Many people have hemorrhoid problems at some time. They can happen at any age, but the incidence increases after age 30. About half of the people over 50 have had hemorrhoid problems at some time in their life. Hemorrhoids are often linked to both diarrhea and constipation. Hemorrhoids are a normal part of the anal canal. Symptoms of hemorrhoids may include painful swelling or a lump in the anus that can bleed and become inflamed, often causing discomfort and itching. There may also be bright red blood on the toilet paper, the stool, or in the toilet bowl. When veins inside the hemorrhoids swell or burst, hemorrhoid problems happen. Even though this is an uncomfortable condition, it isn’t life threatening.
What causes hemorrhoid problems?
Excessive pressure on the veins in the pelvic and rectal area appears to be the root of hemorrhoids. As pressure increases, blood pools in veins and causes them to swell and stretch the surrounding tissue. This increase in pressure can happen from straining during your bowel movement(s, constipation or diarrhea. It also appears that being overweight also can contribute to hemorrhoid problems. Also, pregnant women can develop hemorrhoids during pregnancy because of increased pressure on the blood vessels in the pelvic area. Throw in the straining and pushing during child birth can also make hemorrhoids worse.
So what’s a person to do?
Since the leading causes of hemorrhoids are related to bowel habits (Constipation and Diarrhea) we need to address these first. Sticking with my two F’s (Fundamental and Foundational) and the 4-Pillars of Great Health, we need to look at supporting health digestion- Fiber, water, probiotics and Enzymes.
Fiber from foods is the best way to get this problem under control-especially Fruits and Veggies. I now call these two food groups-hydrated fiber. There is no need to add more water to these two food groups. If you go for other types of fiber(s) from grains, nuts and seeds then water is critical. When adding fiber to your daily diet or supplement program, remember to go slow. Adding too much fiber too quickly can lead to more constipation and gastric upset. I recommend adding 5 grams per week until you get your daily intake up to35 grams. If you don’t plan to increase the fiber in your foods, I recommend using a flax seed fiber or Chia Seeds. Chia seeds are truly a superfood and will NOT negatively impact those with diverticulitis as most nuts and seeds can. They are high in fiber, protein, omega-3s, calcium and antioxidants. Since they impart zero flavor or odor they can be added to just about anything. Flax seed fiber provides the body with more health benefits than just fiber, including: Lignans, Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids. It is also doesn’t cause gas and bloating like many other fiber supplements can. Another new favorite are Tiger Nuts (www.tigernutsusa.com). These are not really nuts but a small tuber and are super high in resistant starch/fiber. A typical handful contains about 10 grams of fiber.
Water is a key in helping to soften your stool and make having a bowel movement easier. Since most of us don’t consume enough fluids-primarily water-we have become a dehydrated society. Adding water will help support health digestion and elimination without the use of harmful stimulants. I recommend consuming at least half of you body weight in ounces of water per day. If you weigh 160 pounds, you should consume at least 80 ounces per day of water (or herbal teas). This is ten 8-ounce glasses per day or 16 ounces more than the usual eight 8-ounce glasses we all used to live by.
Probiotics are essential for helping the body finish off the digestive process. As foods leave your stomach they are broken down into smaller particles by these beneficial bacteria. If your food isn’t broken down into smaller particles, you body may need to work harder to eliminate the waste. Enzymes also have a supportive mechanism similar to probiotics. They are important to help the body digest and process the nutrients you consume. If particles are left too big, digestive challenges can and usually will occur.
The above recommendations are for supporting healthy digestion and to over time eliminate some of the causes of hemorrhoids. But what if you waited too long? No problem, Mother Nature to the rescue. For external relief of minor itching and burning I recommend witch hazel. This approach is even embraced by modern medicine. Applying this either in liquid (using a pad) or in an ointment base can provide fast and effective temporary relief. Witch hazel helps to shrink the swollen areas and reduce the discomfort you may be having.
I always say treat the body from the inside out and this holds true with Hemorrhoids. Supplements like Horse chestnut, Pycnogenol®, grape seed extract and certain flavonoids-like rutin. Of all of these, I prefer Horse chestnut. I recommend taking a standardized extract daily. A dose giving you between 100-150mg of a component (aescin) found in this herb will usually give you relief in 4-8 weeks.
If your hemorrhoids are more severe (external) or you have constant bleeding I recommend you seek the advice of your health care provider. Often times integrating the natural approach and the modern medical approach may be needed.