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Inflammation | July 11, 2017 | Author: Naturopath

Circulatory system


Thrombophlebitis is an inflammatory process that causes a blood clot to form and block a vein. It can occur in the veins close to the surface of the skin (superficial thrombophlebitis) or deep within a muscle (deep vein thrombosis).  Superficial thrombophlebitis is not dangerous as these clots rarely travel to other parts of the body. However, a clot that is involved in a deep vein can grow and even travel to the lungs and other parts of the body—making the condition very dangerous. If you are at risk of thrombophlebitis happening, there are many things that can be done to reduce your risk—including supplementation, eating well and maintaining a healthy weight.

What causes thrombophlebitis?

Thrombophlebitis is caused by inflammation in the vein which can occur after an injury (i.e. a knock to the vein) but it can also happen without any injury. Other causes include surgery, an inherited blood-clotting disorder and prolonged inactivity such as flying or a hospital stay.

What are the symptoms?

The signs and symptoms of superficial thrombophlebitis include:

  • Redness and swelling around the vein
  • Warmth and pain in the affected area
  • The clotted vein often presents as a ropey cord which is usually tender to touch

The signs and symptoms of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) include:

  • Pain, tenderness and swelling in the affected leg

When to see your doctor

If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms you should visit your doctor straight away—especially if you have one or more risk factors for thrombophlebitis. If you have shortness of breath or chest pain with leg swelling and pain, visit an emergency room immediately. These symptoms might indicate that the blood clot has dislodged and travelled through your veins to your lungs (pulmonary embolism).

Risk factors for thrombophlebitis

Your risk of developing thrombophlebitis increases if you:Risk factors for thrombophlebitis

  • Are over the age of 60
  • Have had a stroke
  • Have had previous episodes of thrombophlebitis
  • Are overweight or obese
  • Have cancer
  • Smoke cigarettes
  • Have a family history of a blood clotting disorder or a tendency to form clots
  • Take the oral contraceptive pill or hormone replacement therapy
  • Have just given birth or are pregnant
  • Are sedentary for a prolonged period because of an injury or travel
  • Have varicose veins. This is a very common cause of thrombophlebitis
  • Have a catheter in a central vein as medical treatment. This may irritate the blood vessel and reduce blood flow
  • Have a pacemaker

How to prevent thrombophlebitis

If you have one or more of the above risk factors, preventative strategies should be taken to reduce your risk, especially before surgery or long flights or road trips. According to a 2011 article published in Seminars in Thrombosis and Haemostasis, having a healthy diet significantly reduces the risk of developing thrombotic diseases. Eating well reduces fats in the blood and inflammation and decreases the blood from sticking together and clotting. In this article, the following herbs and supplements were identified in reducing these risk factors.

Amino acids and protein. Protein is important for many components of our health and are a source of amino acids. Soy protein has been found to have an anti-thrombotic effect and can therefore be easily included as part of the diet by using tofu in a stir-fry or dessert, consuming miso soup or drinking unsweetened non-genetically modified soy milk. In comparison pork has been found to promote our blood from clotting and perhaps other healthy sources of protein from dairy, nuts, seeds, eggs, lentils, beans, poultry and fish should be eaten instead. L-arginine, an amino acid that helps to dilate our blood vessels and stop our blood from clotting, can be very beneficial if supplemented into the diet. An animal study found it to have the same benefits as heparin (a strong blood thinner), without the side-effects.

Carbohydrates. Eating a low GI diet can assist weight loss and reduce the amount of insulin and glucose in the blood (both of which contribute to blood clots). Avoid refined carbohydrates, sugar in lollies and drinks and processed foods.

Reducing weight to within normal range can significantly reduce your risk of thrombophlebitis. Aim to eat a balanced diet with loads of vegetables, moderate amounts of fresh fish, seafood and lean meats, with small amounts of healthy fats from avocado’s, nuts and seeds and olive oil. Exercise can help with weight loss, while also providing many other benefits for your heart and blood vessels.

Vitamin E. This important antioxidant provides many benefits for people wanting to reduce their risk of developing thrombophlebitis. Vitamin E helps to reduce cholesterol, improves the function of the veins and prevents blood from clumping and sticking together. Vitamin E is found in almonds, spinach, wheat germ and sunflower seeds. To get a stronger effect it can be supplemented, just remember to take a naturally sourced Vitamin E.

thrombophlebitis omega 3Omega-3 essential fatty acids found in fish, fish oil supplements, linseeds and chia seeds help to thin our blood, improve the function of our blood vessels and reduce triglyceride levels. Bump up your daily dose by taking a good quality supplement and eating foods rich in this essential nutrient.

Onions, ginger and garlic are well-renowned for their benefits on the cardiovascular system by thinning the blood and stopping it from clumping. 

Garlic has other benefits by reducing blood lipids and cholesterol levels. Onion and garlic are best consumed raw or cooked for short-periods. Aged-garlic or ginger can be supplemented for these same benefits.

Ginkgo biloba. A popular herb for cardiovascular health used both in Western and Chinese herbal medicine. Ginkgo helps to dilate the blood vessels, improve blood flow, inhibits blood clots and acts as an antioxidant. However, this herb may interfere with some medications, so it’s best to check with your naturopath or doctor first. 


Compression socks or stockings can be helpful in reducing your risk of thrombophlebitis, especially while travelling or being inactive for extended periods of time. Smoking increases your risk of blood clots, so maybe it’s time you quit! Other nutritional supplements that have also found to be helpful include flavonols and proanthocyanins from green tea, grapeseed, red wine and cocoa.  Australia’s best online discount chemist


Phang M, et al. Diet and thrombosis risk: nutrients for prevention of thrombotic disease. Semin Thromb Hemost. 2011 Apr;37(3):199-208

Burgstaller JM, et al. Efficacy of compression stockings in preventing post-thrombotic syndrome in patients with deep venous thrombosis: a systematic review and metaanalysis. Vasa. 2016;45(2):141-7

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