Circulation for Longevity
Proper circulation is vital for all functions of the body and may be one of the most important factors supporting our health & wellbeing. The circulation system is responsible for carrying blood, which is filled with nutrients, water, and oxygen, to every single cell within the body, as well as for clearing stagnation from the lymphatic system. Having vibrant circulation helps promote cellular growth and optimal functioning of the body’s organs.
Without adequate circulation, fatigue or a loss of energy is often present, hormones tend to become imbalanced, immunity is often compromised, and many women encounter difficulty conceiving. Ensuring daily movement of this life-force energy is therefore imperative to our longevity. Healthy circulation promotes energy, vitality, and radiance from within. It helps to improve all aspects of our being, supporting our fertility, anti-aging, and optimal health.
Nourish your circulatory system and your whole body will feel the benefits. From herbs and diet to home therapies and exercise, a well-rounded holistic practice will reap amazing rewards. The following lifestyle suggestions can easily be integrated into your daily and monthly routines. Choose what feels best for you!
Movement - One of the fastest ways to increase your blood flow is through exercise. Anything that gets your heart rate up will increase the amount of blood flowing through your circulatory system. Swimming, hiking, yoga, jogging, and resistance training will all get your heart pumping. Even long, fast-paced walks are helpful for moving stagnation. Find an activity that you enjoy and you’re more likely to follow through and stick with it. Any form of movement, no matter how insignificant it may seem, is better than no movement at all.
Dry Brushing & Self-Massage - Both of these self-care rituals are known to increase blood flow. Spending an extra 5-10 minutes before and after your shower or bath is all you need to give your circulation a boost. Dry brushing should be done prior to bathing, on dry, clean skin, and is best done using a natural bristle brush.
How to: Start at the ends of your legs and arms, with short strokes, brushing up toward your body and heart. Once you get to your torso, move in a clockwork motion to mimic your body’s blood flow. Post-shower, using your favorite moisturizing body oil (we like jojoba, coconut, apricot, and argan oils), massage the oil into your skin, once again starting with your extremities, and moving toward your torso in clockwork motions. Use your hands and knuckles to gently massage your skin, moving in an upwards motion to stimulate blood flow.
Womb Massage -Massaging the uterine area is especially helpful for those with hormonal imbalances or those trying to conceive. It can help to regulate the menstrual cycle, support reproductive health, and increase fertility. It‘s also beneficial for mothers who have recently given birth, as it can help with recovery. With a few easy techniques, you can practice this ancient healing method at home. Abdominal massage can bring up some emotions, so get comfortable and give yourself half an hour of quiet time to practice this self-care massage.
The lymphatic system is directly connected to our circulatory system and can impede our blood flow if it is stagnant. Lymphatic drainage can be supported through gentle lymphatic massages, which are done at points along the lymphatic system to help increase flow and release blockages. Lymphatic drainage massages can be done with a Registered Massage Therapist (RMT) who specializes in lymphatic drainage.
Rebound therapy is also helpful in stimulating lymphatic drainage. Done on a mini trampoline, it stimulates the lymphatic valves, allowing for increased circulation throughout the system.
Hydrotherapy is an easy and effective at-home method to increase circulation. Alternate between hot and cold water in the shower (one minute of each, back and forth for 5 or 6 times) to stimulate the circulatory system. The hot water brings your blood flow to the surface of your body, allowing it to flow freely. The cold water causes your body to bring the blood inwards towards your internal organs as a protective mechanism. The alternation of temperatures causes movement of the blood within the body, stimulating circulation.
Yoni Steaming- With its warm herbal steams, the ancient practice of yoni steaming is both cleansing and healing. It helps to promote womb circulation, which has the benefits of regulating menstrual flow, eliminating old tissues, speeding healing, and increasing fertility. Adding herbs to the process can enhance the effects - rosemary and oregano are especially beneficial for circulation.
*Note: Do not steam during your period, if you have an IUD or if you’re pregnant or actively trying to conceive.
Deep Breathing -Circulation is as much of a mindful practice as it is a physical one. Spending 10 minutes a day to honor yourself and focus on your breath will decrease stress levels. When our stress levels are low, the body can focus on its other functions, which are sometimes put on the back burner as our bodies deal with the acute stresses of everyday life in a fast-paced society.
How to: Bhastrika Pranayama (the “bellows breath”) is a great breathing exercise to increase circulation. It’s done in a sitting position, breathing in and out through both nasal passages. Begin by exhaling all the air out through your nose and proceed to forcefully inhale with each second, expanding your stomach, and exhale with the next second, expelling all air from your stomach. Repeat this for 10 breaths per cycle. You can increase to three or more cycles per sitting once you feel comfortable with the exercise.
Hydration is key to healthy circulation because a huge percentage of our blood is made up of water. In fact, our bodies are two thirds water - and the brain is 75% water! On average, we lose about 2 liters of water per day through elimination (bowel movements, urination, sweating, and even breathing). If we aren’t hydrated properly, our blood will lack the water it needs to move healthily and fluidly. Drink half your bodyweight (in pounds) in ounces of water, but this should be increased for those who have high physical activity levels. Keep in mind that alcohol and caffeine are diuretics, which flush fluids out of your body. So, for every drink or cup, consume an additional glass of water to replenish what you’ve lost.
Consuming a clean, whole foods diet is beneficial in supporting the function of your circulatory system. There are also specific foods that can directly contribute.
Parsley - amongst its many health benefits, parsley is beneficial to the circulatory system as it’s a natural blood purifier, rich in vitamin C, chlorophyll, and flavonoids.
Vitamin E-rich foods - these support circulation by increasing the elasticity of veins and arteries, and by adding fluidity to blood cells which promotes healthy flow and prevents clotting.
Sources include: Pumpkin seeds, spinach, sunflower seeds, almonds, and avocados.
Omega 3 fatty acids - these reduce levels of triglycerides in the bloodstream, adding fluidity to the blood. They also help to remove excess plaque build-up in the veins and arteries.
Sources include: Wild-caught fatty fish (salmon, anchovies, sardines), flaxseed oil, avocados, and walnuts.
Citrus - oranges, lemons, limes, and other citrus fruits are rich in vitamin C, which is an essential antioxidant when it comes to cardiovascular and heart health. They’ll help to prevent arterial plaque build-up, which is one of the causes of poor circulation.
Watermelon - its high amount of lycopene, the pigment that gives food their reddish color - also found in tomatoes, grapefruit, and apricots - provides antioxidants linked to improving circulation.
Red wine and organic chocolate -These foods - along with tea, berries, apples, and legumes - contain high amounts of flavonoids, which are plant-based pigments that are excellent sources of antioxidants. They’re anti-inflammatory and promote blood circulation.
Garlic - it works to clean out any plaque build-up in the arteries, cleansing the blood and increasing blood flow. Radishes, onions, and leeks have similar benefits.
Herbs for Circulation
Ginger - a great circulatory stimulant and also a diaphoretic (brings about heat in the body).
Cayenne - creates heat in the body, stimulating the central nervous system and increasing metabolism. Cayenne is a fantastic circulatory stimulant.
Ginkgo biloba - works to increase blood circulation by dilating the blood vessels and decreasing the stickiness of platelets. Especially renowned for its ability to increase blood flow to the brain.
Hawthorne - a cardiac tonic, peripheral vasodilator (dilates the blood vessels in the extremities), and vein tonic (strengthens the veins and makes them more elastic). Hawthorne also increases cardiac output as well as oxygen delivery.
Gotu Kola - a common Ayurvedic herb used as a vasodilator, which helps to open the veins andarteries.
Willow bark - contains salicin (similar to the active ingredient in aspirin), which helps to thin the blood and encourage healthy circulation.
Green tea - helps to increase blood flow and improve the functioning of the capillaries. Drinking organic green tea or matcha is a great habit to get into!
Butchers broom - helps to heal circulatory issues when they’re related to chronic venous insufficiency, a condition which often affects women who have had multiple children and older adults, and in which the veins’ valves don’t function properly.