Hemorrhoids, also called piles, refers to a condition in which the veins around the anus or rectum are swollen and inflamed. Dietary adjustments are known to help relieve hemorrhoids.
Ten million people in the United States have hemorrhoids, leading to a prevalence greater than 4%. Up to a third of these people require medical treatment,..
resulting in 1.5 million prescriptions per year. The peak age for hemorrhoids is 45-65 years. The term hemorrhoid is usually related to symptoms caused by hemorrhoids. Hemorrhoids occur in healthy individuals. It is when they become enlarged, inflamed, or prolapsed, that most people refer to the condition as hemorrhoids. They are rarely a serious risk to health, and result from too much pressure on the hemorrhoidal veins in the rectum. The strain of constipation, diarrhea and pregnancy can cause the veins to swell. Other factors such as obesity and liver disease can also increase pressure and cause hemorrhoids. There are three types of hemorrhoids:
- Internal hemorrhoids: Internal hemorrhoids can not be seen, they are inside the anus. Straining or irritation from passing stool can injure a hemorrhoid’s delicate surface and cause bleeding. Because internal anal membranes lack pain-sensitive nerve endings, these hemorrhoids usually do not cause discomfort
- External hemorrhoids: These hemorrhoids are under the skin around the anus and tend to be painful. Sometimes blood may collect in an external hemorrhoid and form a clot, causing severe pain, swelling and inflammation. When irritated, external hemorrhoids can itch or bleed
- Prolapsed hemorrhoids: These are internal hemorrhoids that are so distended that they are pushed outside the anus
In the absence of complications, treatment usually involves over-the-counter corticosteroid creams that can reduce the pain and swelling of hemorrhoids and bathing in tubs with warm water to ease painful perianal conditions. Another important step in treating hemorrhoids is to relieve anal pressure and straining. This can often be done by controlling constipation with a high-fiber diet .
Foods that are high in fiber have been shown to help in the treatment of constipation and hemorrhoids. The American Academy of Family Physicians recommends the following simple dietary guidelines to prevent or lower hemorrhoids symptoms:
- Eating at least 4.5 cups of fruits and vegetables each day.
- Replacing white bread with whole-grain breads and cereals.
- Eating bran cereal for breakfast.
- Adding 1/4 cup of wheat bran (Miller’s bran) to foods such as cooked cereal or applesauce or meat loaf. (This advice is contrary to other experts and organisations who advise against this practice as it can make constipation worse.)
- Eating cooked beans each week.
In its most recent 2005 public health recommendations for dietary fiber, the National Academy of Sciences established an Adequate Intake (AI) level of 38g of total daily fiber for males 19-50 years of age and 25g for women in this same age range. The following foods are excellent sources of dietary fiber and can be included as part of a hemorrhoid diet:
- cinnamon, ground, 2 tsp (2.5g)
- turnip greens, cooked, 1 cup (5.0g)
- basil, dried, ground, 2 tsp (1.2g)
- coriander seeds, 2 tsp (1.4g)
- oregano, dried, ground, 2 tsp (1.3g)
- raspberries, 1 cup (8.3g)
- thyme, dried, ground, 2 tsp (1.1g)
- mustard greens, boiled, 1 cup (2.8g)
- rosemary, dried, 2 tsp (0.9g)
- romaine lettuce, 2 cups (1.9g)
- cauliflower, boiled, 1 cup (3.4g)
- collard greens, boiled, 1 cup (5.3g)
- broccoli, steamed, 1 cup (4.7g)
- cloves, dried, ground, 2 tsp (1.5g)
- celery, raw, 1 cup (2.0g)
- swiss chard, boiled, 1 cup (3.7g)
- cabbage, shredded, boiled, 1 cup (3.5g)
- spinach, boiled, 1 cup (4.3g)
- chili pepper, dried, 2 tsp (2.6g)
- black pepper, 2 tsp (1.1g)
- fennel, raw, sliced, 1 cup (2.7g)
- green beans, boiled, 1 cup (4.0g)
- eggplant, cooked, 1 cup (2.5g)
- cayenne pepper, dried, 2 tsp (1.0g)
- cranberries, 1/2 cup (2.0g)
- strawberries, 1 cup (3.3g)
- bell peppers, red, raw, 1 cup (1.8g)
- winter squash, baked, 1 cup (5.7g)
- kale, boiled, 1 cup (2.6g)
- split peas, cooked, 1 cup (16.3g)
- summer squash, cooked, 1 cup (2.5g)
- carrots, raw, 1 cup (3.7g)
- lentils, cooked, 1 cup (15.6g)
- brussel sprouts, boiled, 1 cup (4.1g)
- asparagus, boiled, 1 cup (2.9g)
- black beans, cooked, 1 cup (15.0g)
- green peas, boiled, 1 cup (8.8g)
- pinto beans, cooked, 1 cup (14.7g)
- cucumbers, slices, with peel, 1 cup (0.8g)
- lima beans, cooked, 1 cup (13.2g)
- turmeric, powder, 2 tsp (1.0g)
- flaxseeds, 2 tbs (5.4g)
- kiwifruit, 1 each (2.6g)
- wheat, bulgur, cooked, 1 cup (8.2g)
- tomato, ripe, 1 cup (2.0g)
- oranges, 1 each (3.1g)
- kidney beans, cooked, 1 cup (11.3g)
- barley, cooked, 1 cup (13.6g)
- apricots, 1 each (0.8g)
- blueberries, 1 cup (3.9g)
- onions, raw, 1 cup (2.9g)
- chickpeas, 1 cup (12.5g)
- papaya, 1 each (5.5g)
- apples, 1 each (3.7g)
- grapefruit, 1/2 (1.7g)
- beets, boiled, 1 cup (3.4g)
- navy beans, cooked, 1 cup (11.7g)
- rye, whole grain, uncooked, 1/3 cup (8.2g)
- pear, 1 each, (4.0g)
- soybeans, cooked, 1 cup (10.3g)
- yam, cubed, cooked, 1 cup (5.3g)
- sweet potato, baked, with skin, 1 each (3.1 g)
Anus— The terminal opening of the digestive tract.
Colon— Part of the large intestine, located in the abdominal cavity. It consists of the ascending colon, the transverse colon, the descending colon, and the sigmoid colon.
Constipation— The difficult passage of stools or the infrequent (less than three times a week) or incomplete passage of stools.
Digestive system— Organs and paths responsible for processing food in the body. These are the mouth, the esophagus, the stomach, the liver, the gallbladder, the pancreas, the small intestine, the large intestine, and the rectum.
Feces— Waste product of digestion formed in the large intestine. About 75% of its mass is water, the remainder is protein, fat, undigested roughage, dried digestive juices, dead cells, and bacteria.
Perianal— The area surrounding the anus.
Prolapse— The falling down or slipping out of place of an organ or part.
Rectum— Short, muscular tube that forms the lowest portion of the large intestine and connects it to the anus.
Venous return— The blood returning to the heart via the inferior and superior venae cavae.
- avocado, slices, 1 cup (7.3g)
- mustard seeds, 2 tsp (1.1g)
- prunes, 1.4 cup (3.0g)
- buckwheat, cooked, 1 cup (4.5g)
- olives, 1 cup (4.3g)
- oats, whole grain, cooked, 1 cup (4.0g)
- plum, 1 each (1.0g)
- miso, 1 oz (1.9g)
- banana, 1 each (2.8g)
- corn, yellow, cooked, 1 cup (4.6g)
- pineapple, 1 cup (1.9g)
- cantaloupe, cubes, 1 cup (1.3g)
- potato, baked, with skin, 1 cup (2.9g)
Eating more high-fiber foods such as fruits, vegetables and grains softens the stool and increases its bulk, which helps to reduce the straining that can cause hemorrhoids or worsen the symptoms of existing hemorrhoids.
Fiber helps to keep stool soft while lowering pressure inside the colon so that bowel contents can move through easily. Eating a high-fiber diet will not only relieve constipation and alleviate hemorrhoid symptoms, it is also beneficial in supporting bowel regularity, maintaining normal cholesterol and blood sugar levels, and keeping excess weight off. Additionally, a high-fiber diet is believed to play a role in the prevention and treatment of the following health conditions:
- Breast cancer
- Cardiovascular disease
- Colon cancer
- High cholesterol
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Syndrome X
Intake of dietary fiber exceeding 50 grams per day may cause intestinal obstructions. Excessive intake of fiber can also result in body fluid imbalance and dehydration . This is why individuals who start increasing their fiber intake are often advised to also increase their water intake, up to 2 liters (8 cups) of fluid daily.
When people increase the fiber content of their diet, they are usually advised to do so gradually, adding small amounts to start with so as to allow the intestinal tract to adjust. Otherwise, abdominal cramps, gas, bloating, and diarrhea or constipation may result. Excessive intake of dietary fiber has also been linked with reduced absorption of vitamins, minerals , proteins, and calories. However, it is unlikely that healthy adults who consume fiber in amounts within the recommended ranges will experience such problems.
Most medical experts agree that low-fiber diets result in small stools, that increase straining during defecation. This increased pressure causes congestion of the hemorrhoids. Pregnancy can also cause hemorrhoidal problems. A decreased venous return is.
QUESTIONS TO ASK YOUR DOCTOR
- How common are hemorrhoids?
- How did I get hemorrhoids?
- How are hemorrhoids treated?
- Are there foods that I should avoid?
- How are hemorrhoids prevented?
- Can hemorrhoids be cured?
- How can I tell if I am getting enough fiber in my diet?
- How will I know if I am getting too much fiber in my diet?
- Would seeing a dietician for an eating plan help?
- How effective is diet in controlling hemorrhoids?
- What is the function of dietary fiber?
believed to be the mechanism of action. Prolonged sitting on a toilet, for instance while reading, is also thought to cause a venous return problem in the perianal area, resulting in enlarged hemorrhoids. Aging also weakens the anal support structures, which facilitates prolapse. Weakening of support structures can occur as early as the third decade of life. There is agreement among health practitioners that the best way to prevent hemorrhoids is to keep stools soft so that they can pass easily, and to empty bowels as soon as there is an urge. Waiting to pass stool may cause it become dry and harder to pass.
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Monastyrsky, K. Fiber Menace: The Truth About the Leading Role of Fiber in Diet Failure, Constipation, Hemorrhoids, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Ulcerative Colitis, Crohn’s Disease, and Colon Cancer Lyndhurst, NJ: Ageless Press, 2005.
Lahr, C. Why Can’t I Go?: Answers and Relief for Women with Constipation Portland, OR: Sunburst Press, 2004.
DiMarco, D. Natural Relief from Constipation New York, NY: McGraw-Hill, 1999.
Yasney, K. Put Hemorrhoids and Constipation Behind You: New Treatment and Technology for 2 of Today’s Most Common Yet Least Talked-About Problems. Sheffield, MA: Safe Goods Publishing, 1997.
American Dietetic Association. 216 W. Jackson Blvd, Chicago, IL 60606-6995. 1-800-877-1600 ext. 5000. www.eatright.org>
Food and Nutrition Information Center. 10301 Baltimore Avenue, Beltsville, MD 20705-2351. http://www.nutrition.gov>
American Gastroenterological Association. 930 Del Ray Avenue, Bethesda, MD 20814. (301)654-2055. http://www.gastro.org>
International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders Inc. P.O. Box 170864, Milwaukee, WI 53217-8076. 1-888-964-2001. http://www.iffgd.org>
Monique Laberge, Ph.D.