Distended, swollen or inflamed veins around the anus (external hemorrhoids) or in the anus (internal hemorrhoids) can cause symptoms ranging from painless bleeding to minor itching to pain.
The classic symptom of internal hemorrhoids is painless bleeding, most often noticed as bright red streaks on toilet paper. Blood can also be found on the stool, underwear, or in the toilet bowl.
External hemorrhoids are more likely to cause pain and itching. They may bleed as well. A blood clot may form in an external hemorrhoid. This is known as a thrombosed hemorrhoid, and can be quite painful. It often feels like a hard, painful grape-like lump on the anus. With conservative treatment, these usually resolve. However, these may need to be removed surgically.
Hemorrhoids are a common annoyance for adults. According to the Mayo Clinic, about half of adults have had a hemorrhoid by age 50.
The good news is that hemorrhoids are generally not dangerous, can be easily treated with natural remedies, and often go away within a week.
What Causes Hemorrhoids?
One common cause of hemorrhoids is straining during bowel movements due to constipation. However, hemorrhoids are also common during pregnancy (due to both hormonal changes that can slow digestion, and the increased pressure on these veins both from carrying the baby and pushing it out). Hemorrhoids can also be caused by extended periods of sitting or heavy lifting. Obesity, chronic diarrhea, and anal intercourse can also lead to hemorrhoids.
How to Prevent Hemorrhoids Naturally
Hemorrhoids typically go away on their own after the cause of the hemorrhoid is eliminated.
If the cause of the hemorrhoids is straining during bowel movements due to constipation, there are simple dietary changes you can make to eliminate the need to strain or sit on the toilet for extended periods. These include:
- Stay hydrated – Drink plenty of pure water each day and avoid sugary and caffeinated drinks. Limit alcohol consumption.
- Increase dietary fiber – Among developed nations, Americans have one of the lowest fiber contents in their diet, which inevitably affects overall health status. Good sources of fiber include vegetables, fresh or dried fruits, and beans. To help boost fiber naturally, I recommend Diamond Nutritionals’ Bowel Support Formula. The blend of natural ingredients is specially formulated to be safe and effective, providing just the right amount of bulk for normal digestive system function. This formula may be taken regularly as part of a healthy diet. Unlike laxatives, the colon does not become dependent on natural fiber products.
- Limiting high-fat foods – Most fast food and many processed foods are high in fat content with low fiber – which only exacerbates constipation.
Along with a multitude of other health benefits, regular exercise also benefits healthy bowel movements.
Another way to improve your bowel movements is to try using a step stool while sitting on the toilet. This allows for your legs to bend at more of an angle, which mimics the position of squatting. Some of my patients have had success with a device known as the Squatty Potty.
If improvements to your diet and exercise don’t relieve your straining during bowel movements, consult a doctor. Your constipation may be related to something else, such as a medication you’re taking.
After you’ve dealt with the root causes of your hemorrhoids, you may still need relief for your current symptoms.
Alleviating Hemorrhoid Symptoms
To alleviate the discomfort and itchiness of hemorrhoids, try some of these natural options:
- Regularly soak in clean, warm water – To soak the area, you can run a warm bath, or you can get a “sitz bath” from your local pharmacy. (A sitz bath is a shallow tub that fits over your toilet seat and lets you sit comfortably in a few inches of water.) Soak the area for 15 to 20 minutes, two to three times a day (no need to add anything to the water – plain water is best).
- Keep the area clean and dry – Since the affected area will be sensitive, switch from rough toilet paper to moist wipes that are as gentle as possible (avoid buying wipes that contain fragrance or other irritants). Clean the area daily, but avoid harsh soaps – water does the trick – and make sure to dry the area gently. Using the cool temperature setting on a hairdryer can be a nice alternative to the towel.
- Witch hazel – This flowering plant has a long history of medicinal use, and its astringent properties can relieve hemorrhoid symptoms. You can find witch hazel pads at your local pharmacy.
- Supplements – Diamond Nutritionals’ Inflamments Formula is used to alleviate inflammatory conditions, including hemorrhoids. This natural formula has helped many with hemorrhoids over the years.
Remember, if your symptoms persist for more than a week despite treatment, get worse, or seem severe, consult a doctor.