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symptom

Poor circulation / Cold hands or feet

Symptom

You layer up with mittens and wool socks, and tuck hand warmers into your pockets, but it’s still no match for your freezing fingers and toes. Or maybe your feet tingle, and you notice your GI system is jammed up. Some people naturally run a bit cold, and are pretty used to having popsicle fingers and toes—but generally speaking, circulatory problems shouldn't be ignored. (Circulation affects your whole body, which explains why digestive woes can be a symptom!) Here's why circulation is important: your circulatory system is a network of organs and vessels constantly moving blood, nutrients, hormones, oxygen, and other life-sustaining elements throughout your body. When it's working right, your body is primed to keep you warm and fend off disease. When circulation is sluggish, it can be a sign of a health issue. You might have an underactive thyroid, or hypothyroidism, for example, a condition where your body stops producing enough of the hormones that regulate normal metabolism. Poor circulation can also be a symptom of or risk factor for a bunch of other health issues, including Raynaud’s disease, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, or anxiety. It can also be linked to aging, or even a lack of exercise. What you should do about this symptom depends on how serious it is. If you start to see skin changes like tightening or thickening, nail changes, or cracks/sores that don’t heal, those are signs that your circulation may be getting worse. If that’s the case, or if it is causing you discomfort or pain, check in with your practitioner to make sure there’s no underlying medical cause. If you're in the clear, try to get more exercise, because regular physical activity is the best and easiest way to get your blood flowing! (And for the record, you don’t have to beat your personal best on the bike to get your blood pumping; any kind of cardio, including walking, is great for circulation.) Maintaining a healthy weight is important because excess weight can place undue stress on the body—especially the circulatory system. Also, drink plenty of water, because staying hydrated helps the heart keep doing its thing. Finally, make a point of eating warming foods and spices like ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, hot peppers, cayenne pepper, and garlic, and look into circulation-stimulating herbs like hawthorn berry and leaf and prickly ash. Soon—who knows?—maybe you can ditch the mittens indoors!

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