Causes of poor circulation

In last week’s column we examined some of the signs of poor circulation. We discussed how chronic pain, fatigue, swelling, and headaches all could be caused by impairments in the circulatory system. This week we will discuss some of the most important causes of poor circulation.


Inactivity and Sedentary lifestyle

Inactivity and sedentary lifestyle are perhaps the most important causes of poor circulation. Exercise, activity, and movement are the most potent ways to not only increase blood flow but also improve venous and lymphatic circulation. The venous and lymphatic systems do not have a pump (heart) to drive circulation. They require muscle contraction and gravity to propel their fluids.



Dehydration and poor hydration status can greatly reduce circulation of blood and body fluids. It is so important to drink enough water because our bodies are composed of 60-70% water and every cell of the body requires a certain hydration status in order to function well. It’s amazing how a simple thing like drinking two or more litres per day of water can greatly increase circulation.


Nutrient Deficiency

Nutrient deficiency can play a significant role in poor circulation. Deficiency in calcium, magnesium, vitamin C, and protein can weaken the integrity of blood vessels and alter the way blood flows through the body.


Lymphatic Blockage

Lymphatic stagnation is one of the most commonly overlooked causes of poor circulation. The lymphatic system can often become sluggish or blocked leading to swelling and edema. Like veins, lymphatic vessels bring fluid back to the heart from the body’s tissues. The swelling and edema caused by stagnation or a blockage creates areas of high pressure and decreases the body’s ability to deliver fresh blood to tissues in the area.



Inflammation has recently gained a great deal of attention in the pathogenesis of many chronic diseases. In fact, inflammation is the main underlying cause in many forms of cardiovascular disease including atherosclerosis. Inflammatory molecules make the blood “thicker” and thus make it more difficult to deliver nutrients to the cells. Inflammation also damages the arteries and initiates the formation of plaque, which further decreases blood flow.


Cholesterol and atherosclerosis

As I just mentioned, inflammation is the underlying initiating factor causing atherosclerosis. However, cholesterol often gets the majority of the blame and receives the bulk of treatment for patients experiencing atherosclerosis. While it is important to address the inflammation it is also important in many cases to normalize cholesterol levels in order to prevent increased plaque formation. For patients with cardiovascular disease and elevated cholesterol I typically recommend dietary changes first followed by or in conjunction with nutritional supplements if necessary.


Hypertension (High Blood Pressure)

High blood pressure can be both a sign of and cause of poor circulation. Typically, blood pressure increases as a response to the body’s inability to get enough blood supply to the core organs, especially the kidneys. Therefore, the blood vessels tighten up and/or the heart beats faster and harder to increase blood flow. Unfortunately, as blood pressure increases it becomes harder on the heart to pump blood properly through that pressure. Therefore, circulation is compromised.


Diabetes and Blood Sugar

High blood sugar makes the blood thicker and more difficult to circulate. Most type II diabetics have cardiovascular concerns including poor circulation. In fact, the leading cause of amputation in North America is due to diabetic complications involving the circulatory system.


Heavy metals

Heavy metals like lead, cadmium, mercury, and aluminum can damage the lining of the arteries and contribute to the inflammatory processes that cause atherosclerosis. For people who have been exposed to high levels of these metals through work or environmental exposures it is very important to be tested and treated with Chelation therapy if metals are present.


Medication – Beta Blockers

Many medications actually decrease circulation. The most striking example is with a class of medications known as beta blockers. These medications slow the heart rate down and thus help reduce blood pressure. However, if blood pressure is high because of poor circulation beta blockers may reduce blood pressure but they also decrease the amount of blood flow to the vital organs. This leads to many patients needing increasing dosages or other medications to stabilize blood pressure.


If you are interested in learning more about cardiovascular health or would like to schedule a consultation please visit my website at www.drbrentbarlownd.com or call the clinic at 250-448-5610.


In next week’s column we will examine the use of Chelation for improving circulation and cardiovascular disease.

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About the Author

Dr. Brent Barlow is a Naturopathic Physician practicing at The Kelowna Wellness Clinic in downtown Kelowna. Dr. Barlow has been in practice in Kelowna since graduating from the Boucher Institute of Naturopathic Medicine in Vancouver in 2009.

Naturopathic Doctors are trained as primary care physicians, and primarily use natural medicine to treat disease and promote wellness. Dr. Barlow believes strongly in identifying and treating the causes of disease rather than focusing on the treatment of symptoms.

Naturopathic medicine utilizes diet therapy, botanical medicine, nutritional supplementation, acupuncture, spinal manipulation and other physical medicine treatments to treat the causes of disease. Dr. Barlow also trained in the specialized treatments of prolotherapy, neural therapy, intravenous nutrient infusions, and chelation therapy.

Dr. Barlow is in general practice and welcomes all individuals and families. As a naturopathic physician he is trained to treat all health conditions in the manner that best suits the goals of each individual patient. He also has special interests in natural treatments for pain management and digestive health.

To learn more about Dr. Barlow's treatments or to schedule a consultation, visit his website at www.drbrentbarlownd.com or call 250-448-5610.

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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