Q: With age, I’ve become easily bruised. What can I do to avoid bruising?
A: Bruising typically occurs when the tiny capillaries near the surface of the skin break after blunt trauma. As we age, our skin gets thinner and these blood vessels become more fragile, which can result in being easily bruised from the slightest bumps and scrapes.
Other Causes of Easily Bruised Skin
Aging aside, bruising easily can be due to a number of factors.
One common cause is drugs, especially blood-thinning medications (Coumadin/warfarin), anti-clotting drugs (Plavix), corticosteroids, and aspirin. Bleeding disorders and other diseases may also contribute to easily bruised skin, so you should discuss these things with your doctor. (Do not stop taking any drugs unless advised to do so by your physician.)
Severe vitamin C deficiency (scurvy) is also marked by pervasive, easily bruised skin as collagen breaks down. So if you’re not getting at least 1,000 mg of vitamin C daily, that may be the cause of your bruising. Deficiency in vitamin K, which is involved in blood clotting, is another potential but rare cause of easily bruised skin. The best way to make sure you’re getting enough vitamin K is to eat more broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale, spinach, and other leafy greens. (Caution: If you are taking Coumadin or another blood thinner, you need to talk to your doctor before supplementing with vitamin K or increasing your intake of vitamin K-rich foods.)
Supplementing with bioflavonoids such as rutin, hesperidin, and quercetin is also helpful because they decrease capillary fragility. Look for combination products in your health food store and take as directed, along with vitamin C.
Natural Treatments for Existing Bruises
To speed healing and minimize the appearance of existing bruises, I recommend trying topical vitamin K cream. In one study, patients who had received laser treatment had significant reductions in bruising after applying vitamin K to the affected areas. Arnica montana is another tried-and-true remedy for healing bumps and bruises; we use Heel’s Traumeel cream at Whitaker Wellness, and this homeopathic remedy is also available as sublingual tablets. And don’t overlook bromelain, a pineapple enzyme that has been shown to reduce trauma-related inflammation and swelling. All of these are available in health food stores or through online retailers.