Are you the kind of person who can bump a corner of the coffee table and know that you’ll have a whopper of a bruise tomorrow? Are you afraid of your neighbor’s dog jumping on you because you’ll have to marks to show for it? Do you frequently sport some big bruises and don’t know where they came from? If you can answer yes to any of these questions, then you’re an easy bruiser.
Bruising at the drop of a hat is the result of fragile blood vessels, and can come from a number of underlying causes. In Chinese medicine, easy bruising is a sign that your body’s holding function is weak.
Your Chinese Spleen is responsible for digesting the food you eat and converting it into energy, blood, and nutrients. A secondary function of your Spleen is to hold things in place, including holding blood in the vessels. Other signs that your body isn’t holding things well are chronic diarrhea, frequent miscarriages, heavy menstrual periods and prolapsed (falling) organs, like your uterus or bladder. From a Chinese perspective, strengthening your Spleen can be accomplished through acupuncture, herbal formulas, and dietary modifications.
From a more Western viewpoint, easy bruising may be due to a vitamin or mineral deficiency. The most common deficiencies involved in weak or fragile blood vessels are Vitamin C, Vitamin K, and copper.
One of the functions of Vitamin C is to help build collagen, which is important in holding body structures together, including connective tissue, tendons, and ligaments. If you are deficient in Vitamin C, the ability of collagen to hold the connective tissue around your blood vessels may be impaired, allowing them to rupture and bruise more easily. Good food sources of Vitamin C include most dark vegetables such as broccoli, kale, collard or turnip greens, and red or green peppers.
Another nutrient that plays a role in the synthesis of collagen is the copper. Copper is a trace mineral found in oysters, most nuts and legumes (peas and beans). A deficiency in copper can also be an underlying cause of easy bruising.
Vitamin K can also be a player if you’re a bruiser, however it’s role is different than that of copper or Vitamin C. Vitamin K is important in making clotting factors, which are components necessary to stop bleeding and facilitate clotting. Like Vitamin C, Vitamin K is found abundantly in dark leafy vegetables. One word of caution, however, Vitamin K can alter the affects of Coumadin or Warfarin, so if you’re taking either of those anti clotting medications, steer clear of supplementing Vitamin K or taking any herbal formulas.
Many over the counter pain relievers, such as Ibuprofen (Advil), Naproxen (Alleve), and aspirin (but not Tylenol), can also have an affect on bleeding. These medications make your platelets (necessary in clotting, too) less sticky and therefore less prone to clotting. This is a good thing if you are at risk for cardiovascular disease or stroke, but taking these pain relievers for a period of time can make you more likely to bruise.