It is estimated that around 50% of UK adults will suffer from haemorrhoids at some point in their life, and actually being constipated can either cause them to develop or in fact make them worse.
So what are haemorrhoids?
There are two types of haemorrhoids; internal haemorrhoids which develop inside the rectum and often don’t have any symptoms, or external haemorrhoids which occur around the anal opening and can be extremely painful for some people, especially on going to the toilet.
What are the symptoms of haemorrhoids?
As I’ve already mentioned, you may not realize you have haemorrhoids but things to look out for or that you may recognize are:
- Streaks of blood on toilet paper
- Bloody, painful bowel movements
- Painful bump or bumps around the opening of the anus
- Itching or discharge from the anus area
So what causes them?
Straining is the number one cause of haemorrhoids, and hence if you are a constipation sufferer you are more likely to develop them as you strain to pass stools more frequently. This straining puts excess pressure on what is quite a delicate area of the body, causing the veins in that area to become enlarged causing haemorrhoids.
Being overweight or pregnant can also cause haemorrhoids, along with long periods of standing up, and unfortunately you are more likely to develop them as you get older as this area naturally weakens with age.
A lack of fibre and fluids in your diet can also cause haemorrhoids, just like constipation!
Six natural remedies for treating haemorrhoids
1. Fibre – as I’ve just mentioned, it’s really important to ensure that you keep your stools regular and prevent any blockages or hard stools which then cause you to strain and thereby develop constipation and/or haemorrhoids. Making sure you have enough fibre in your diet will play a significant part in your digestive health. Read ‘Fibre and constipation’ to find out how you can easily get more fibre into your everyday diet, but essentially you need to be eating more fruits, vegetables, whole grains (for example brown bread) and legumes (such as lentils and beans), and that all important flaxseed.
2. Water – At least eight glasses a day, more if you exercise. Fluid is crucial to a healthy functioning digestive system and will help keep haemorrhoids, and constipation, at bay. There is more insight into the wonders of water in my blog piece, ‘The importance of water’.
3. Breathing normally – it’s probably not something you naturally think about, but most people hold their breath when they are straining! Breathing normally when sitting on the toilet (or lifting heavy objects) prevents any unnecessary pressure on the abdomen, and therefore veins which will help prevent haemorrhoids.
4. Exercise – as I have discussed in my last article on ‘Exercise to relieve constipation’, you must get moving. It’s what we were designed to do but more importantly it helps to keep your bowels moving, preventing constipation and haemorrhoids.
5. Vitamin C – as with most natural remedies, we look to treat the cause not the symptoms and vitamin C plays a key role in the strengthening of your veins as well as reducing any inflammation or irritation. Strawberries, broccoli, pineapple, kiwi, oranges and kale are all high in vitamin C content so be sure to start adding them to your shopping basket. You may also want to consider a vitamin C supplement, which is also great for helping constipation – find out more here. Aim for 500mg twice a day (reducing if you develop diarrhoea).
6. Probiotics - taking a probiotic supplement regularly will help to restore the balance within your bowel, which in turn helps to keep your bowel movements regular and thereby prevents you having to strain because of constipation. Probiotics are also found in some foods such as natural live yoghurt, miso soup, sauerkraut and olives in brine (as the brine allows bacteria cultures to thrive) so try adding these to your diet for an extra dose of goodness.
Please note: you MUST go and see your GP if you are bleeding from the anus and it is not related to bowel movements, the blood is dark (it should be bright red), if the anal area throbs rather than itches which could be a sign of a blood clot, or if you are concerned at all about any symptoms you have developed around the anus that you are unsure of.
Images from: Commons.Wikimedia.org, Realfood.Tesco.com and HealthyEatingCafe.com