For some of us, hemorrhoids (also known as piles) is an embarrassing and painful problem. Since what you eat is going to have a direct impact on how your stools turn out, you need to be careful what decided what to eat - and what not to eat. Certain foods can irritate hemorrhoids and make your bathroom visits a thing of dread.So, what should you eat? More importantly, what shouldn't you eat? Let's take a closer look at this painful problem, and how you can manage to keep it under control.
Best Foods to Eat When Suffering from Hemorrhoids
The two most oft-repeated pieces of advice when dealing with hemorrhoids are to eat plenty of fiber and stay well hydrated.
These are principles you should certainly stick to. Drinking plenty of fluids keeps your body working well, flushing out toxins and encouraging healthy bowel movements. Fiber nourishes the digestive system and colon, adding bulk to stools. This means that when you go to the bathroom, it's more regulated and comfortable than if you ate a low-fiber diet.
Both of these habits keep you regular and prevent either diarrhea or constipation - which can be disastrous for a person suffering from hemorrhoids. So, what high-fiber foods should you try to eat more frequently?
Fruit and Veg
In just about any dietary situation, fruit and vegetables are the way to go. Fruits and vegetables contain both soluble and insoluble fiber, both of which are necessary in a healthy diet. In a high-fiber diet, fruit and vegetables are indispensable.
Leafy greens, like spinach, kale, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and more, are particularly healthy. These foods are also rich in vitamin C and iron.
As well as fiber, some fruits and vegetables contain a lot of water. Watermelon, celery, cucumber, and other similar fruits and veg can actually contribute to your daily fluid intake.
Whole grain or whole-wheat foods are full of fiber. If you're currently eating white breads, bagels, or pasta, try opting for whole-grain flours, rye, whole-grain breads, whole-grain pasta, brown rice, and more. Cooked oats, oatmeal, and barley are all great sources of fiber. Even unbuttered popcorn is rich in fiber - and a delicious snack.
Switching to high-fiber whole-grains may take a little tweak in your lifestyle. White bread often contains more sugar and additives, so we might prefer it. However, if you're suffering from hemorrhoids, whole-grain foods are definitely the way to go.
Beans, Lentils, Green Peas, etc
Legumes, beans, lentils and green peas are all a must for any healthy diet. In fact, you might get up to 10 grams of fiber from a half-cup serving of beans, depending on which type of bean you choose. Their high-fiber content means that they're easier to move through your digestive system, stimulating your bowels and making for a more comfortable bathroom visit.
Most us like a handful of peanuts, almonds, or brazil nuts as a snack. A serving of nuts can provide around 3 grams of fiber - so they can help to prevent hemorrhoids. However, it's worth noting that while nuts are healthy, delicious and nutrient-rich, they do contain a lot of calories. You can have too much of a good thing!
If you're used to snacking between meals, why not try replacing you r unhealthy foods with a serving of nuts?
Fresh or dried fruit can make a great substitute for sugary snacks and can also prevent hemorrhoids thanks to their high fiber content. Eating dried fruit in particular can help deal with sugary cravings, as well as being a healthy snack. Like nuts, dried fruit can be high in calories, so you shouldn't eat too much of it, despite its digestive benefits.
Worst Foods to Eat When Suffering from Hemorrhoids
It's not so much what is contained in the foods you eat that can make hemorrhoids worse, but what isn't contained in them. Foods without fiber can make constipation worse, which will make hemorrhoids worse. If you want to prevent hemorrhoids in the long run, limit the following
- Foods high in salt
- White bread (also bagels, or any other bakery-style product)
- Processed foods
In moderation, these foods are fine. They might not affect your hemorrhoids at all. However, too much unhealthy food in your diet will have an impact on your body.
Some medications, such as iron supplements, can also have an impact on hemorrhoids. This is because iron tablets may cause constipation, which is going to make the hemorrhoids worse.
Also, you should beware of introducing too much fiber into your diet too quickly. If you've decided that your diet needs more fiber, it can be tempting to start eating all the high-fiber foods all at once. This can be a lot for your digestive system to process, and it can cause problems with gas and bloating. Add a little fiber to your diet at a time, accompanied by at least 8 daily glasses of water.
How to Reduce Risk and Symptoms of Hemorrhoids
Hemorrhoids can be embarrassing and uncomfortable. While they do tend to go away on their own after a few days, they can be a reoccurring problem for some.
Fortunately, this is a condition that can be managed. It's unlikely that you'll need to see a doctor, although we'll discuss later when you should consider seeing a medical professional for hemorrhoid treatment. First, let's talk about signs that could indicate you're suffering from hemorrhoids, and how you can reduce your likelihood of developing them. Flare-ups can also be an issue, but fortunately, there are methods of reducing your chance of hemorrhoids recurrences.
Symptoms of Hemorrhoids
The signs of hemorrhoids are not subtle. You'll likely notice an itchy anus, possibly accompanied by a burning sensation, bleeding, or even rectal pain. You may even feel stinging around your anus, along with blood on the toilet paper when you use the bathroom, or on your underwear.
This can be worrying, especially if you're not sure whether or not you have hemorrhoids. If you're concerned, always see a doctor. A medical professional can help you to determine whether or not you are suffering from piles. Then they can help you work out what treatment you should use.
How to Reduce Your Risk
Whether you're worried about developing hemorrhoids, or simply concerned about a flare-up, there are plenty of ways to reduce your risk - or avoid hemorrhoids altogether.
Drinking plenty of fluids is essential for good health. It helps reduce your likelihood of constipation, and prevents too much pressure from being placed on veins in the body. Veins can become strained when the body has too much salt, which is usually due to eating salty food or not getting enough to drink. Since veins around the anus are causing the hemorrhoids, not drinking enough will only make the hemorrhoid problem worse. Make sure you drink at least 8 glasses of water per day.
Eat plenty of fiber
We've discussed in detail just how important both soluble fiber and insoluble fiber in your diet are to a healthy digestion system. Getting enough fiber helps to prevent constipation, and adds bulk to your stool. This means that you don't need to labor for too long in the bathroom, as this can be a serious cause of hemorrhoids.
Use soft or damp toilet paper
If your hemorrhoids are already inflamed and possibly bleeding, it's important to be very careful. Resist the urge to wipe roughly, as this can cause even more damage. It can also lead to infection. Use damp toilet paper to wipe, or soft wipes designed for bathroom use. The area around your anus is likely inflamed and irritated, and it's important to be as gentle as you can.
Cut down on alcohol and caffeine products
Caffeine can have a diuretic effect, meaning that it can cause diarrhoea. Naturally, this isn't a good outcome for a person suffering from piles! Alcohol can cause inflammation, which can make your hemorrhoid problem worse.
Cut down on processed food and junk food
Processed foods often have little to no fiber, as well as being generally bad for your health. Additionally, they may contain high levels of sugars and salt. If your diet is primarily processed food, there's no way you'll take in enough fiber, and there'll be no bulk to add to your stool. Since these foods are high in calories but contain hardly any nutrients, you may find yourself overeating more frequently. This can lead to weight gain, which can exacerbate hemorrhoids.
Don't sit on the toilet for too long
It's become a running joke for us to spend too long on the toilet, reading or scrolling through our phones. However, this can cause hemorrhoids to develop or worsen. It may be best to enjoy your peace and quiet time somewhere else!
Straining or pushing too hard when on the toilet can also cause hemorrhoids. It can be tempting to strain as hard as possible when suffering from constipation, but this can do more harm than good, so try to avoid doing it.
Keep yourself clean and dry
Bleeding or irritated hemorrhoids can be prone to infection. It's important to keep the area clean and dry. If necessary or possible, hop in the shower or have a quick wash after you've used the bathroom. Dry yourself thoroughly afterwards.
You can also use a soak in a warm bath to reduce the pain and itching from irritated hemorrhoids.
Regular exercise keeps our blood pumping properly and helps move food along the colon. Exercise is good for the whole body, and can help to combat excessive weight gain. All of these things can help to keep hemorrhoids under control and help you avoid them going forward.
When to See a Doctor
Hemorrhoids are more common than you might think. Some people shy away from visiting a doctor, finding it uncomfortable to talk about their bowel habits. However, it's important to seek medical advice if your hemorrhoids are bleeding excessively, you've noticed pus or some other sign of infection, or the rectal pain or pressure is severe. If your hemorrhoids don't improve after seven days, you might consider visiting a doctor.
Usually, however, hemorrhoids improve in a few days. With a little tweaking to your diet and lifestyle habits, you can be back to your old self in no time.