Hemorrhoids, also called piles, are swollen and inflamed veins in your anus and lower rectum. Hemorrhoids can occur as a result of pregnancy, poor diet or repeated bouts of constipation. Fortunately, many effective options are available to treat hemorrhoids. Most people can get relief from symptoms by using home treatments and making lifestyle changes. Read on to learn how to get rid of hemorrhoids.
Causes of Hemorrhoids
The veins around your anus tend to stretch under pressure and may bulge or swell. Swollen veins (hemorrhoids) can develop from an increase in pressure in the lower rectum. Factors that might cause increased pressure include:
- Straining during bowel movements.
- Sitting for long periods of time on the toilet.
- Anal intercourse.
- Chronic diarrhea or constipation.
- Low-fiber diet.
Hemorrhoids are more likely as you get older because the tissues that support the veins in your rectum and anus can weaken and stretch with aging.
Symptoms of Hemorrhoids
Signs and symptoms of hemorrhoids may include:
- Painless bleeding during bowel movements — you might notice small amounts of bright red blood on your toilet tissue or in the toilet bowl.
- Swelling around your anus.
- Itching or irritation in your anal region.
- Pain or discomfort.
- A lump near your anus, which may be sensitive or painful.
- Leakage of feces.
Hemorrhoid symptoms usually depend on the location. Internal hemorrhoids lie inside the rectum. You usually can’t see or feel these hemorrhoids, and they usually don’t cause discomfort.
But straining or irritation when passing stool can damage a hemorrhoid’s delicate surface and cause it to bleed. Occasionally, straining can push an internal hemorrhoid through the anal opening. This is known as a protruding or prolapsed hemorrhoid and can cause pain and irritation.
External hemorrhoids are under the skin around your anus. When irritated, external hemorrhoids can itch or bleed. Sometimes blood may pool in an external hemorrhoid and form a clot (thrombus), resulting in severe pain, swelling and inflammation.
How to Get Rid of Hemorrhoids
Drink more water. You need 6 to 8 8-ounce (240 ml) glasses of water per day for fiber to work. The bowel is your water recycling center. A human bowel movement usually contains only about 150 milliliters (that’s about half a Dixie cup) of water. The rest is reclaimed by your body, which consists of 70 percent water.
Eat more fiber. Fiber in combination with drinking a lot of water will soften your stools and make them easier to pass.
- The best way to increase your fiber intake is to gradually introduce more fruits and vegetables to your diet. Prunes are a great choice because they contain a natural laxative.
- If changing your diet doesn’t work, try a fiber supplement like Citrucel or Metamucil. You can also try adding 1 to 2 teaspoons of ground flaxseeds to your hot cereal or even to a shake or smoothie.
Change your diet so that you can lose weight. Carrying extra fat can put a serious strain on your rectal and anal veins. You can try a variety of reduced-calorie or low-carb diets, or you can work with your physician or dietitian to develop individualized solutions.
Eat less meat. Meat contains no fiber. Even lean meat has a lot of fat compared to grains, beans, vegetables and fruit, which are loaded with the fiber that your digestive system needs.
Take a sitz bath. Soaking in a shallow, lukewarm bath can also soothe the pain and swelling. You can sit in your bathtub in water that comes up to your hips, or you can purchase a sitz bath chair at the drugstore that fits over your toilet. Blot the affected area after your sitz bath with a clean, white tissue.
Skip the toilet paper. Instead of wiping with toilet paper after a bowel movement, use a baby wipe or a flushable wipe instead.
Use witch hazel. Witch hazel helps to dehydrate and shrink hemorrhoids. After a bowel movement, tuck a witch hazel pad near your hemorrhoids to lessen pain and to stop itching.
Make sitting more comfortable. Sit on a padded chair or put a pillow on a chair. You can also sit on a donut pillow. Wear cotton underwear so that your bottom half can breathe and so that it will feel less irritated.
Avoid straining during a bowel movement. Most hemorrhoids are caused by the straining associated with constipation. Use a stool softener like Colace if your stools are hard and difficult to pass.
Use a cream to stop the itching. Creams containing lidocaine or hydrocortisone can provide relief from itchy hemorrhoids.
Try an ointment. Hemorrhoid ointments like Preparation H contain phenylephrine, which is a vasoconstrictor that constricts your anal blood vessels.
- You can get ointments or you can obtain vasoconstrictors in the form of a medicated pad or a suppository. For itching, use diaper rash ointment.
- Be aware that long-term use of hemorrhoid creams and ointments can cause skin damage, so think of them as short-term solutions.
Keep it clean. Good hygiene will keep fecal material from irritating your hemorrhoids. In lieu of toilet paper, hop into the tub or the shower to clean yourself off.
Take over-the-counter pain medications. You can try acetaminophen or ibuprofen for painful hemorrhoids.
Buy psyllium seed husks at your drugstore or health food store. Follow the directions on the package. Psyllium contains a high amount of unsoluble fiber, which will help your stool to pass more comfortably.
Puncture a Vitamin E capsule with a push-pin. Place the opened end of the Vitamin E capsule right up against the anus and squeeze the capsule. Spread the slightly oily Vitamin E around and you will be pleased with the prompt results. Repeat twice daily.
Take a teaspoon of liquid aloe vera after meals. Be aware that this could cause some digestive discomfort, so don’t continue taking aloe vera if it makes you physically uncomfortable.
Try an Ayurvedic supplement call Triphala. These capsules contain 3 herbs thought to tonify the bowels.
Apply an herbal hemorrhoid treatment. Herbal ingredients found to be beneficial include Japanese pagoda tree, horse chestnut and butcher’s broom. You can also rub aloe vera gel on your hemorrhoids for relief.
Use natural oils. The oils from chestnut and aloe minimize the pain and increase the regeneration of your veins.
Medical Solutions for Hemorrhoids
Ask about non-surgical therapies for your hemorrhoids if no at-home treatment works. These can include:
- Injection sclerotherapy: An injection of fluid shrinks the hemorrhoidal tissue. This treatment is especially effective for small bleeding hemorrhoids.
- Infrared photocoagulation: A probe focuses radiation on hemorrhoids that are extremely painful or that don’t respond to rubber band ligation. Usually, patients have to have multiple treatments, and recurrence is high.
- Rubber band ligation: Doctors place a rubber band around the base of the hemorrhoid, which deprives it of its blood supply. Eventually, the hemorrhoid will dry out and fall off. This treatment succeeds for about 80 percent of patients.
Have a hemorrhoidectomy. During this procedure, doctors remove the hemorrhoid and its surrounding blood vessels. You can normally resume activity after a few days.
- If you have a hemorrhoidectomy, you must take a stool softener to avoid recurrence or injury when you have a bowel movement.
- Instead of removing the hemorrhoid, your doctor may be able to staple it to your rectal muscle. This treatment works for less severe hemorrhoids and requires less recovery time than surgery.
How to Prevent Hemorrhoids
Avoid tight clothing in the summer months. Tight clothing will cause sweating and this can lead to irritation and inflammation. Wearing nylon and other such materials can prove to be bad for the skin as they can encourage sweating and do not have the absorbency needed to take the sweat away from the perirectal skin.
Go immediately. As soon as you feel the need to go to the bathroom, do it. If you wait and the need passes, your stool will most likely become drier and harder to pass.
Avoid long periods of sitting. Sitting too long, particularly on the toilet, can increase the pressure on the veins in the anus.
Stay active. A regular exercise routine will help to relieve strain on the veins. This strain is especially apparent if you have been standing or sitting for long periods of time. Exercise to break up the constant strain.
- Excess weight has a negative effect on hemorrhoids, so exercise is a multi-benefit solution.
What to Eat to Prevent Hemorrhoids
Blueberries: Blueberries are one of the greatest health foods of all time, and they’re a boon to anyone suffering from hemorrhoids. Due to their high concentration of anthocyanins, blueberries help repair damaged proteins in the blood vessel walls and promote the overall health of the vascular system. On top of that, blueberries are a good source of both insoluble and soluble fiber such as pectin. Furthermore, compared to other berries, blueberries (especially wild blueberries) are a good source of vitamin E.
Okra: Don’t be put off by okra’s somewhat slimy texture — this extraordinary plant native to West Africa is an amazing functional food for maintaining a healthy gut. The okra fiber absorbs water and adds bulk to the stool, which causes it to move through the intestines faster, helping prevent constipation and the formation of hemorrhoids. Okra’s mucilage lubrificates and soothes the intestinal tract, further facilitating painless elimination of waste. When buying okra, look for fresh, firm, bright green pods that are no longer than 4 inches. To prepare okra, cut off both ends of the pods, wash them in cold water, and cook in a saucepan or a steamer. To retain most of okra’s healthful nutrients and enzymes, it should be cooked as little as possible. Thin slices of raw okra added to a bowl of salad greens also make a healthy and delicious dish.
Beets: Munching on red beets is a great way to prevent constipation and hemorrhoids! Beets are high in fiber that helps keep waste materials moving through the intestines at a healthy pace. Also the green leafy tops of beets are edible and high in fiber, so don’t throw them away — — they can be cooked and eaten like spinach. In addition to supporting healthy bowel movement, beets contain some extraordinary properties that make them a super food for the colon. Betacyanin, a phytochemical compound responsible for beets’ intense purple color, has been shown to be highly effective at fighting cancer, particularly colon cancer.
Figs: Figs are an old standby remedy for constipation. To fully benefit from their laxative effect, eat them with their skin as most of their fiber is in the skin. When buying figs, look for fruits that are plump and soft, but not mushy. They should also be free of bruises, have a deep color, and smell fresh and mildly sweet. Figs are one of the most perishable fruits and therefore it is advisable to buy them only a day or two before you plan to eat them. Dried figs, which have a shelf life of over a year if stored appropriately, are also an excellent remedy for constipation.
Spinach: The nutritional profile of spinach makes it an excellent health food and an important vegetable for anyone concerned about getting hemorrhoids. Spinach is considered one of the best vegetables for the entire digestive tract, and it is thought to be highly effective at cleansing and regenerating the intestinal tract. One of its gut health promoting compounds is magnesium which appears to be necessary for proper bowel movement. Mild deficiencies of magnesium are fairly common in Western countries, where consumption of processed foods is common, as processing significantly decrease the magnesium content of foods. Also intensive farming, practiced in many Western countries, depletes the soil of magnesium, thereby reducing the magnesium content of the plants growing in the soil.
Papaya: Originally from Central America, the papaya plant is today cultivated in most tropical countries. Called the “fruit of the angels” by Christopher Columbus, papaya is a true nutritional powerhouse. It is also a great functional food to add to your diet if you are prone to developing hemorrhoids to its ability to aid digestion and prevent constipation. Papaya contains papain, a protein-digesting enzyme, as well as a number of other active compounds that have been shown to ease constipation. Papain is more concentrated in green unripe papaya than in ripe papaya. Green papaya, which is often more readily available in Asian food stores, makes a refreshing addition to salads.
Prunes: Prunes are a good source of fiber. Dietary fiber is the part of plant foods that the enzymes in your body cannot digest and that is therefore not absorbed into the bloodstream. As a result, fiber remains in the colon where it absorbs water and softens the stool, thereby preventing constipation. In addition, prunes contain mild colonic stimulants, which exert further beneficial effects on the bowels.
Oats: Eating a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast is a great way to start a day off right. Oats are highly nutritious and an excellent source of soluble fiber. Soluble fiber forms a gel when mixed with water while insoluble fiber, which does not dissolve in water, passes the intestines largely intact. Soluble fiber is known to prevent constipation due to its ability to make stool bulkier and softer. Before eating oats, soak them for several hours. Untreated oats, like other grains, contain phytic acid which can block the absorption of magnesium in the intestines. Soaking allows enzymes to break down and neutralize phytic acid and thus improve the nutritional value of oats.
- See your doctor if you have blood in your stool. Hemorrhoids could be the problem, but bloody stool could also be a symptom of something far more serious, like colon cancer.
- Also see your doctor if your hemorrhoids become so painful that you can’t pass your stool. You’ll need a prescription strength ointment, or you may have to have your hemorrhoid lanced if it has thrombosed, or developed a blood clot.
- Some people are sensitive to astringents and the analgesics contained in hemorrhoid cream, so caution should be exercised when using these products.
- Be sure to check with your doctor or pharmacist if you have any allergies, medical conditions or are taking any medications or herbs. All of these may affect your treatment plan.
- Get plenty of exercise. Even the movement from a simple walk can help to pass food more effectively through your digestive system and make bowel movements more comfortable. However, avoid heavy weight lifting, which can strain your rectal and anal veins.
- If you have hemorrhoids, skip anal intercourse. Not only will the act irritate your hemorrhoids, but bleeding hemorrhoids can more easily spread blood-borne illness.
- Hemorrhoids are quite common during pregnancy and after delivery. Avoid using medications without talking to your doctor. Sometimes, lying on your left side will ease the pressure on veins that lead to your rectum and anus, which will reduce hemorrhoid symptoms.