Microcirculation is a topic that almost is never discussed as nobody knows about it! We all know that it is good to exercise to improve circulation but, Microcirculation?
Poor Microcirculation is involved in many disorders of the body, including Heart ( heart attack), Eye ( especially Macular degeneration ), Kidneys, Bronchi of the lung and even Brain Health (dementia ). Unfortunately, poor Microcirculation is not a disease per se but is a slow degenerative disorder that is difficult to measure and not treatable medically. Perhaps the best way to describe it is a factor in slow degenerative disease. Eventually, it catches up with you!
What is Microcirculation ?
Our Microcirculation is the vast and complex network of tiny blood vessels (small arteries, arterioles, capillaries, venules and small veins) that ensures the delivery of nutrients and oxygen to all our tissues according to their need. A robust microcirculatory flow depends on the quality of the blood and the Health of the endothelium, which supplies endocrine and local mediators to regulate organ perfusion.
Cardiac, vascular, renal, hepatic, metabolic, sensory and even neuropsychiatric conditions have all been linked to microvascular dysfunction. Evidence is even accumulating that the earliest manifestations of cardiovascular disease occur at the microcirculation level. Hence it is not surprising that therapies aiming to maintain or restore Microcirculation are receiving increasing attention.
Why is Microcirculation Important?
Because it is critical in moving blood and nutrients to cells, tissues and organs in the body and removing unwanted products excreted by cells, cells and tissues age or die if nutrients are not delivered or metabolic toxins are not carried away, so Microcirculation is critical to the nutrition of vital organs, particularly the heart and kidneys.
How is it diagnosed?
There is no medical diagnosis or definitive test for microcirculation issues and no medical treatment unless it becomes severe, e.g. gangrene of the toes.
Macular degeneration may also indicate Microcirculation issues. The best way of measuring this phenomenon is the observation of the sublingual veins of the tongue, which become more prominent / or the tongue in general which takes on a bluish tinge. Other signs are small blue veins on the legs and abdomen, bluish lips and nose and a bluish tinge to the ears.
Persistent cold hands and feet unrelated to the thyroid are also indicators.
Besides signs and symptoms, what is the best test so far?
The tongue reflects holistically as a microcosm of what is happening in the body. Tongue photos are taken and analysed for various signs that will reveal health imbalances in internal organs and the state of Microcirculation. The tongue may be seen as a defacto “CT scan “of the body.
The Healthy body will be reflected in the tongue as a nice pink colour both on top and underneath ( sublingual). Any changes in Microcirculation are shown in these areas. Prominent blue sublingual veins or areas that look like blue spider veins can indicate issues long before they occur. Blue “spider veins” sublingually are often found in cancer patients.
MIcrocirculation depends on several factors –
- Blood pressure
- Connective tissue strength ( small capillary walls )
- Body Movement
- The Autonomic nervous system.
- Good Nutrition
- Good Posture and breathing
- Fluid dynamics within the fascia of the body
Blood Pressure: Low blood pressure means that the heart is not pumping efficiently, or there is an inherent issue with the kidneys / adrenal glands that control blood pressure. Low BP is a co-factor in microcirculation issues. Low Blood pressure may not be a big problem per se and is not treated medically unless the BP becomes dangerously low.
Connective tissue: Blood vessel walls have an inner layer and outer layer outer layers. The outer layer is generally connected to the smooth muscle that either expands or contracts the blood vessel depending on responses from the Nervous system. Poor nutrition or the aging process may contribute to the loss of integrity of these tissues and smooth muscles that control the amount of blood that passes through.
Body movement: All body movement helps increase circulation in general and Microcirculation; however, Many of us do not get enough daily activity to facilitate good circulation.
The Nervous System: The Autonomic Nervous System – The Sympathetic ( SNS) and Parasympathetic (PNS ) are responsible for controlling smooth muscle surrounding blood vessels.
The SNS is the fight or flight system activated by stress or danger and shunts blood to muscles and the brain as a response. If activated, then the blood supply to internal organs is decreased.
The PNS is the rest and relax System that relaxes the smooth muscle in our internal organs and is activated mainly at night or when we are relaxed or tension free. Remember that saying – for good digestion, always eat when we are open or comfortable.
Nutrition: Nutrients such as vitamins and minerals, amino acids, and essential fatty acids are which are all used for collagen production for keeping the integrity of the walls of the tiny capillaries
Posture: Posture affects breathing. Poor Posture constricts the diaphragm’s proper working, affecting how the lungs work and the amount of oxygen available for good respiratory function. Shallow breathing affects Microcirculation big time! If internal organs are compressed with body fat, this can also be a significant contributing factor.
Fluid dynamics through Facia: fluids in the body affect osmotic pressure in and around organs and the body’s connective tissue ( fascia). If the fluid balance is not quite right, then Microcirculation can be impeded—too much pressure in one body compartment compared with others. For E.g. swollen ankles were often seen in those who have heart disease.
So what is can be done to increase Microcirculation?
Increase blood pressure if low-
Adding more sea salt to the diet or licorice tea may help. ( please do not do this if your BP is normal or high ) if this is a constant problem, then see your Naturopath for more options
Use specific supplements –
Daily use of Herbal supplements that contain Grape seed extract, Gotu kola and Ginko Biloba as these herbs contain compounds that help to increase Microcirculation and maintain connective tissue integrity. The best herb for improving Microcirculation is Dan Shen * or Salvia Millitoriazia is its botanical name. This herb has been used for centuries in the east for improving small vessels’ blood flow and is available in a granule, liquid or capsule form.
The most specific exercise for increasing Microcirculation is using a rebounder ( like a mini-trampoline ). Others may include the Standing Meditation Qigong exercise called” Zhang Zhuan” in Chinese. Inverted yoga exercises * in particular, are excellent as they “squeeze” and compress blood vessel tissue, then release it. This gives a flushing effect on the muscles and tissues being worked. Stretching achieves the same result. For best results, some of these exercises need to be done daily.
Although Aerobic exercise and resistance training are also good for the body, this mainly affects the Microcirculation, not specifically the Microcirculation, so running Marathons will not help here.
Surprise, surprise! Yes, Meditation puts the body into Parasympathetic mode and more! The longer one can be in Parasympathetic mode, the better for Microcirculation.
Stress activates the Sympathetic nervous system, so Meditation is a great way to de-stress the body, increase blood flow, and calm the mind throughout the day.
The best diet for supporting connective tissue is a vegetarian or Mediterranean diet minus bread, rice, pasta, and potatoes. These four do not contain many nutrients conducive to good Health compared with Vegetables and fruits. Minerals and compounds such as polyphenols and flavonoids are vital to maintaining the integrity of the vessels.
Ingesting more Vegetables and Fruits means more intake of vitamins, minerals, polyphenols, etc. This is why a Whole Plant-Based Foods diet promotes longevity and vascular Health. 80% assorted coloured vegetables and 20 % varied proteins are the daily recommendation.
- Dan Shen or other circulatory herbs should not be used by persons on blood thinners unless otherwise instructed by a Health professional
- Standing Meditation or yoga inverted poses ( standing on your head) should not be done by those who have neck or back issues, knee problems or heart disease unless otherwise instructed by a Health professional.
Please contact me for a Tongue assessment with photos of your health status. See www.adelaidenaturopath.net.au