Hemorrhoids – also called “piles” – cause pain and bleeding around the anus and occur in people of all ages. Hemorrhoids can be treated and even prevented with careful attention to your diet. Here are details on this common digestive health issue and what you should eat to reduce inflammation and other symptoms.
The Causes of Hemorrhoids
Hemorrhoids are essentially varicose veins located in the rectum, or the very end portion of the large bowel. Just like varicose veins in the lower legs, hemorrhoids develop incompetent check-valves. This creates sluggish blood circulation, inflammation, vein distention, bleeding, itching and pain.
The bumpy, purplish appearance of hemorrhoids has earned them the nickname “piles.” Piles can appear right outside the anus or even develop interiorly in the rectum.
Why do people – especially those over the age of 45 – get hemorrhoids? The reasons vary, but the most common are:
- Habitual retaining or straining at stool
- Sitting or standing in one spot for long periods of time
- Repeated bouts of constipation or diarrhea
- Heavy lifting
- Lack of hydration and dietary fiber
People prone to hemorrhoids can be proactive about prevention and treatment by modifying their day-to-day habits. This is especially true about diet and nutrition because simply drinking six to eight glasses of water and eating fiber daily menu can move stool properly through the colon and rectum. This avoids undue pressure on delicate veins in the lower GI tract.
Diet for Preventing and Treating Hemorrhoids
Although dietary changes can seem a bit intimidating at first, preventing and treating hemorrhoids by improving your overall nutrition is easier than you may think. And, best of all, it works.
Increasing both soluble and insoluble fiber in the diet reduces inflammation in the colon, improves bulk and regularizes passage of stool through the rectum. Studies also show that both blood cholesterol and blood glucose improve with the addition of bulk-forming fiber.
People who eat a lot of fiber also reduce their risk of developing diverticulosis, or pouch-like irregularities in the lining of the large intestine. Colon cancer risk improves as well.
How to Add Fiber to Your Diet
The easiest way to add fiber to your diet is to spend a lot of time in the fresh produce aisle of your local supermarket. It’s loaded with both water-soluble and soluble fiber choices which clean out the bowel and also improve the absorption of key nutrients.
Water soluble choices include beans, cabbage, apples, pears and in the cereal aisle–oatmeal. Insoluble fiber is found in celery, wheat and barley, peppers, apples, cucumbers and most any fruit or vegetable with a tough skin. Nuts in any variety are excellent snack options as well.
Whatever you choose, develop a consistent habit of adding these fiber-rich foods to your everyday menu. However, introduce fiber slowly to avoid excessive bloating and flatulence. You should see optimal results in about six weeks–better stools, more regularity and less strain on the rectum during bowel movements.
Finally, ask your gastroenterologist how much fiber you should consume each day. Ask if a fiber dietary supplement, such as Metamucil or Benefiber, would help you reach your fiber goals.
Your Digestive Health Specialists in The State of California
At inSite Digestive Health Care, we have numerous board-certified gastroenterologists in more than 20 practices throughout California. If you need treatment for hemorrhoids or another GI condition, contact the office nearest you for a consultation. Or, request an appointment online. We look forward to hearing from you soon!