoxal, which promotes glycation, and I have noticed varicose veins getting worse when I overeat fat on a low-carb diet as well.
The idea that everything is genetic is a cop out. I used to think that varicose veins were the result of some micronutrient deficiency, but now I suspect that they are more the result of macronutrient excess. Whatever the cause, it has been known since at least 1978 that varicose vein tissue has to much sugar incorporated into it.
Way to be observant.
on October 31, 2010
at 02:19 PM
I don't know about the cause or the dietary angle, but look into sclerotherapy for your spider veins. I just had it done for spider veins and a small varicose vein (which, for what it's worth, developed last summer after I had been low carb and then primal for a number of years), and it's working, though it takes some weeks. Very minor procedure(s), no down time or significant discomfort. There's absolutely no reason you have to live with this. I had mine done through a hospital's vein clinic, and my insurance is covering it (because the varicose vein caused some discomfort; it's not regarded as simply a cosmetic procedure).
on January 05, 2014
at 05:09 AM
yeah i noticed mine faded after going paleo
on August 05, 2013
at 12:32 AM
I have the same experience. No sugar, no veins. Makes you wonder what the sugar is doing to the heart.
on November 11, 2010
at 04:13 PM
Back when I was following the "fit for life" diet (aka the food combining diet) at which time I was eating very little meat and a whole ton of carbs, I would get veins almost every time I upped my workout intensity. If I took a week off from running, I would get them. If I had a particularly crazy workout at my MMA gym, I'd get them. They were there for about two years and I guessed that it was because I was getting older.
I hadn't realized until you asked this question that I haven't had them since 'going paleo' about 18 months ago. Seriously, they're gone. Yay!
on October 31, 2010
at 07:21 PM
That's great to hear. I've been off sugar for almost 2 months and I can only hope I get rid of mine!
on October 31, 2010
at 04:02 PM
Ruby, I worked my way through school, undergrad to grad school as a barista, so I know exactly what you mean! I am in my 30s and since my mom and grandma have varicose veins, I figured it was just my genetic cross to bear. I didn't have many, but it was embarrassing anyway. It wasn't until the one big one on the back of my leg "exploded" one day that I decided to do something about it...it hurt like a wasp sting and swelled and turned red.
My advice is to go to someone who specializes in the treatment of this and they will probably have you do a combo of Endovenous laser treatment (for the deeper veins that are the root of this) and sclerotherapy (which takes care of the ugly beasties near the surface of your skin). I never knew how much living with this was zapping my energy (and confidence) and I will never "deal" with it again. Oh, and if you go in for treatment, they may ask you on an intake questionnaire if you have worn compression stockings for a minimum length of time--because somehow that is supposed to help, whatever--and if you say "no" they may make you wear them for a few months before they will start treatment...and they may also ask you a series of questions to assess the severity (I'm assuming that if you downplay how much it is affecting you, they may say you don't qualify for medical treatment) it just depends on your insurance so be aware.
To your question about sugar and veins, sugar promotes inflammation...I think you are giving your body a break from inflammation by following a paleo diet.
Best of luck!