Not often a casual conversation topic, but hemorrhoids are very common.
Hemorrhoids can be a real pain. These swollen veins can either develop inside the rectum (internal hemorrhoids) or around the anus, under the skin (external hemorrhoids)- usually a result of increased pressure in the lower rectum from a variety of causes. These causes include, but are not limited to, straining during bowel movements, chronic constipation or diarrhea, consuming a low-fiber diet, or even just sitting on the toilet for long periods of time.
When it comes to hemorrhoids, there can often be some irritation or swelling around the anus, itching, pain, discomfort, and even bleeding. This is why finding relief in anything that will make bowel movements more comfortable- very important if you have them. The best way that you can make sure your stool is soft and consistent is to consume fiber.
I have covered the benefits of fiber before for constipation prevention and relief but want to reiterate some key nutrition points with fiber:
- If you haven’t been eating fiber-rich foods regularly, start to increase them into your diet slowly to allow your body to adjust to this new healthy change or you may feel a bit gassy or bloated.
- Most people are not meeting their recommended daily fiber intake: ~25 grams per day for women; ~38 grams per day for men. You may be surprised to find that some of your favorite foods contain fiber and you didn’t know it! Here’s a list of high-fiber foods. For example: 2 TBSP of chia seeds has 10 grams of fiber & 1 medium pear has almost 6 grams!
- Fiber does not work without fluid. The recommended daily fluid intake is 15.5 cups for men and 11.5 cups for women. Fluid moves your stomach contents through your body.
- You can always check out an over-the-counter fiber supplement (such as psyllium- brand name example: Metamucil) to help with your stool softening but keep in mind- these will not help you unless you are getting enough fluid!
It’s always a good idea to get your hemorrhoids checked out by a medical provider if it’s your first time experiencing them just to make sure nothing else is going on down under. There are some at-home treatments that can provide relief if you do find yourself with them:
Over the counter products: There are several options to choose from between hemorrhoid ointments (generic and brand name such as Preparation H) and medicated pads and wipes that can help reduce itching, swelling, burning, and overall pain.
If you haven’t tried a sitz bath, they can be a game changer in the hemorrhoid world. You can do these 1 of 2 ways. You can do it up right and get the sitz bath seat that goes over the toilet, which you fill with warm water and soak in for 10-15 minutes, 2-3 times a day (like this one, which even has a spray pump like a bidet- oh relief!), or you can simply fill up a tub and soak in warm water or some nice sitz salts for the same amount of time.
Another way to achieve relief is to change your position when you’re passing a bowel movement if you are experiencing discomfort. I’ve mentioned before on the Foodguides Podcast how much I love Squatty Potty’s and they make them quite fashionable if you were hesitant to purchase one before- I mean…a bamboo Squatty Potty, how cool? You could use one of these or a stool, just make sure whatever you use is sturdy and will not cause a safety issue while you are adjusting yourself.
Now if you are in a position where you have to sit for long periods of time, this can certainly be aggravating to your hemorrhoid relief strategy. You can purchase a donut pillow to help take the pressure off of sitting directly on your hemorrhoids, as well as commit to wearing loose fitting clothing and cotton underwear to ensure your nether regions have room to breathe.
Looking for some high-fiber goodies to get your bowel movements straightened out?