Banishing Bruises

Strengthening your smallest blood vessels can help reduce those ugly marks.

January/February 2017

by Lisa James


You’re not quite sure when it all started, but it seems that lately you always have a bruise somewhere on your body. They don’t hurt but they’re not attractive, and it’s getting to the point that you feel self-conscious in skirts and short-sleeved blouses. What’s going on?

There are many possible reasons for unexplained bruises, but one factor is fragility of the body’s smallest blood vessels, known as the capillaries. Fortunately, there are natural ways to strengthen these tiny structures—each thinner than a single strand of hair—so bruising doesn’t occur quite so easily.

Easy Leakage

Capillaries link arteries, which bring oxygen and nutrients to the body’s tissues, and veins, which carry waste products away. The skin, as the body’s largest organ, is loaded with capillaries; these can become damaged if you, let’s say, bump your leg against a table. Blood leaks into the affected area, causing reddish-purple marks (technically called contusions) to form.

Hard enough bumps and knocks can cause bruising in people of any age. However, older folks are more prone to this discoloration because age tends to thin the skin, reducing the fatty layer that cushions and supports it.

Several disorders and certain medications can cause easy bruising, which also tends to run in families. And the paler your skin tone is, the more noticable bruises will appear.

Sealing the Leaks

Any new tendency to develop unexplained bruises should be brought to your practitioner’s attention. If everything checks out, however, you might want to consider supporting your body’s ability to form strong, leakproof capillaries.

Like the skin itself, blood vessels are made of a structural protein called collagen. Vitamin C is needed for formation of collagen that’s tough yet flexible, which makes capillaries less prone to breakage.

Vitamin C works best when paired with bioflavonoids, plant compounds that increase the vitamin’s activity within cells. Like C, bioflavonoids are powerful antioxidants, and together they help fight the free radicals that can sap skin of its strength and leave you with a sallow complexion that shows every wayward mark. Two flavonoids, rutin and hesperidin, are particularly noted for their ability to strengthen capillaries.

Another class of phytonutrients are known as oligomeric proanthocyanidin complexes. Found in grape seed, red wine and other natural sources, OPCs have been found to inhibit enzymes that degrade collagen and other crucial structural proteins. They have also shown an ability to improve small-vessel circulation and promote wound healing.

Green tea supplies its own set of phytonutrients called catechins. Like OPCs, catechins protect collagen from being degraded by enzymes. In addition, they help protect skin against damage caused by the sun’s ultraviolet rays.

Green tea isn’t the only herb that supports capillary health. Bilberry, best known for promoting healthy vision, has been found to improve blood vessel tone and blood flow. Ginkgo is also valued for its ability to support small-vessel circulation and to help vitamin C build strong collagen.

Bothered by unsightly bruises? Proper nutrition can encourage them to fade.

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