About 1 out of every 20 Americans — roughly 5% — suffers from the pain and discomfort of hemorrhoids. If you’re over 50, that number is about 10 times as high — closer to 50%. While chronic symptomatic hemorrhoids may need surgery, many people can relieve their symptoms with some simple lifestyle changes, including changing the way they eat.
At his office in White Plains, New York, proctology specialist Michael H Tarlowe, MD, helps patients manage uncomfortable hemorrhoid symptoms with both conservative and surgical approaches, depending on each patient’s unique needs. If you have hemorrhoids, here’s how changing your diet could help.
How diet affects hemorrhoids
Hemorrhoids are enlarged, swollen veins located in your rectum or near your anus. While some hemorrhoids cause few symptoms, if these veins become distended or irritated, you can wind up with pain, itching, and burning that can turn something as simple as sitting into an extremely painful activity.
Researchers aren’t entirely sure why some people develop hemorrhoids while others don’t. But what they do know is that for people prone to hemorrhoids, excess pressure on the lower bowel, the rectum, and the anal sphincter can cause these painful veins to flare up.
Chronic constipation and frequent straining during bowel movements are two very common triggers for hemorrhoid pain. If you spend a lot of time sitting on the toilet, you’re also more likely to have hemorrhoid pain or bleeding.
For these reasons, Dr. Tarlowe often recommends dietary changes to help promote regular bowel activity and easy-to-pass stools. This reduces constipation and the straining that puts pressure on your rectum and anal sphincter.
Fiber and hemorrhoids
Incorporating more fiber into your diet is one of the most important changes you can make to reduce hemorrhoid symptoms. Fiber keeps your bowels moving normally, so you don’t have to push and strain on the toilet.
You can get extra fiber through many over-the-counter fiber supplements. But with just a little planning, you can also increase your fiber intake through the foods you eat every day.
Reading food labels is the best way to figure out how much fiber is contained in the packaged foods you buy. For more information, check out this table at the National Institutes of Health website to learn about the general fiber content of some common fiber-rich foods.
To get the most from the fiber you’re eating, you’ll also want to be sure to drink plenty of clear fluids — especially water. Dr. Tarlowe can suggest the right amount of fluid for your health, especially if you have kidney problems.
Cutting back on unhealthy fare, including foods high in fats and sugars, can also improve your gut health and support normal bowel activity. Combine these dietary changes with a little more physical activity for even more benefits. Just avoid exercises that increase strain or pressure on your bowel or lower belly.
Find relief for your hemorrhoids
When hemorrhoids don’t respond to changes in your diet, it might be time to consider a simple medical procedure to remove your hemorrhoids once and for all. To learn more about hemorrhoid treatment options that can help you find relief, call one of our offices or schedule a visit using our online form.