The circulatory system is the proverbial river of life that flows throughout our bodies. It carries precious nutrients, hormones and other chemicals through organ to organ and cell to cell. It is a very important aspect of overall health and metabolic function. It is through the circulatory system that immune cells are delivered to protect the body from pathogens. The bloodstream also carries away metabolic wastes, toxicity and pathogens to be eliminated from the body. We need circulation for both nourishment and detoxification.
Therefore, poor blood circulation can lead to the possibility of many health problems; it can especially cause an issue of unattractive, unhealthy skin. One of the key factors in healthy, glowing skin is great circulation. Proper blood flow ensures even skin tone, nutrient delivery to the skin cells and the healthy detoxification of the skin. But what happens when circulation goes bad?
The Effects of Poor Circulation on the Skin
Without good circulation our metabolisms would dysfunction, we would become cold, energy deficient, our organs nutrient deprived and our cells would wither away from disease. Another negative side effect of poor circulation would be a major decline in skin health and appearance.
Here are just a few skin problems that could arise due to poor blood circulation:
1. Unattractive skin tone – Poor blood flow can often go hand-in-hand with anemia or the general poor delivery of minerals throughout the body. In this case, a dull, pallid complexion results. A glowing, radiant color and complexion is dependent on two very important factors; an abundance of nutrients and a well-functioning circulatory system.
2. Skin discoloration – In addition to nutrients and hormones, oxygen is one the major components carried through the blood stream. While we take in oxygen through the lungs, it is sent through the circulatory system for delivery. If microcirculation becomes poor, there is often also the additional problem of poor oxygenation. This can result in pigmentation issues of the skin such as dark spots or a general uneven complexion.
3. Acne & Inflammation – While poor circulation won’t directly cause acne and inflammation, overtime, poor blood flow will affect your major organs. If our organs do not receive proper blood flow to and from them, we run into two primary issues; poor digestion and poor detoxification. If our liver and kidneys are unable to eliminate toxins properly, this can lead to chronic inflammation in the body. This can lead to a congestion lymphatic system, which would cause the lymph nodes can become congested and eventually those toxins would attempt to be secreted through the skin. This would cause issues such as acne, dry skin, eczema, psoriasis and general skin inflammation.
4. Decelerated healing – If you find that your skin takes much longer to heal it could be related to poor blood circulation. When circulation is poor there is less efficient conveyance of the necessary nutrients and repair hormones to the skin cells.
5. Wrinkles & Aged skin – One of the major causes of wrinkles is inflammation and toxicity. As we learned, we need good blood flow to properly detoxify the body. If we cannot properly eliminate toxins, this can lead to inflammation that leads to something known as AGEs, or glycation, which causes wrinkles. In order to prevent wrinkles, we need to diminish the likelihood of glycation. This would require a diet rich in anti-oxidants, a low inflammatory lifestyle and the healthy blood flow to carry antioxidants to the skin.
6. Dark eye circle – In TCM (Chinese Medicine), the eyes represent the liver and kidneys. This is why we often see our eyes become red, irritated, puffy or inflamed when our livers are toxic and kidneys not working properly. The kidneys regulate fluid, while the liver builds the blood and they both eliminate toxic waste. If circulation is poor, it can result in poor oxygenation, toxic accumulation and water retention, which may be at the root of the appearance of poorly oxygenated blood under the eye. When people ask me about this issue, I usually respond to them by saying, “exercise, get the blood flowing.”, which leads us to some solutions
Tips for Improving Circulation
By now we know the importance of healthy circulation, but what about the importance of healthy skin? The skin is not just an external canvas for the world to see, it is the largest organ of the body, consisting of the epidermis and dermis layers that make up your external tissue. The skin provides much to the human experience:
• It offers you the wonders of physical touch
• It is a barrier system, protecting you from environmental pollutants
• It is a source of nourishment, accumulating vitamin D from the sun to energize you through hormone production.
• It is a source of immunity; vitamin D is necessary for immune function. The skin is also coated with trillions of bacteria and give you immunity.
• It regulates your body temperature; to cool your body, blood vessels in the skin increase in diameter so that heat is lost through the skin and shrink in size to preserve heat
All of these things can be hindered by poor circulation; therefore, you will want to know some activities you can engage in to increase circulation.
1. Exercise – One of the simplest and most natural ways to improve blood flow is through daily movement. Exercise does not have to be intense, vigorous activity either. It can be a daily walk, gardening, playing with the kids, making love, physical sport, dancing or anything that gest your body moving. Through movement, blood flow is increased to the skin. As we have learned, the blood also carries oxygen, nutrients and hormones to cells throughout the body, including the skin. It also aids in the elimination of waste products such as toxins and free radicals. Exercise benefits the skin directly by moving the lymph, but also the internal organs. It increases the amount of microcirculation to the organs like the liver, helping it eliminate toxins. So exercise not only improves overall circulation through the basic act of moving and breathing, but it helps the skin in other ways. Another way it helps the skin is by decreasing stress hormone in the body. Exercise literally helps the body process and eliminate built up hormones in the body. been shown to ease stress. This can greatly improve conditions like acne, which could be attributed to the buildup of stress hormones in the blood. Also, there is a correlation to stress and excess sebum in the skin, which may attribute to oily and acne prone skin. Lastly, regular exercise tones the muscles in the face, which can help give your face more structure and firmness. To utilize these benefits, strive to move on a daily basis, even if that just means a 30-minute walk. We suggest exercising outdoors as well, this will improve your overall skin condition by giving you healthy sun exposure for vitamin D and improve oxygenation. Find a way of exercising you enjoy and that is right for your body type and engage often as possible.
2. Hot & Cold Showers – Alternating between hot and cold water exposure can greatly improve circulation and your overall health. Research suggests that regularly exposing yourself to cold water can also improve hormone balance, alleviate depression and increase immune functionality. It is also great for thyroid health, the master gland in regulating your body temperature and circulatory system. Cold water exposure actually helps restore hormonal imbalances by stimulating the lymphatic and endocrine system. When the thyroid is stimulated by cold water exposure, it tells the body to flush blood from our extremities to our organs, while releasing endorphins all along the way. This results in better circulation, a healthier thyroid (which results in long-term better circulation, hair and skin health), and hormone balance. If pure cold water exposure seems too intense at first, start by alternating between in hot and cold water. We recommend getting a shower filter to remove impurities, then expose your body to hot water for two minutes, then immediately switch to cold water for one minute. Repeat this cycle up to four times for dramatically improved circulation and skin health.
3. Herbs & Supplements – Dietary supplementation is another great way to improve overall circulation and blood flow. First, a healthy diet is imperative for good blood flow. A diet that is inflammatory can lead to the calcification of arteries, which impedes blood movement. Therefore, consuming an anti-inflammatory diet can be a great way to prevent the issue of poor circulation. But also, utilizing certain foods that are capable of decreasing inflammation, calcification and actually promoting blood flow can be highly beneficial. There are many herbs and supplements you can use to do this; one of the best foods for this is Ginger root. It not only is an anti-inflammatory root; it also stimulates the body tissue to flush out blood and take in new, fresh blood. Use ginger fresh for its circulatory benefits or dried increase the warmth of your body. You can also utilize herbs like ginkgo biloba, which is known to increase blood flow to the brain as well as to the skin. Lastly, we highly recommended the use of a high-quality niacin. Niacin works to improve microcirculation, similar to the way cold water exposure works. It is very potent as well, you may notice an itchy sensation as blood travels to areas of your external body where it hasn’t been in a long time. Do not use “no-flush” niacin, and start off with a small dose like 50 mg and work your way up.
4. Clay Masks – Applying a mask to your face may seem strange at first, but it just so happens to be one of the most powerful ways to stimulate circulation of blood and oxygen to the surface of your skin. Certain clays, such as bentonite works due to its molecular make up. It contains negatively charged ions, which when applied to the skin, are attracted to any positively charged ions, such as environmental pollutants and bacteria, which then stimulate circulation for the removal of these compounds. The result is often a massive flush of blood to the skin, followed by temporary redness – it actually feels quite good though, considering that endorphins are also traveling along with the blood flow. The use of clay masks is therefore a great way to improve blood flow dramatically in a short time, which will also oxygenate the skin, detoxify it and give you a clearer complexion. The resulting blood flow and oxygenation can also reduce wrinkles considering that increased blood flow also increases collagen production, which improves the skin elasticity. You can learn more about clay masks and how to use them in this earlier blog post.