Hemorrhoids and What To Do About Them
Much of the pain and discomfort of hemorrhoids stems from the so called “piles” that appear at the opening of the anal passage after straining when having a bowel movement.
This is a very common complaint.
Do a lot of people have hemorrhoids?
Half the population in the US suffer from hemorrhoids at some time in their lives. When hemorrhoids are mild and in their early stages, they are easy to treat at home. If they are not treated, and become severe or chronic, then more drastic measures are needed.
And the main cause? Constipation.
Along with obesity and the later stages of pregnancy, constipation can increase the pressure on the cushions of tissue that form part of the anal canal.
What are hemorrhoids?
Hemorrhoids are like varicose veins in the rectum and the anus. When hemorrhoids are small, they are not usually painful but can be extremely itchy. It is when a hard lump starts to protrude from the anus (signalling thrombosis) that severe pain can be felt.
There are two rings of muscle which control the opening of the anus and if the stool is to pass through comfortably then both these muscles need to relax. It is possible to treat hemorrhoids and in so doing get rid of them - but it takes time and effort.
How do I know if I getting hemorrhoids?
- extreme itching around the anus.
- irritation and pain around the anus.
- itchy or painful lump or swelling near your anus.
- fecal leakage.
- painful bowel movements.
- blood on your tissue after having a bowel movement.
What are the causes of hemorrhoids?
- Being overweight or obese
- Regularly lifting heavy objects
- Pregnancy and giving birth
- Constipation or chronic diarrhea
- Faulty bowel function from overuse of laxatives or enemas
- Sitting on the toilet too long
What can I do about constipation and hemorrhoids?
- Emotional stress makes constipation worse because when you are stressed and worried, the body takes away blood from the digestive tract in order to send it to the muscles. At the same time, stress causes the parasympathetic nervous system to be less effective. Peristalsis is the movement that propels food particles through the digestive tract. Rhythmic waves of smooth muscle contractions perform this action.
- One of the best ways to relieve both the stress and the constipation is regular exercise.
- Check whether a medication that you are taking could be the culprit.
- And of course diet:
- Avoid all highly processed and refined foods because these are the main causes of chronic constipation.
- Change to a high fiber diet with plenty of fruit and especially lots of vegetables. You can't go wrong with plant foods. Keep the skins on when they're thin such as on apples, pears, plums and potatoes. Those skins have plenty of insoluble fiber as well as compounds called flavonoids that can help control hemorrhoid bleeding. Brightly colored produce are generally rich in flavonoids too. And the fresher, the better. Try to keep them whole and not damage the skins or leaves until you're ready to eat them. Avoid cooking to the point that their color fades. A serving of fruit is often good for at least 10% of your daily fiber, usually 3 to 4 grams. A cup of leafy greens, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, winter squash, or green peas will give you 4 to 5 grams of fiber. Make a habit of adding another fruit or vegetable to any meal and swap sugary baked desserts for fresh fruit. Snack on dried fruits like figs, apricots and dates.
- Radishes are top of the list for high fiber content. There are benefits for hemorrhoids from radishes too – being a very good detoxifier, they help them to heal more quickly while the radish juice also soothes the digestive and excretory system, further helping to relieve any pain and discomfort from hemorrhoids.
- Oregano is a rich source of dietary fiber, providing better elimination.
- Oatmeal is a great natural food to enjoy at breakfast for warmth and comfort. The health benefits are numerous but top of the list is the high fiber helping to combat constipation, irritable bowel syndrome and of course hemorrhoids and anal fissures.
- Buckwheat provides a super food for anyone with varicose veins or hardening of the arteries because it is rich in rutin, a powerful capillary wall strengthener. Weak veins can actually cause varicose veins or hemorrhoids to develop because blood and fluids accumulate and leak into nearby tissues.
- Half a lime, squeezed into a glass of hot water, with half a teaspoon of natural sea salt, is an effective natural remedy for constipation.
- Another food high in fiber is plums. Both plums and the dried version – prunes – act as an effective and natural laxative.
- Just one ounce of raw pecan nuts provide 10% of the recommended daily value for fiber.
- Linseed oil can also be useful - take a teaspoon of linseed oil swallowed with water before each meal to give you both roughage and lubrication.
- Magnesium can dramatically improve your general health - including constipation.
- Chamomile tea is a soothing beverage for constipation and is made by steeping 1 tablespoon of chamomile flowers per cup of water for 15 minutes. You can then drink 1/2 cup up to five times a day. Also available as tea bags from health stores.
- At the same time you should be drinking plenty of pure filtered water each day.
- Limit alcohol and spicy foods. The harm alcohol can cause is two-fold, causing dehydration and being hard on the digestive symptoms. Both these can make the symptoms of hemorrhoids even worse. Too much spicy food can have similar results.
What should I not be eating?
Foods with little fiber can cause or make constipation (and therefore hemorrhoids) worse, so it's best to limit how much you eat of them. The following foods should also be avoided if possible:
- White bread and bagels
- Milk, cheese, and other dairy products
- Processed foods such as frozen meals and fast food
Is it okay to have a bowel movement when you have a hemorrhoid?
When our stools are healthy, we don’t need to generate momentum for a bowel movement but when our stools are harder than they should be, it can be helpful to consciously contract our external anal sphincter muscle to get things moving, remembering to stop and relax once the process begins so that our internal anal sphincter muscle can contribute to the expulsion of stools.
A good suggestion is to change to a squatting position when using the bathroom. We have written about this highly effective remedy for constipation before here.
Once you have resolved the problem of constipation, try to have a bowel movement every day so it becomes a habit – and never put off the urge to go to the bathroom.
Are there natural ways to treat hemorrhoids?
1. When you suffer from either fissures or hemorrhoids, you will find that cotton wool pads treated with witch hazel are soothing and comforting to the affected anal area.
2. Frequent warm baths or just sitting in a bowl of water will help to relax the anus. Ice packs are also soothing and comforting to both anal fissures and hemorrhoids.
3. Avoid straining. This can mean even more pain and making any problems worse. Act on the urge to use the toilet - at once. This will help to avoid the stool becoming harder.
4. Avoid prolonged sitting on the toilet. If you spend too long on the toilet such as reading or using your phone, this can make hemorrhoids even worse.
5. Toilet hygiene. Use plain water to clean your bottom after a bowel movement, taking care not to leave any stool behind as this can aggravate and irritate any hemorrhoids. Avoid being rough or using soaps that contain harsh chemicals, alcohol or perfumes.
6. A sitz bath can be very soothing, sitting in a basin of warm water for ten minutes or so twice a day.
7. In addition, Healing Natural Oils provide 100% natural treatments for a safe and gentle remedy for hemorrhoids and other conditions, providing fast pain relief and shrinking the hemorrhoids by reducing swelling. Our H-Hemorrhoids Formula is perfect for the symptoms of all types of hemorrhoids: prolapsed hemorrhoids; external hemorrhoids; thrombosed hemorrhoids; and hemorrhoids with minor bleeding.
The aim is to get rid of itching, stop any bleeding, relieve hemorrhoid pain, soothe inflammation and reduce swelling.
Epsom salts are another natural way to help with hemorrhoids
- Epsom salt is rich in magnesium sulphate and we have written about how regular Epsom salt baths can help to reduce any magnesium deficiency. But that same magnesium sulphate also acts as a laxative, dilating the blood vessels and increasing the blood flow.
- Epsom salt also has detoxifying properties, helping to get rid of toxins and impurities. This can be achieved by taking a teaspoon of Epsom salt in a glass of water.
- Sitting in a warm and soothing Epsom salt bath helps both the anal and rectum muscles to relax, improving bowel movements. Add two cups of Epsom salt to a warm bath and soak for at least twenty minutes to get the full benefits.
- Another advantage of Epsom salt is that it can help to heal any cuts in the anus that releases blood into the stool.
- Those same Epsom salt baths will also help to sooth inflammation and relieve the hemorrhoid symptoms of irritation, itching and swelling. Or you can make a paste of Epsom salt with water and apply directly to the affected anal region.
Please remember when using Epsom salts:
- Not to confuse Epsom salt with regular table salt. They are very different. While Epsom salt can help to treat hemorrhoids, table salt could make them worse and irritate inflamed rectal veins.
- When soaking in an Epsom salt bath, not to use any soap in the rectal area.
- To ensure that Epsom salt agrees with you and your body before ingesting.
Do hemorrhoids fall off?
No, hemorrhoids do not fall off but they shrink as any swelling gradually reduces.
Hemorrhoids and constipation are the perfect example of a Catch-22 situation
In normal circumstances when we have a bowel movement, without thinking too much about it, our internal anal sphincter works perfectly. It is that ring of smooth muscle that helps keep our anal sphincter closed most of the time but which helps to push out stools during defecation. Our internal anal sphincter muscle is entirely involuntary. But when we fear constipation and consciously strain to eliminate stools, we can actually disrupt the natural activity of our internal anal sphincter muscle.
Treat hemorrhoids promptly but at the same time make those lifestyle changes so that hemorrhoids disappear, remembering at the same time that once you have had hemorrhoids you can be more susceptible in the future.
When to talk to your doctor
If you are unsure whether you have hemorrhoids, and especially if there is bleeding, you should get a positive diagnosis from your medical practitioner. In the case of a clot forming in an external hemorrhoid, which can be extremely painful, your doctor would be able to carry out a simple and effective incision.
Hemorrhoids are not typically dangerous, though they can be very uncomfortable.
Many are embarrassed about the presence of hemorrhoids and even shy away from seeking medical advice for the treatment of this condition.
The real danger comes from your hemorrhoids masking other health conditions. Rectal bleeding can be caused by many different diseases, some of which are very serious or even deadly. Both colorectal and anal cancer can be life-threatening, and can produce rectal bleeding. Assuming that blood in your stool is simply due to your hemorrhoids could prevent a more serious disease from being diagnosed.
Take your symptoms into consideration. If you are also experiencing a noteworthy change in the color or consistency of your stool, as well as blood appearing in the stool, it may be time to talk to your doctor. If you are over the age of 45 and could be at risk for colorectal cancer, you should definitely consult with your physician rather than relying solely on home treatment of hemorrhoids.
Whatever your age or risk factors, use common sense. If you are losing significant amounts of blood in your stool, and experiencing light-headedness or dizziness, seek medical attention immediately.
As a postscript -
Hemorrhoids have a long history of being treated
Being such a common complaint, hemorrhoids have a very long history with the first reference dating back to 2250 BC when King Hammurabi of Babylon described the symptoms of hemorrhoids. Through the centuries, different remedies have been recommended some of which are still used today. Between 41 and 68 AD, the Roman physicians used Aloe Vera for easing hemorrhoids.
A hundred years later, another Roman physician called Galen used ointment, laxatives and leaches. He also wrote about using a thread to tie off piles and cause them to shrivel up. In the 4th and 5th centuries, Susruta Samhita of India described the use of clamp and cautery for the treatment of hemorrhoids while between 1307 and 1370, John of Ardene wrote a treatise on the treatment of hemorrhoids and fistula as well as the use of enemas.
A breakthrough came in 1806 when Bossing used an aluminum tube to see the genitourinary tract thus ushering in the modern era of endoscopy while 30 years later, St Marks Hospital was founded in London providing modern treatments for hemorrhoids. The founder of the hospital, Frederick Salmon, expanded the surgical procedure for hemorrhoids into a combination of excision and ligation in 1888.
Since then, the same hospital has been at the forefront of developing new methods of treatment for hemorrhoids. Hemorrhoidectomy was introduced there in 1935. In 1963, J Barron developed an out-patient procedure using rubber bands to tie up hemorrhoids while cryotherapy, infrared coagulation, diathermy and laser cauteries were all introduced in 1970. The very latest procedure, PPH or stapled hemorrhoidectomy, was presented in Italy by A. Longo in 1997.
Hemorrhoids treatment has gone full circle
So the treatment of hemorrhoids has evolved through the centuries and today you have a choice of many different methods of treatment. Interestingly, the use of natural products has completely come back into fashion in much the same way as those early Roman physicians offered treatment for hemorrhoids.
If you can make a change in your habits or lifestyle together with a completely natural treatment, this will usually mean the successful treatment of your hemorrhoids to save you pain and discomfort.