Deep Vein Thrombosis
Deep Vein thrombosis (DVT) is, according to the Merck Manual of Medical Information, “The formation of blood clots (thrombi) in the deep veins of the body, usually in the legs. Because blood in the legs’ veins travels to the heart and then the lungs by the squeezing action of the calf muscle, these clots then can block one or more arteries in the lungs, a condition called pulmonary embolism (PE).” The website www.worldthrombosisday.org likes to express it like “DVT+PE= VTE, because together, DVT and PE make up venous thromboembolism (VTE).”
DVT is a very common condition and according to Gary E. Raskob, PhD, in his article from January 7, 2016 titled ‘Blood Clots: The Common Killer You Might Be Ignoring’:
“Blood clots kill one in four people worldwide…each year, VTE affects 1 to 3 out of every 1,000 people. Among those who are age 70 or older, this increases to between 2 and 7 per 1,000.” Despite this, he claims public awareness is low as shown in a survey he and others conducted with the International Society on Thrombosis and Haemostasis steering committee of the United States, along with eight other countries from North America, South America, Europe, Asia, and Australia. In this survey, they found that “public awareness of thrombosis was low overall (at 68 percent), and for venous thromboembolism (VTE) in particular (at about 50 percent) — much lower than awareness of other health conditions”. According to him, “thrombosis is the underlying cause of heart attack, most strokes, and venous thromboembolism (VTE).”An estimated 100,000 to 300,000 people die from VTE each year in the USA, and more than 500,000 die each year in Europe. VTE causes more deaths each year in the United States and Europe than breast cancer, HIV disease, and motor vehicle crashes — combined.”
According to this article, “A recent study by the World Health Organization and others, VTE associated with hospitalization was the leading cause of premature death, as well as years lived with disability, in low- and middle-income countries. VTE was the second most common cause in high-income countries across the globe. VTE is responsible for more deaths and disability than hospital-associated pneumonia, catheter-related bloodstream infections, and adverse drug events. VTE contributes to chronic disability for people who have non-fatal clots in the legs or lungs. This post-thrombotic syndrome, or PTS is a painful and often disabling complication of clots in the deep veins of the leg. The syndrome results in chronic pain and swelling in the leg after periods of standing and may lead to the development of skin ulcers. This condition impairs quality of life and may also limit a person’s ability to work. Blood clots in the lung, especially recurrent clots, may cause chronic pulmonary hypertension— a condition in which the pressure in the lung arteries is chronically elevated, leading to symptoms such as shortness of breath when exercising and impaired heart function. These limit the patient’s activity and may require major surgery.”
Anatomy of blood vessels
The veins in the legs are built like one-way valves consisting of two flaps with edges that meet. In normal circumstances, veins return blood to the heart from all the organs of the body. As blood moves toward the heart, it pushes the flaps open like a pair of one-way swinging doors. If gravity or muscle contractions try to pull blood backward these flaps close up. This mechanism helps blood return to the heart. This is accomplished by the powerful calf muscles, which forcefully compress the deep veins with every step. These veins carry 90% or more of the blood from the legs toward the heart.
The legs also have superficial veins located in the fatty layer under the skin and deep veins in the muscles.
Major problems with veins include inflammation, blood clots or distended veins. Some thrombi heal by being converted to scar tissue, which may damage the valves in the veins. This prevents the veins from functioning normally, fluid accumulates and the ankle swells, condition called edema.
According to the Merck Manual, when it comes to blood clots, it is hard to predict how the blockage will occur. Depending on the size of the clot, a small artery in the lungs can be blocked causing death of a small area of lung tissue (pulmonary infarction), or all of the blood travelling from the right side of the heart to the lungs can be blocked quickly causing death.
In addition, chronic deep vein insufficiency is a complication that occurs with long term DVT. The valves in the deep veins and connecting veins of the legs are destroyed and this causes blood to not adequately return to the heart from the legs. Eventually the affected veins may be obliterated. When this is the case edema is always present, the skin on the inside of the ankle becomes scaly and itchy and may turn a reddish brown. This discoloration is caused by red blood cells that scape from the swollen veins into the skin. This skin becomes very vulnerable and even a minor injury can break it open and there can be throbbing pain when standing or walking.
Medical Treatments for DVT
Usual treatments for DVT in order of effectiveness are:
- Elastic stockings which gradually compress the blood flow upward. This can cause painful skin ulcers to develop.
- Pneumatic stockings, these have an electric pump that repeatedly squeezes the calves and empty the veins. They are used during surgery and kept after surgery until the person can walk again.
- Anticoagulants, usually given to patients who are going to undergo surgery. Heparin given by injection under the skin, followed by warfarin taken by mouth. The length of the treatment usually depends on the severity of the disease. The main risk associated with taking an anticoagulant drug like warfarin is increase in bleeding, both internally and externally. To keep this risk as low as possible doctors have to constantly monitor the blood for clotting time and the dose of the drug has to be adjusted accordingly. Drugs to dissolve the clots can also be administered (thrombolytic drugs) such as IV tissue plasminogen activator especially if the thrombus has been present for less than 48 hours. After 48 hours scar tissue begins to develop in the thrombus making it less likely to dissolve. After DVT develops the veins never recover and surgery may be the only option.
According to the website www.clotconnect.org, common risk factors for developing blood clots are:
- Immobility: which can be found in the case of hospitalization, being paralyzed, and prolonged sitting.
- Surgery and Trauma: Major surgery (especially of the pelvis, abdomen, hip, knee), bone fracture or cast, catheter in a big vein (PICC line, central venous catheter, or port)
- Increased estrogens: Birth control pills, patches, rings. Pregnancy, including up to 6 weeks after giving birth. Estrogen and progestin hormone therapy.
- Medical conditions: Cancer and chemotherapy, heart failure, inflammatory disorders (lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease) and the kidney disorder called ‘Nephrotic Syndrome’.
- Other risk factors: Previous blood clot, family history of clots, clotting disorder (inherited or acquired), obesity, older age, cigarette smoking, varicose veins.
About half of the people with DVT have no symptoms at all. In these people chest pain caused by pulmonary embolism may be the first sign that something is wrong. In others, when deep vein thrombosis blocks blood flow in a large vein, the calf swells and may be painful, tender to the touch and warm. This can happen on the ankle, foot, or thigh. The classic symptoms for DVT are:
- Discoloration (bluish or reddish)
The classis signs for Pulmonary Embolism (PE) are:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain (may be worse with deep breath)
- Unexplained cough (may cough up blood)
- Unexplained rapid heart rate.
What is a blood clot?
Despite all the different names it receives DVT, PE, VTE, PI, PTS and CPH, the root of the problem is always a blood clot. So the question we need to ask ourselves is what is a blood clot exactly? And how does it develop in the body?
To answer these questions, I would like to start with the real story of a 19 year old boy who died of PE. In the words of his own mother as published in the National Blood Clot Alliance website:
“Paul did not exhibit many symptoms. The only symptom Paul presented was shortness of breath, and therefore, he was believed to have developed exercise-induced asthma. He was the picture of health. Paul was a very active, healthy 19-year-old young man who never had asthma. He played many sports throughout his life and was working out at the gym several times a week with his friends. It was September and allergy season was in full force so it made sense that Paul would have some trouble breathing when he exerted himself. After all, I also have seasonal allergies and need to use my inhaler when I exercise in the summer.
It appeared suddenly, out of nowhere, at the end of August 2013. I remember the first time I noticed a difference in Paul. He had just walked down the stairs in our house and sat on the couch next to his grandmother, who was visiting from out of town. I heard him breathing heavily and asked him what he had just done…it sounded like he ran a marathon. He laughed and said, “I know, I just came down the stairs.” Paul never, not one time, complained about having trouble breathing. His father and I continued to notice the problem and sent him to see his doctor. It made perfect sense when he came home with an inhaler, which he used for a week and I noticed no improvement so he returned to the doctor for another appointment. I had hoped he would be prescribed a steroid, because that seemed to make sense given the continued shortness of breath and continuing allergy season. I am not a doctor, but that was my motherly instinct. Apparently, the doctor agreed, because that is what he prescribed for Paul. However, the very next day, Paul left for classes and never came home (he commuted to the University at Buffalo). He collapsed while at school that day and died instantly.”
Reading this heartbreaking story one can start thinking, how could such a healthy young man die of such a disease? Especially since he didn’t seem to present any of the risk factors associated with it. Maybe we need to look closer at this condition. According to pharmacist Ben Fuchs, to explain how a blood clot forms we have to look at the microscopic red blood cell that is circulating in our blood. According to him, a healthy red blood cell (or any other kind of cell) has a coating surrounding the nucleus that is made out of fat. This fatty membrane on the outside of the cells carries a negative charge that makes the cell highly electrical. It is this negative charge that red blood cells have on their outside membrane that causes them to repel each other and this bouncing-off-of-each-other effect keeps red blood cells from sticking to each other and thus forming clots. EFAs (essential fatty acids), he explains, keep our cells’ fatty membrane healthy with a negative charge that keeps them from clumping up together. From this explanation we can infer that when cells lose their electrical charge, they are prone to clumping up together and a blood clot forms. This will happen when the electrical nature of the cell is disrupted like in the case of EFA’s deficiency or because our digestive system is compromised and we are not absorbing fats correctly or because we are eating the wrong kind of fats (very common nowadays). Then, instead of repelling each other they are going to clump together. This means clotting and clogging, and ultimately, thrombosis, strokes and also all sorts of degenerative diseases, because these red blood cells’ main job is to deliver oxygen to tissues in the body. Do you think keeping our cells healthy is important? Could the cholesterol phobia we have been conditioned to be a reason for the increasing cases of blood clotting diseases skyrocketing today?
This takes us to another point, the electrical nature of the circulatory system. We need to remember that we are electrical beings, our heart, brain and blood run on electricity. Because our blood is liquid (mainly water) it depends on movement to keep the electricity going in our body. Think of a stream of running water and picture it pushing debris and pebbles with force. Then compare it to a river of stagnant water, stagnant water accumulates all sorts of debris in it. Our blood is the same, so what do you think happens when all these clots get in the way of the fluid electrical liquid organ our blood is? First, it cannot carry electricity, second, it cannot carry oxygen, third, it cannot carry nutrients to the different organs, fourth, it cannot detoxify itself. The result is slow, sludgy, clotting dirty blood and DISEASE. On the contrary, when the blood is fluid and clean, disease cannot take place. Fluid blood creates an electrical current, just like moving water creates electricity. This is why it is so important to keep the circulation at peak performance!
What is also significant is the nature of the cell itself. According to Ben Fuchs, the nucleus of the cell (the center of it) has a positive charge, which makes it attract and have a pulling effect on the highly electrical negative charge on the outside of the cell. This means that each of the 100 trillion cells circulating in our blood are little microscopic batteries, which also means they create a current that keeps the blood highly electrical and fluid, flowing versus clogged up. It is electricity that determines the health or lack of health in our bodies. Movement of fluids (good circulation) means health, a lack of movement means a breakdown in the movement of energy (bad circulation). Cells lose their negative charge under conditions of EFA’s deficiencies. Health then could be said to be good circulation and healthy cells.
Eating the sun
Foods that are highly electrical are all the ocean foods like kelp and all seaweed, and meats and dairy from grass fed animals, especially in the summer months because they absorb more solar energy than in the winter months. By the process known as photosynthesis plants literally harvest solar energy and convert that solar energy into something physical we can eat. Also, ocean foods are high is something called polysaccharides which are long chain sugars (not like white sugar) that are highly electrical and very detoxifying. These long chain sugars have little hooks that can trap electrical energy, when we eat these foods we get the benefits of this highly electrical energy and will keep the blood fluid. In an article from the “Journal of Thrombosis and homeostasis” researchers found that ocean products (all seaweed) “possess anticoagulant activities”.
This takes us to another important point to consider. Highly processed foods from which all nutrition has been stripped to extend shelf life not only don’t provide any electrical energy but rob electrical energy from our body! Could our highly processed diet also be the cause of deadly diseases like DVT?
More risk factors for DVT
Now that we know what a blood clot is and how important a high fat diet is, we can look at other contributing factors for blood clots. But before we go into detail on the risk factors, I would like to emphasize that blood clotting is not the normal state of the blood. Blood doesn’t just clot for no reason. In this sense, clotting blood is the end result of a long-term chronic health crisis where a number of contributing factors turn the blood into sticky, dirty prone to clot blood. According to Ben Fuchs, clotting is a serious matter and the body tightly controls and regulates it. In this sense, blood clotting is a complicated series of 7 or 8 different biochemical reactions known as the ‘clotting cascade’. What is more, the blood is an organ (a liquid organ) and as such it can get inflamed, just like any other organ. Ben Fuchs defines blood clotting as septic blood with lots of inflammatory factors in it. He explains that over time clotting blood leads to what is known as MODS (Multiple Organ Dysfunction Syndrome) and adds blood clotting is a very common ‘under the radar’ condition. As we saw in our blog on sepsis, dirty blood affects several organs because it flows around the body infecting different organs.
What are these chronic risk factors?
The main cause according to Ben Fuchs is chronic inflammation. According to him, DVT is caused by a long term input of toxicity through the digestive system. We saw previously how inflammation is a defense mechanism that happens when the wrong kinds of foods activate the immune system. When this happens, a chemical war follows causing casualties in the form of lots of dead cells, poisons and debris that circulate in the blood leading to clogging and sludginess. This accumulation of dead cells will not only clot the blood, but will also interfere with the delivery of nutrients to the different organs. When this happens, the cells that coat the lining of our small intestine will start dying, and holes will start forming, condition known as ‘leaky gut syndrome’. This further complicates things, because now pieces of food also end up in the blood activating the immune system again. The result is more dirty, clogging, clotting blood that compromises the circulatory system even more, which in turn will lead to cell suffocation, starvation and toxification and ultimately to cell death and more clotting and clogging.
This process will become a deadly downward spiral, because under these conditions the body will be under great stress. If you recall in our blog on stress, we saw how stress itself can cause the blood to clot. All these digestive problems will become a source of stress for the body, and this stress will clot the blood even more.
All this clotting and clogging coming from the digestive system will bring about another risk factor for DVT: low blood oxygen (hypoxia). Because all these poisons circulating in the blood will prevent oxygen delivery (remember the stagnant body of water) Under conditions of low blood oxygen the blood will also clot, which will add more stress, which will further clot the blood, compounding the problem more and more.
Deep breathing and oxygenating the blood with exercise will help, but not without first removing the primary causes of the clotting: eating the wrong foods first and a leaky gut second.
Other risk factors for blood clotting are pregnancy, exercise induced dehydration, inactivity and smoking. When it comes to food as a risk factor, sugar is especially problematic, high fructose corn syrup in particular. In an article from the ‘Journal of Diabetes Research’ authors say “unequivocally HFCS is known to produce cardiovascular and metabolic pathologies” and this includes high blood pressure, activation of the stress nervous system and both of these are related to blood clotting pathology. According to another article from the “Journal of Thrombosis Research” “Fructose promotes abnormal clotting much more than any other common sugar”.
The good news
There are so many things you can do to keep your blood from clotting.
First of all, identify which foods trigger an immune response in your body, most highly suspects are going to be sugar, HFCS, any highly processed foods, lectins containing foods like wheat, hydrogenated fats and highly processed oils (like canola oil). Then you are going to have to do investigative work on the less obvious foods, you know your body the best, so pay attention to any signs of digestive distress and eliminate those foods. Then start a good nutritional supplement program that includes omega 3,6,9 fatty acids with digestive support if you have problems digesting fats: enzymes like pancreatin, lipase, protease, etc. and apple cider vinegar to activate the enzymes. Dosage of omega 3,6,9 is relative to body weight, the higher the weight the more you will need. You can also help your gut heal with aloe vera, glutamine powder (1tsp/day), zinc picolinate (50 mg/day) taken together with 2 mg of copper, glucosamine and any mucilaginous product like slippery elm, bone soup and seaweed. Help your liver keep the blood clean by using the Liver Support Compound from Healthy Hearts Club, and the Detoxifier Extract. These two products will help you purify the blood and will keep blood clots from forming. Also the Heart and Body Extract will improve circulation and is antibacterial. Your health is in your hands, take it back!